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

STAND UP AND BE COUNTED – PEACE, THE 1975, DRENGE, ROYAL BLOOD, SWIM DEEP, JAWS, THE ORWELLS, WAVVES, FIDLAR, BASTILLE, SPECTOR, TOM ODELL AND THE LIKE OF THEM.

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“They were desperate to say that “oh I went to this great café. It was really authentic. The cutlery was all dirty”” – Jarvis Cocker

“Psychedelia has become too much of an easy tagline. Really the term should be about exploration” – Tom Cowan

” I don’t see a story unfolding with bands because it is gap year music. It seems like somebody has said, ‘I think I’ll do an album then my dad will give me a job in the accountancy firm’.” – James Dean Bradfield

“As soon as it sounds fine, I’m on to the next thing” – Damon Albarn

“I know there’s bands that’ll write something like The Smiths and they’ll go ‘Oh it sounds like The Smiths’, but we’ve got to not make it sound like The Smiths” – Noel Gallagher

“I think a lot of people study the rules too much and don’t know how to be creative” – Julian Casablancas

“That’s really scary because it’s hard to see how music and art can continue to develop or challenge itself within these new, very commercial frames.” – Karin Dreijer Andersson

I feel that the floodgates have well and truly opened for the hipster and I now feel like I have a good enough grasp of it’s ‘culture’ to make an educated comment. In their short existence, the Hipster has made a mockery of Indie music and left it a laughing stock. The new breed of fans and bands seem to have largely split themselves into two new camps. Desert Rock and Psychedelic Rock. Yet for some bizarre reason they believe it’s ‘scene’ or whatever to talk like an L.A gangster… or gangsta as they would say. God I dread the day when social historians look back at 2014’s Twitter timeline to see tweet after tweet stating “These nu vibez got me trippin blud! The guitarist is so rad ‘n’ such a bae” For me it just shows how music is a backwater here. It is all about the image and the trends and that is true for the ‘artists’ and as a consequence the fans. After they cottoned on that The Black Keys were getting attention, but mainly after the sound of Arctic Monkeys last two LP’s; big, bulky, distorted guitars have been all the rage. Stand up Royal Blood, Drenge, Circa Waves, Wavves, The Orwells. You show me the difference. Psychedelia and Neo-psychedelia have been the other targets. Again, they cottoned on The Horrors or Tame Impala were getting attention and now you have The Horrors desperately trying to disassociate themselves from the new context of the term Psychedelic. Stand up Swim Deep, JAWS, Peace etc. Show me the difference. Amongst other things I’ve noted is that I listened to ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ by Palma Violets genuinely thinking it was The Vaccines. Show me the difference. That ‘totes indie’ jangling riff is a common trait of Peace and The 1975 as well as the way both vocalists sing with that lethargic slur and how stagnant and devoid of character their lyrics are. Can someone please draw a dividing line between Peace and The 1975? They are one in the same to me. What makes it more humorous is that fans of each think the other is killing music. I guess hypocrites never recognise their own reflections. Bastille and Tom Odell put on such a vocal style that makes them appear allergic to their vowels in a not too dissimilar fashion to Peace and The 1975. The almost endless amount of times a band will blatantly rip someone off is comical too! You can get all worked up about One Direction’s army of writers stealing classic tracks but listen to ‘World Pleasure’ by Peace. Would they still feel so strongly about it then? In fact they will take pride in the fact it sounds like Pet Shop Boys or The Stones Roses, Happy Mondays, Daft Punk etc. etc. Nirvana is a common victim along with QOTSA, The Clash, Pulp, Bowie, Suede, Manics, Oasis, Blur, T Rex, MBV, The Beatles, Stones etc. etc. all tainted by the dim minded artists of the hipster generation. It’s a quick fix when you’d rather be picking out your tie-dye, leopard print and fakes glasses then writing your own music. It is a crime in equal measure of hiring teams of writers for your songs. Music and it’s advancement loses out on both occasions. It’s easier to stay hip and just copy off the innovators rather than emulate them in being innovative yourself. It’s easy to say you are ‘influenced’ by someone if you are just ripping them off. But then again this time last year their fans were probably influenced by Ellie Goulding or Example and so will not know the difference.

Do not fear though… the innovators of 2014 are there if you slash your way through everyone trying to be different while being one in the same. The sheer inventiveness of St. Vincent, The bold and brave production of Beck, The pulsating rotations of Wild Beasts, The dark, electronic currents of The Knife, The echoed chambers of Warpaint, The sonically charged, expanded sounds of The Horrors and so many more. You don’t have to follow the hipster cycle of destruction. Just follow what sounds new or interesting. Don’t let another genre become as toxic as Indie has become.

