Tom Odell – Wrong Crowd Review

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Before the beginning of 2016, the image of Tom Odell was of raw piano ballads and his mop of floppy blonde hair as he vigorously belted the lyrics to said ballads. These methods seemed to have generated great success; he won the Critics’ Choice Award at 2013’s BRITs, as well as Songwriter of the Year at the Ivor Novello Awards in 2014. So some may be surprised that Odell has boldly created an intriguing mixed bag of an album in Wrong Crowd, released 10th June.
Eponymous opener Wrong Crowd immediately tells the audience that this album will deviate from the vibes of the debut. It presents an edgier side to the Odell who permanently wore his heart on his sleeve back in the Long Way Down days, as he describes a habit of “fighting” and doing “harm”. Yet, the single centres itself around a jovial whistling hook that provides an underlying sense of hushed pop. This theme is taken further in the next track, Magnetised, which explores a reverberating electronic section in the vein of a post-Ghost Stories Coldplay. At the same time, Magnetised also reflects his more alt roots, with frequent “mother nature” references and a haunting voice that, despite the gravitas of the electronics, is still the star of the show. Similarly, Odell has still included the soft piano numbers he has been accredited for. This includes the meek Constellations. On the surface, a perfectly simple marriage of twinkling piano and Odell’s fluctuating vocals. For Long Way Down, this probably would’ve been it, however for Wrong Crowd, he has upped the oomph with striking yet delicate harmonies and strings. Each song has been enhanced in some way to show how the follow up is a complete upgrade; through the subtleties of Constellations, or the enthusiastic layers of the almost disco-like track Silhouette. However, both Silhouette and the equally pop-based Here I Am have been embellished so much they are a little cluttered.
Odell has without-a-doubt provided a captivating album, interspersing between refined and ageless piano-based tracks and valiant pop numbers. Conversely, the stand-out track slots into neither. Daddy is an exhilarating rock tune, giddy with both punchy lyrics and a stern guitar hook. I can only imagine the wild light show that will back this performance on his tour. It is such a dramatic contrast to the rest of the tracklist that it is impossible not to commend Odell for his valour. A lover of Long Way Down would welcome the smooth and soulful Somehow. With a musical likeness to the previous Till I Lost, Somehow carries a tuneful authenticity, still in-keeping with Wrong Crowd’s boosted sound through the inclusion of a string section and choir-like vocals, whilst still being the retro-style Tom Odell we are accustomed to.
I’m sure it’s extremely difficult to follow up an album so highly praised, yet Tom Odell has seemingly done it with both daring audacity and ease. This incredibly experimental album showcases a great number of alternate sides to the pianist, displaying how much can be crafted from a few chords.
Tom Odell – Wrong Crowd: 8/10

Eleanor Chivers

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