Ignore Tom Krell's words and "What Is This Heart?", the latest album from his solo musical endeavor How to Dress Well, sounds oddly comforting, awash in gorgeous piano arpeggios, occasional strings and the singer's fragile falsetto, which dips and dives with the delicacy of a fine-boned hummingbird.

Ignore Tom Krell's words and "What Is This Heart?", the latest album from his solo musical endeavor How to Dress Well, sounds oddly comforting, awash in gorgeous piano arpeggios, occasional strings and the singer's fragile falsetto, which dips and dives with the delicacy of a fine-boned hummingbird.

Lyrically, however, the recording is deeply unsettling, depicting a world so shattered Krell repeatedly questions the existence of any higher power.

"There's no design, no god," he sings on the lullaby-like "2 Years On (Shame Dream)." "Just the future in my mother's broken heart."

"Across the record I deal with this question a few times, and … I definitely do not believe in anything like a god or design or anything of the sort," said Krell, who visits A&R Music Bar for a concert on Thursday, Sept. 11. "On one hand, that's liberating because the onus of transformation is squarely on us, right? But on the other hand it executes upon us a massive burden, and sometimes it's too much to imagine changing things - changing one's life, changing the world. It seems utterly overwhelming."

It's a feeling consistently reinforced by the bleak headlines that have dominated the news cycle in recent times. Krell, reached at home in late August, spoke of the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, sparked by the police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. Even so, the musician said he still had something akin to hope for humanity - "I at least have a will to have optimism," he explained - because "it's really easy and really lazy to be cynical."

"I don't know if you've been following what happened in Ferguson, but it's horrifying. And what would it mean to be cynical about that? To be like, 'Well, the system is fucked.' Are you kidding me? The system is fucked? You're talking about people's lives," he continued. "Everything has to change, but it's hard to understand how that's going to happen when the police are just like paid murderers and our economic system is fundamentally racist and et cetera, et cetera. At the same time, I think the only people who can afford to be cynical are people of extreme privilege. You're not going to say, 'That's the system' if every time you leave your house there are cops breathing down your neck."

So while "What Is This Heart?" might, at times, paint a bleak picture - "I look into the future and see just so little light," Krell sings on the heaving, R&B-tinged "Face Again" - occasionally the faintest sunbeam alights on the craggy cavern floor.

"This world is such a pretty thing," the musician sings at the close of "House Inside (Future Is Older than the Past)," a line more suggestive of the way things could be.

Musically, the album exhibits startling patience, and songs tend to unfold gradually, like flower petals opening slowly to the distant sun. This steady pace was reflected in the LP's creation, which stretched on months longer than Krell originally planned. At one point he intended to complete mixing in July 2013 and release the record later in the fall. Instead, mixing carried over into early 2014 because, according to Krell, he "kind of lost [his] mind going over the details."

Furthermore, drawing upon past experiences, he also wanted to allow time for sessions to unfold naturally rather than forcing the material. Following the 2012 release of How to Dress Well's sophomore effort, Total Loss, Krell initially pursued a bleak, black metal-influenced album tentatively titled Wound Sentiment, eventually abandoning the sessions because the recordings felt too calculated.

"[With Wound Sentiment] I had a desire to make a record that sounded a certain way and cast a certain image instead of letting the music happen and allowing the image take shape in relief, and that was a mistake," Krell said. "Whatever people see when they look into 'What Is This Heart?' I didn't try and control it, and I didn't try to put it together.

"For better or worse, I'm not an FKA Twigs or someone like that where everything is so cultivated and controlled and the primary thing people will remember about me is my image. I'm a musician, period. That's the art for me: the music."