How to Dress Well Offers a Breezy, Flirty, Danceable Soundtrack

The singer-songwriter shares the songs that influence his style -- a heady mix of pop, R&B and electronic music.

Photo Credit: Ben Tricklebank

Tom Krell, who records under the moniker How To Dress Well, is a Chicago native – and Ph.D. candidate in philosophy. He first turned heads in 2010 with earnest bedroom recordings. But on his fourth album, “Care,” he injects his heartfelt lyrics into dancey electro-pop.

“The task of a great dinner party is to make it not seem like a dinner party,” Tom tells us. “Where you’re like, ‘Oh, I guess I’m eating now. I guess I’m drinking now. Oh I guess now it’s one in the morning all of a sudden.'”


Donna Lewis – “I Love You Always Forever”

There’s like a lot of songs from the ’90s that we revisit now with some serious nostalgia and almost like guilty pleasure vibes. Like, “Get a load of that.” But this song, it’s genuinely fresh still. The first song you should play is “I Love You Always Forever” by Donna Lewis.

The main instrumentation in the song is guitar palm mutes. Palm muting is a way of covering the strings so that you really only hear a melodic kind of plucking. The interesting thing about this song is that it’s angelic and super understated while also being super anthemic. And so I’m imagining this song kind of comes on once you look around and you see people stop just chatting to the two people they know. The moment of transition from the nuclear friend family to the small civil society of the party.

Kara-Lis Coverdale – “Ad_renaline”

The next song is called “Ad_renaline.”

It’s a song by a woman from Montreal named Kara-Lis Coverdale. She’s an electronic artist, a producer and super inventive arranger. And a lot of times an instrument you think you’re hearing which sounds organic is digital, and an instrument you think you’re hearing which is digital is actually treated organic piano or something very simple.

This culture we live in does a lot of this sort of hybridizing and confusing and playing with simulation versus authenticity, and sonically, I just think that’s such a dope thing to play with, even if you don’t know what’s happening I think it still produces a very weird feeling in your spirit when you hear it.

This is the part in the party where you actually realize you’ve been speaking to a robot the entire time and you’re kind of into them – and they’re into you!

Drake (Featuring Rihanna) – “Too Good”

The next song that I picked is ‘Too Good’ by Drake featuring Rihanna. It’s about not being able to connect with someone even though they’re right in front of you.

When Rihanna’s voice comes in at the top of the second verse, there’s something in some combination of her delivery, the actual capturing of the sounds and the engineering – I could listen to her 10,000 times in a row and just be smiling the entire time.

At the end of the song, there’s this longish sample from Popcaan, who is a contemporary dance hall artist. It becomes like this weird sort of like bricolage thing instead of just the traditional pop song. Nothing else sounds like this on the radio right now.

How to Dress Well – “What’s Up”

I would play my whole record at your next dinner party. No, I’m kidding. No I’m not kidding at all, but I think the most chill party vibe tune on my new record is called “What’s Up.”

It’s kinda cheeky like, that’s kind of why I pick it to end the dinner party too — it’s kind of flirty. If you don’t go flirty at the end of the night, you’re doing everyone a disservice.