The songs still have that yearning, wise-beyond-his-years quality, and his voice remains butter-smooth and crooning.
My love for young Brit Tom Odell began back in 2013, with the release of his EP Songs from Another Love. The four-track teaser included what would become his breakthrough single, “Another Love,” which still stands as one of the best broken heart songs in recent years. Thankfully, he soon followed this appetizer with a full-length, Long Way Down, 13 songs that further highlighted the brilliance of this young artist.
Finally, after three long years, Odell has returned with Wrong Crowd. I always approach subsequent albums with a touch of trepidation: Can the artist maintain the level of brilliance he established on the first release? Does he show growth without letting go of his own unique sound? This is especially crucial with young musicians (we’ve seen it with child actors): Did the artist peak too soon, before major labels and high-profile managers got ahold of him?
Turns out I was a little bit right to worry about Tom Odell. On his second full-length, the songs still have that yearning, wise-beyond-his-years quality, and his voice remains butter-smooth and crooning. The growth is apparent: There’s more of a focus, a richness to the instrumentation. However, the music is softer, slower, crooning, made more for reflective, quiet nights than wind-in-your-hair singalongs (my favorites).
The disc opens with title track and first single, a contemplative, gentle song complete with piano, brushed drums, keys, and whistling. “Magnetised” is the perfect choice for the second single, full of sounds and glee and singalong qualities. “Concrete” and “Constellations” set the focus more on piano than pop, stripped-down songs that highlight Odell’s voice. “Sparrow” showcases his falsetto, while “Still Getting Used to Being on My Own” has a carefree jazz feel to it. Odell takes the tempo up just a notch on “Silhouette,” before bringing us back to Long Way Down’s familiar piano with “Jealousy.”
On “Daddy” and “Here I Am,” the singer is plaintive, longing, emotions that bleed into the final song, a chanteur-y “Somehow.” The deluxe edition includes four additional tracks: the rollicking “She Don’t Belong to Me”; the slow “Mystery”; the piano-and-whistle–y “Entertainment”; and the aching “I Thought I Knew What Love Is.”
Back in his native England, Odell received the BRITs’ Choice Award in 2013, at the age of 22. The following year, he was named Songwriter of the Year at the Ivor Novello Awards; more accolades are surely just over the horizon. B- | Laura Hamlett