Long Way Down vs. Wrong Crowd [Tom Odell]


I’m sure the time to review his music has passed, but better late than never.

 Tom Odell is undeniably one my favourite artists, as much as I believe he is incredibly underrated. From the first listen of 2013’s Another Love, I was curious about his music – the instrumental is raw and his voice is filled with unpolished emotion that still never fails to provoke emotion within me.

The rest of his album was just as emotive, with passionate lyrics of young love and lost love, all pushed forward by his infamous piano. Clearly a key staple in each of his songs, his piano seems to bring a familiar flavour to each song, despite the clear differences between most of his songs, giving each track a bit of Odell flair, and it only serves to make my love for piano music stronger; it inspired a weak attempt to learn how to play the keyboard, though self-teaching isn’t one of my strong suits.

Though a few of the songs on Long Way Down didn’t entirely resonate with me – something which happens to me with most albums I own – there are some surely classic tracks that both broke my heart and filled it with joy. For example, I Know is a beautiful but blue song, with his wonderful voice wailing the misery I’m sure everyone will experience and recognise at least once in their lives. Can’t Pretend stuck with me very much, with the dramatic, dark vibe and moody vocals. To me, music isn’t good music unless it inspires me in some way (of course, in my own opinion), and at least gives me imagery to work with. Can’t Pretend evokes imagery of a dark, Victorian England – perhaps the song has been advertised on a period drama of a similar theme.

This simply powerful album bought me many tears along with much happiness, and a love for Tom Odell which I don’t see fading any time soon: so when his latest album, Wrong Crowd, was released, I almost had a fit of excitement at the prospect of new music to devour.

Listening to the lead single for the first time – Wrong Crowd – I was immediately hit with nostalgia (after all, three years is such a long time). Those first few notes like a dim heartbeat reminded me of why I loved Tom Odell in the first place – his particular sound on the piano, along with the eventual first few lines in his unique voice. I realised, as I bobbed my head along to the song, that he has seemingly taken a different turn from his typical, simplistic style, adding richer instrumentals and more layered depth to his sound. I also realised that I liked this ‘new’ Tom very much.

The music on Wrong Crowd is notably different from that of Long Way Down, with each song having a more distinctive tone and feel: the very ‘Top 40’s’-feeling Magnetised differed considerably from the quite seductive Concrete, whilst the borderline-Texan sounding She Don’t Belong To Me was not quite like the soft Somehow. The variation of music tones gives the album a more exciting feel, unlike the (still loveable) Long Way Down, which kept a familiar theme of downcast or ‘humble’ (as I prefer to call it) tracks.

Both albums have been important to me when it comes to inspiration and the connecttion between a person (me) and music, as I’ve not quite been hit as hard in the feelings as much as I have by Tom Odell and his two albums. Only close second to Lana Del Rey.

Of course, these are all my opinions – there have been quite different reviews on Mr Odell’s music, though mine are of course much more late and will most likely be never seen. I, however, don’t believe that makes them any less important. Tom Odell, thank you for your music, and I’m ready for you to break my heart all over again with the next album.




Meaning of Music

 I have had several attempts already to write a blog, or at least a substantial post for one, so hopefully this is the beginning of it actually working.

 ‘Religion is the opium of the people’

This sociological comparison by Karl Marx, where religion is seen as a drug that is pushed upon people to soothe their worries and calm their panics, is a fascinating theory, and not just because I think it’s a poetic sentence. It does ring true – religion is a comfort, and almost something to lose yourself in when things are hard: no matter how hard life is and how fearful you are, you are constantly comforted by the blanket of your religion.

I sat in my sociology classroom, thinking to myself about what this theory meant to me. What was my opiate? What did I surround myself in when I needed ‘protection’ (which was often, since anxiety seems to like following me around)?

It wasn’t religion – I’m not a particularly religious person, despite frequent praying in times of desperation and need. When I am in fear or worry, I don’t search for a hug from God. I turn to music. Music is my opiate.

It’s an easy comparison to make, music and drugs, at least in my case: they can be used for recreational purposes, they can cause a range of emotions (joy, sadness, fury, wariness) and- especially from my stance – can cause a dependency. The similarity between the two can be the how individuals connect socially: junkies may come together to do their drugs, whilst fandoms are created to comment on YouTube with a mix of upper- and lower-case letters when their favourite musician releases new music.

Back to me and my opinions though (rude, but this is my blog): music to me is pretty much everything. To a heroin addict, their world may mainly revolve around getting that next hit. I, on the other hand, have been in a relationship with cheeky tunes for the majority of my life. It’s easy for me to gush about music, as it’s such a support. No matter what happens in my life – a panic attack, a bad day, an argument – I can go back to songs on my mp3 player (I am retro) and they’re still the same. They don’t change when you switch off the device; you return to music and the drums beat in the same pattern, the voices remain just as beautiful or gravelled or impossible to imitate (how does Mariah Carey do it?).

It’s not just the familiarity of music that draws me in so much and keeps a hold on my heart – it’s the lyrics. In this world, there are thousands and thousands of songs, with countless themes and tales woven into the lyrics. If I have a bad day and feel myself tearing up, I automatically connect to the sad, despairing songs of woe, and can allow myself to cry with someone who understands – that artist who sings my feelings. If I am having a surprisingly good day, I express it with dramatic lip-synching to a cheesy party tune, or perhaps giggle it out to ridiculous songs that make me laugh despite the clear intentions to be a serious song.

A personal favourite reason why I love music so much is the creativity it brings out of me – I adore writing fiction, and the imagery or stories within certain songs help to inspire me or shape a particular piece I’m writing. It’s a dream of mine to write an actual novel, or even work on screen-writing for plays, so the assistance of music to my creative mind is much needed to help shape the new worlds and people who come to mind.

I appreciate where Marx was coming from – particularly as the topic he was theorising on was religion, of course – but I can’t help but to disagree when it comes to my personal world. In my eyes, music is the opium of the people: it’s what brings us together, what is there for us when no one else is and, sometimes, can inspire us and give us guidance when times get rough or puzzling.

Then again, that’s just me.