Review of Long Way Down Album by Tom Odell

Set for release on 24th June 2013, Tom Odell's first album is an anticipated release: he was nominated for the BBC's Sound Of 2013 award, was the BRITs' Critics' Choice and, perhaps most impressively, has been chosen to support The Rolling Stones this summer.  His own headline shows are scheduled for October, including a multiple-night run at Shepherd's Bush Empire.

Tom Odell Long Way Down Album

If you're not familiar with Odell's work, what is most immediately striking is the fragile vocal style, something that you wouldn't expect to have a commanding presence.  It isn't disguised behind a wall of sound though, nor is this a collection of a cappella work.  Predominantly accompanied by keyboard, he engagingly stomps through numbers such as 'Hold Me' and the passionate 'I Know'.  The voice is endearingly emotive without feeling in any way forced and this is the key to the songs being so captivating.  The majority of writing is about heartbreak, but where Odell mainly succeeds is in conveying a genuine grief as refrains from turning to clich's.  Take 'Till I Lost' for example, a towering track with touches of gospel and haunting backing vocals that makes no mention of crying or sadness, it is instead conveyed through the soundscape.

The touch of soul that is 'Supposed To Be' marks another highlight of this release, but it's not all doom and gloom.  'Grow Old With Me' is a spritely piece that builds to a rousing conclusion which could easily have audiences dancing but, truth be told, Odell is best when he's hurt - his pain is our gain.  'Another Love' sees him sounding at his lowest and most vulnerable, emphasised by a sparse arrangement to begin with, then developing into a huge and powerful crescendo that will strike a chord with anyone who has been damaged by a relationship - if you're going to wallow, this is definitely how to do it.  The peak of a good record - there's a couple of fillers in the middle that stop this from being great - it proves that the hype for this artist is very much justified.

Alex Lai

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