Unless you have had your head firmly buried in the sand for the past couple of months you’ll be aware of the huge buzz surrounding Tom Odell and his debut album Long Way Down. He garnered the title of the first ever male to win the highly acclaimed Critics’ Choice Brit Award. With such highly publicised praise, Tom Odell certainly has a lot to live up to with his debut album. If the success of previous winners of the Critics’ Choice award are anything to go by, Tom has nothing to worry about.
The album opens with the track ‘Grow Old With Me’. This track eases the listener in gently as it grows layer by layer. Tom laments ‘Grow old with me/Let us share what we see’ with such feeling that he appears wise beyond his years. ‘Grow Old With Me’ is anthemic, beautiful and a completely romantic piece at heart.
Fans of Tom Odell will have already heard tracks ‘Hold Me’, ‘Another Love’, ‘Sense’ and ‘Can’t Pretend’. ‘Hold Me’ is raucous, loud and unapologetically brash. If whisky was a song, this is what it would sound like; it is reminscient of those nights when you’ve had one too many to care about maintaining those all too overrated airs and graces. ‘Another Love’ is haunting in its beauty. Tom Odell has managed to write a piano ballad with real class, avoiding at every point the trap of falling into tired clichés and predictable chord progressions. This track is full of heart and conviction and for me is the front runner for standout track of the album. ‘Sense’ is achingly melancholic but has a soothing lullaby quality to it. Catharsis at its very best. ‘Can’t Pretend’ is a track that refuses to be ignored. It grows and builds to a genuinely dramatic climax. Tom Odell manages to combine the weariness of an 80 year old with the fieriness of a defiant teen with a lust for life.
The order of the tracks in the album is possibly its weakest feature. It doesn’t necessarily flow in an order you’d expect, causing it to sound rather heavy handed at certain points. Yet this doesn’t necessarily have to be a criticism. Albums have a habit of losing character and individuality by sounding all too polished. Long Way Down is certainly not lacking in the character department. Upon second listening its imperfectness becomes charming.
So, what’s the overall verdict? Tom Odell has managed to create an album that is heavily piano led without sounding cheesy and whiney. He has his voice to thank for this. It is rough around the edges in the best way possible. He sings as if his voice is on the verge of breaking, yet this only adds to the emotion. Nothing is hidden from the listener. Tom Odell has truly laid himself bare in this album and that takes a lot of courage. He manages to combine the old with the new to create an album that is genuine and full of conviction. This is certainly not the last we’ll be hearing from him.
Long Way Down is out on Monday.