Tom Odell materialised from the unknown last year following the release of ‘Songs From Another Love’, following the standard Jools Holland milestone and reiteration of Elton John, Dylan, Bowie and Buckley as his influences. It painted a scenic and hopeful horizon for the British singer-songwriter. Odell showcased his potential with the earworm ‘Another Love’ which would surface in European chart. It condenses the album’s theme of relationship catastrophe as its bittersweet but ultimately wet base for existence- “I wanna cry I wanna love/ But all my tears have been used up on another love”. This river of tears has washed it into the main stream of familiar love ballads.
It’s not hard to draw parallels between Odell and his work. Odell is polite and inoffensive with a nice, clean boy look, but with strong enthusiasm. This clearly resonates throughout the album more so than his perfect-cadence structured piano playing along with his soft voice. When Odell claimed the Critic’s Choice award before his album was even released, it hinted something unique but the hype is pretty short lived. Odell is yet to fill shoes far bigger than his age and maturity allow him. Long Way Down does have melodic skill but the record still has something to prove his capacity beyond pining over heartbreak and naïve romance issues- “Grow old with me / / oh the best it could be”.
However it’s unfair not to praise some aspects- ‘Can’t Pretend’ and ‘Sense’ are the deserving force behind the anticipation- maybe this is what Long Way Down was intended for. He hits the spot with a sultry chord progression that expresses real desire and struggle, but he conveys futility in a coming-of-age feel very appropriate for him: “I’ve been feeling pretty small /Sometimes I feel like I’m slipping down walls”-yes he probably is. Odell previously expressed his intentions for the album as ‘to feel human, flawed… express heightened feeling we all get”. He certainly got the flawed part right but let’s not be too hasty to deem it the worst- there is time for things to develop.