 

“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/the-horrors/76237#HHm4sxYz5rFzXSpP.99
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/the-horrors/76237#HHm4sxYz5rFzXSpP.99
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/the-horrors/76237#HHm4sxYz5rFzXSpP.99
“Psychedelia becomes too much of an easy tagline. Really, the term should be about exploration.
Read more at http://www.nme.com/news/the-horrors/76237#HHm4sxYz5rFzXSpP.99

Tom Odell – Long Way Down Review

Rightly or wrongly, Tom Odell has kicked up a massive fuss this year and this was enhanced by him winning the ‘Critics Choice Award’ at the BRIT Awards. However as far as i’m concerned those awards are one of the biggests insults to British music that you’ll find. Therefore I don’t care for it. However I don’t think he should be cast off in the harsh way he has been. For example the 0/10 from the NME is just them trying to be ‘hip’ and they just go with the crowds anyway. Remember when they championed Mumford & Sons? One Direction are a 0/10 and Odell is not as bad as that. But the review did make some valid points though even if they were wrapped up in metaphors and cliches as always. One thing is for sure is that he’s vocal style is very polarising. It will make you weak at the knees or make you want to jump out your window into the street below. Bastille is very similar. They sort of sing words with the wrong vowel in them and stress that fact to no end and at times it’s a little comical.

His first single from his debut album was ‘Can’t Pretend’ and it is evocative of the vocal style i just mentioned. My first thought was Jamie Cullum for some reason. That sort of gloomy piano ballad with the choir in the background which is pretty standard and sort of works out for him to it’s bare minimum. The song sounds a little better when you get in the other elements of the basic guitars, percussion and bass and i’m not one of those people crazed about having a guitar in every song but that style is way too familar and his voice might be more appealing if it wasn’t so isolated. ‘Hold Me’ does have more about it in terms of instrumentals but his vocals in this are him straining and shouting at times. They don’t have the same idea as the instrumentals either and they themselves sound like a basic version of Keane or FUN. Once more, the random wails and screams from him and the choir or not melodic or harmonic at all and they only suceed is scaring you half to death. ‘Another Love’ is his third single and the initial subtleness works well for him with the soft harmonies but that bloody choir start doing their ghost impressions again and it ruins the songs atmosphere and feel. The build up of the thumping percussion does redeem the song slightly and the balance of voice against instrumentals is much better. However those choirs killed it as they joined in again and at times it was trying to sound like a Coldplay tune from 2008 and even they didn’t put those wailing choirs in the middle of their songs.

‘Grow Old With Me’ has a decent meoldy to it which other songs struggle to conjure up. He’s also put a lid on those choirs who back him up in harmonies rather than wailing over him and drowning everything out. The songs does take a stompy Mumford apporach which is very belated and a little frustrating but it’s a decent tune i guess. ‘Sense’ very much has a sort of Christmas in New York thing about it like it’s been plucked from a romantic film but the choirs again decide to work with him rather than against him. The title track sounds a little like it’s trying to steal the piano from ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay and the vocal and backing vocals in their collective wail are in no way matching the feel of the piano instrumental. That really defines Tom Odell’s debut album. It’s like he’s got all the basic elements but plucked them out of a hat for each song, making the album sound a bit mis-matched and random. Just when you think he is about to put down a half decent song, something always comes up to ruin it. It’s pretty bold to produce your own debut album as a solo artist. Perhaps that is the problem. It’s like there has been no one there to be objective with him and tell him that some of his musical combinations are a little off. Unlike the NME I shall be constructive and say 1. He needs a producer to give a proper opinion on his songs. 2. He needs to find out what sounds and harmonies work with his voice and enhance it as not everything will. 3. Try not to have the whole album piano driven. Though he is good on the keys the style of song he has to chose from becomes very narrow given the way he plays it. 4. The same goes with the choir. If you are going to have one them at least ensure they are complimenting the songs rather than overpowering everything without harmony. If those basic things materialise them perhaps his second album will be a decent one because if he sticks with the way he’s going then he’ll be going nowhere fast and I think he is capable of a little better. He’s just got it all wrong with Long Way Down.

Tom Odell – Long Way Down = 3.5/10

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Images from blahblahblahscience.com / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Way_Down_(Tom_Odell_album)