I was first introduced to Tom Odell’s music a few years ago by his most famous tune Another Love, which I would hear everytime I would turn the radio on. It drew me to his first album, Long Way Down, which depicted the despair of heartbreak and loneliness in a poetic yet simple way that made the whole album an enjoyable piece of work.
Odell’s new project, his third studio album Jubilee Road, is imbued in these raw emotions as well. The singer produced, wrote and performed the whole album himself and confessed all the songs were inspired from the people he met and the stories he experienced when he lived in East London – hence the name of the project. The emotional and personal involvement of the artist in his songs is palpable from the first listen – the album is characterized by high vocalizations close to gospel on top of a melancholic yet entertaining instrumental use. Piano use is ubiquitous in Odell’s work and the way it blends, intensifies or echoes the lyrics of the singer is confidently and magnificently done.
The whole album is made as a tribute to the singer’s memories of the city he now has left while remaining close and accessible to his audience. For example, on the song Jubilee Road, he recalls his vision of Mr. Bouvier, “in his two-bedroom basement / In his purple dungarees / He’s grumpy and he’s grey”. This reveals the almost voyeurist stance the artist takes on his past life in order to address bigger issues, here the universality of solitude. Odell also sings his own personal experiences and fear, such as the way in which he is deeply scared of heartache in You’re Gonna Break My Heart Tonight and how he understands the superficiality of our age in the story of woman he knows is pretending to be someone she’s not in Don’t Belong In Hollywood.
This album is therefore about an artist smartly and artistically in touch with his emotions, embodying an intimate vulnerability through his music and his words. Featuring Alice Merton, he mourns the way he will never be able to meet someone as good as his first love onHalf Good As You: “If I ever find anyone half as good as you / I think maybe that would do”. It is in that sense that Odell’s musical dexterity shines: he achieves to be relatable in the recalling of his own personal experiences and feelings. Even if the album is far less bluesy that his two precedent ones, Odell still beautifully depicts the pain, despair, and anxiety caused by love.
However, it is also in that sense that the album does not take a lot of risks and strongly recalls his ancient pieces of work in both the musicality and textuality. The way it appears more as an extension of what has already been done rather than a groundbreaking new album can be a way for Odell to prove that he has found his voice and his own way of doing music to cope with heartache. On stage, as he mourns through vulnerable lyrics and rhetorical questions, his presence becomes almost intimate with his voice rising and slowly turns into gospel, making the crowd dance and move accordingly. The whole thing turns into something objectively beautiful and hopeful: at the end of the day, music is here to be pleasantly enjoyed, no matter what it addresses. Odell is a perfect exemplification of this process, and Jubilee Road turns into a definitely good, heartwarming and raw album to start the cold days with.
Tom Odell singing in London (2018). Available at: https://www.wegow.com/en/artists/tom-odell/.
Jubilee Road Album Cover Banner (2018). Available at: https://www.tomodell.com/.
Concert (2018). Available at: https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/tom-odell-jazz-cafe-tickets/7853755.
Profile picture (2018). Available at: https://twitter.com/tompeterodell.