Album Review – Tom Odell, Jubilee Road

Strikingly honest and soulful singer songwriter Tom Odell has made a career of combining heart wrenching lyrical content with intricately laid instrumentals. Over his two releases, 2013 Long Way Down and 2016 Wrong Crowd, Odell has masterfully crafted hit after hit, propelling him to sold out stages around the world. While the fame may have turned some into sonic extremes, new record Jubilee Road finds Odell back at his piano intermixing poignantly perfect piano ballads with expansive choir and instrumentally rich singles. Released on October 12th Jubilee Road is an intoxicating mixture of classic Odell style and a new evolution of sound that reaches an epic scale, a perfect balance of reflective depth and vivacious explosive sound.

Jubilee Road opens with a title track ‘Jubilee Road,’ a soaring piano ballad. A perfect reintroduction to the typical sound that permeates Odell’s work, the opening number is an invitation to exploration, a sort of narrative journey in which Odell combines soaring piano with expansive vocals.  With beauty in its simplicity, ‘Jubilee Road’ is the perfect introductory tune seemingly outlining the sonic ethos of what is to follow.

Single ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ spills through the speakers next. A brilliant splash of sound and electricity the song roots bright pop tinges with a Motown styled funk. The song introduces a new sort of monstrous sound that permeates the album; an evolution for Odell the single contains a transfixing amalgamation of piano interludes and clashing instrumentals, sidelined by the choir of vocals that heighten the atmospheric resonance giving the song an otherworldly yet relatable feel.

For those who are lovers of Tom’s classic sound found through his other releases, rest assured that the simple sonic perfection backboned by the piano still holds place on Jubilee Road. Tunes like expansive ‘Son of an Only Child,’ sombre ‘You’re Going to Break My Heart Tonight’ and ballad ‘Queen of Diamonds’ hold that beautiful melodious ambience that has permeated Odell’s previous work. These songs are balanced with snippets of magnanimous choir and brass sections, displaying a evolution of sound while still maintaining the Odell sonic DNA.

Intertwining the more piano oriented songs are melancholy emotionally charged tunes like ‘Half as Good As You,’ ‘Don’t Belong in Hollywood’ and ‘Wedding Day.’ ‘Half as Good As You,’ featuring Alice Merton, is seemingly a reflection on loss, a textured reflection on love that is at both parts hopeful and devastating. The song is a beauty, a defining lyrically driven moment that is a true bright spot on the album despite its emotionally downtrodden ethos.

Along with that melancholy ‘Don’t Belong in Hollywood’ is parts desperation and self-loathing. In a perfect mirroring of the juxtaposing emotional rollercoaster that is exploring a Hollywood lifestyle, the song perfectly captures the plight of entertainers. In it we seemingly hear Odell’s inner struggle, one that mirrors other artists like Amy Winehouse whose name is dropped in the song. Album closer ‘Wedding Day’ joins the emotionally rich songs; with a stripped down piano and soaring vocals Odell delivers a song that is poignant, a mixture of hopeful future and gloomy sound it strikes that lovely balance of a myriad of images and emotions, a concept that is often found in an Odell album.

It is not all sad songs and piano ballads. The album is broken up by kitschy ‘China Dolls.’ A personal standout, the song is a light and bright 60s infused tune that brings an uptempo swing. With rustic guitar and big band sound, the song is flashing with energy and will no doubt be an exciting tune to see live. Along with ‘China Dolls’ is ‘Go Tell Her Now.’ In a flirty rock tinged song the strong percussion presence gives the song a sort of party vibe. We can just imagine Odell escaping from his piano, dancing around the stage in gleeful abandonment as he plays this song to the Birmingham crowd in a handful of weeks.

There is an inescapable reverberation that runs through Jubilee Road. While mirroring in some ways his older work Odell is still able to add incredible sonic interest, a new exploration of what Odell is capable of creating. A masterful storyteller who concocts striking sonic success intermixing the atmospheric with electrifying, Tom Odell crafts a masterpiece with Jubilee Road. Dropping in a few days the album is worth diving into, with Tom Odell and band bringing the album to life at the Academy on the 21st of October.

Jubilee Road is released on Columbia on 12th October, 2018


Reviewer: Kylie McCormick

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