Preview: Tom Odell – ‘Jubilee Road’
Third albums are tricky, and the pressure is really on when you’re a previous winner of an Ivor Novello Award, identified often as ‘that guy from the John Lewis Christmas advert’, and you’re not always a favourite amongst critics. Tom Odell’s third instalment in his career, Jubilee Road is here in full force and making a statement that the young singer-songwriter can step, or even leap, out of his comfort zone that lies in brooding piano tunes of failed love. Make no mistake, Odell stays true to the genre which I believe he thrives in, delivering even stronger vocals than he ever has before. However, any critic that accused 2016’s Wrong Crowd of being too safe and familiar could not say the same of Jubilee Road which surprisingly flirts with upbeat tempos and showcases the diversity of Tom Odell lyricism and musical talent. This is an album that captures the magic and melancholy of his successful debut album, Long Way Down whilst equally delivering an energy that will make you want to dance or at least smile.
Five-minute title track, ‘Jubilee Road’ opens the album and introduces some incredibly impressive vocals that will prove consistent across the subsequent 10 tracks that follow. The lazy piano intro feels reminiscent of that of previous tracks such as ‘Grow Old With Me’ and it is a welcome familiarity. “It’s a late Friday night, the streetlights are shining” the opening line drawls, ironically depicting my own setting for my initial listening of the album and the ideal conditions for enjoying this striking opening track. At the two-minute mark when a steady drum beat kicks in and the vocals become louder, it is goosebump inciting as the track transitioned from the softness of streetlights into a powerful ballad.
The two following tracks, ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ and ‘Son of an Only Child’ respectively, were my personal favourites of the entire album and their early feature really inspires you to keep listening as they are sharply different than anticipated. ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ has Odell offering his heart to the subject of the love song, with a welcome upbeat accompanying piano and gospel-esque backing vocals. ‘Son of an Only Child’ is a standout track with an empowering chorus that serves as a testament to Tom Odell’s growth as both a vocalist and a songwriter. With a refreshingly conscious tone, Odell admits “I’m sick of singing about my broken heart” surely acknowledging his association with lamentations of lost love. The songwriter has previously admitted himself that his music is inspired by his “inability to sustain a relationship with someone for longer than six months” which is perhaps what heralds ‘Son of an Only Child’ as a divergence away from the typical Tom Odell lyricism.
Ironically, optimism is stopped short by the following track aptly titled ‘You’re Going to Break my Heart Tonight’ which is as self-explanatory as it appears. Not to be rejected, however, as this song is soulful and a homage to the Elton John piano tinkles that Odell has frequently claimed to be influenced by, and the heart-aching cliché lines that made the musician himself famous in 2012. ‘China Dolls’ is reached and is my least favourite of the first half of the album, not personally finding the lyrics accessible and the repetition in the chorus falls flat of meaning for me. Despite this, it’s a notable track for its fluctuating temp and is arguably the closest that Odell has ever gotten to touching on a dance number, which adds more flare into the album.
The latter half of Jubilee Road is less standout, with most of the potential singles lying in the first five tracks, however is not any less enjoyable. Tracks such as ‘Queen of Diamonds’ and ‘Wedding Day’ are closer to typical Tom Odell format with long sustained notes and touching lyrics, layered over strong, defining piano numbers. ‘Go Tell Her Now’ continues a theme that Odell is fairly new to which is the pursuit of love, as demonstrated earlier on ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’. This empowering lyricism is a cheerful surprise from the self-proclaimed brooder of failed relationships. This particular track inspires the desire to quite literally run to the person you are harbouring feelings for and tell them without hesitation, with little regard for what may follow. ