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Tom Odell - Long Way Down (Review)

Tom Odell, Long Way Down

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

HAVING been a surprise choice for the BRITs Critics Choice Award earlier this year, big things are expected from young Tom Odell’s debut album, Long Way Down. Yet while the results may not always match expectation, there are some genuinely fine moments.

Odell frequently displays a maturity beyond his years, both lyrically and vocally, showcasing the ballad-writing prowess of early Coldplay and the gutsiness (at other points) of acts like The Waterboys.

Hence, on a powerhouse moment such as Hold Me, where the piano arrangements are often as emphatic as the drums, he finds levels of energy and passion that are genuinely rousing.

In contrast, Another Love is a hang-dog tale of heartbreak in which Odell lamentfully sings “all my tears have been used up”. But throughout this particular song are some great lyrics, such as: “If somebody hurts you, I wanna fight, but my hand’s been broken one too many times, so I’ll use my voice, I’ll be so damn rude, but I know I will always lose.”

The piano arrangements here are cinematic, too, almost as though Odell culd be channelling an On The Waterfront-era Brando. The sense of regret and pain is palpable. And it’s here that Odell goes some way to justifying that early reward.

Indeed, Odell’s lyrical observations are frequently endearing. On I Know, he remarks about “the way your hair curls in the rain”, while on Can’t Pretend he talks of rough skin that “can’t be cleansed”. Again, here, he talks about the fighter within (“I wanna fight, but I can’t contend”) and, again, he succeeds in generating a slow-build rush of powerful emotions.

Yet throughout, his instrumental compositions are, by turns, tender and empowering. He’s equally adept at foot-stompers (opening track Grow Old With Me and Till I Lost being two more examples) as he is at intimate, stripped down ballads.

Sense, for instance, finds Odell sounding genuinely crestfallen as he sings “maybe I’ll just get drunk and it’ll all make sense” (a bluesy backing harmony accompanying him), while the aforementioned Can’t Pretend builds to a heady crescendo that the likes of Coldplay Elbow and Starsailor would delight in.

Odell still has some way to go before he can truly be measured against some of those greats we’ve compared him to. But as an early marker, Long Way Down is a pretty damn emphatic statement of intent. The future looks bright for this young man.

Download picks: Hold Me, Another Love, I Know, Can’t Pretend, Sirens

Track listing:

  1. Grow Old With Me
  2. Hold Me
  3. Another Love
  4. I know
  5. Sense
  6. Can’t Pretend
  7. Till I Lost
  8. Supposed To Be
  9. Long Way Down
  10. Sirens