Having beaten the likes of AlunaGeorge and Laura Mvula to the BRITs Critics’ Choice award earlier this year, it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of hype surrounding Tom Odell and his (annoyingly) delayed debut album Long Way Down. At first glance he appears to be attempting to tap into the already overcrowded male singer-songwriter market (with his catchy hooks, good looks and mainstream radio support) – however, we’re pleased to reveal that this album displays a surprising amount of diversity, as well as copious amounts of musical talent. Odell’s music is rather more mature than the likes of Ed Sheeran, but also livelier than someone like Ben Howard, and a lot of the tracks contain surprisingly strong hooks and melodies. If a comparison to an existing artist actually had to be made then it would probably be to the earlier Coldplay albums.
Album opener Grow Old With Me takes a while to get going, but it ultimately ends as a stunningly tender affair. Hold Me is by far the strongest track here; it’s a thunderingly anthemic beast of a song that allows Odell to show off some impressive vocals, as well as giving him a chance to prove that he’s more than just a regulation-issue singer-songwriter of nice-but-dull tracks. The rest of the album is more along the lines of what would be expected, but generally the tracks are still strong enough. The first half of the album is certainly stronger than the second; songs such as Suppose To Be and Long Way Down feel like very obvious filler. Album closer Mellow features a very strong chorus, and is a more memorable way to close the album than the more obvious choices of Can’t Pretend and Hold Me.
Odell feels like the type of artists many will dismiss as the male version of Emeli Sande, and we can’t deny that Long Way Down does at times pander to the expectations of your generic singer-songwriter debut album. However, this album is more than just another factory-produced tug on the heartstrings – its heartfelt lyrics are very touching without being sickeningly so, and the melodies are stronger than most would have expected. It isn’t a game changing, genre defining masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s a decent debut effort, and stronger than we generally would have expected. Odell is currently signed up to be the main support act for The Rolling Stones (so his career will clearly go from strength to strength over the coming years), but one wonders if he’d be better suited to branching out even further with his music. This album was mostly devised around writing about heartbreak, and whilst generally successful at that, it’s the rare up-tempo numbers that really show of all of his considerable assets as a performer.