Tom Odell - Long Way Down
Record Label: Columbia
Release Date: June 24, 2013
Sometimes, riding the fence isn’t really such a bad thing. As goes the legacy of Hannah Montana, not fully devoting yourself to one side of the spectrum leaves you with the best of both worlds. 22 year old Tom Odell is entirely aware of that and, like Adele, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons etc. before him, he’s decided to focus his energies on melding genres together and maintaining humongous amounts of appeal. His debut album, Long Way Down, is ten tracks of piano led indie pop which more than often finds itself wandering into the throes of folk music. Despite Odell’s tender age (and Hanson-alike look), he has already found favour with the music loving masses and with a debut album like this, it’s incredibly easy to see why.
Initially, I was sceptical about Mr Odell. Found by Lily Allen and quite loved by the BBC and Brit Awards, he didn’t quite seem like the sort of artist who’d fit to well into a playlist with any of the bands covered on this here site, however after a handful of listens to Long Way Down, anyone with an ounce of heart in them will find themselves falling in love. From open to close, Long Way Down is filled with stories of young love, be it the discovery of, the loss of or the fleetingness of it. Whether it’s the cynical, broken-heartedness of “Another Love” or the wide eyed devotion of “Grow Old With Me”, Odell deals almost exclusively with matters of the heart and provides the soundtrack for whatever emotions you’re having regarding love.
But enough with the themes, this is a record bursting with some of the most hummable, catchy tracks of the year. The aforementioned “Another Love”, despite it’s delicateness, has a wonderful transition from hushed to all out shouting, all the while maintaining the sort of catchiness that doesn’t let you forget the song, even after only one listen. “Hold Me”’s drunken swagger and endearing confidence leads to a song of hooks, rather than just have you singing along with the chorus, Odell leaves you humming the verses too. Aside from his ability to write catchy tunes, Odell’s vocal performance on here is magnificent. He switches, with ease, between fragile, hushed vocals to a full voiced power performance. In a sentence, his distinct vocals perfectly reflect the controlled erraticness of his subject matter.
However, despite his youthful songwriting chops, Odell will (and has already) come under attack from those who believe all lyrics should read like a David Foster Wallace novel. Yes, Odell’s lyrics certainly aren’t the most complex and songs such as “Grow Old With Me” and “Hold Me” can occasionally slide into cheesiness. But, so what? Young love is cheesy and uncomplex. He manages to convey his emotions perfectly by being simplistic as hell and if aspects of his songwriting were overly poetic or metaphorical, it would feel less genuine and this album wouldn’t make the impact it does. In future, it will be nice to see Odell mature and grow as a writer but for now, this is all we need from him.
Long Way Down is as close to the perfect debut an artist can come. It displays Odell as an earnest young songwriter who has enough raw talent to ensure that this album is the best it can be. However, Long Way Down has just enough flaws to show that Odell has room to grow and progress. If you listen to one pop album this year, this is a pretty good bet.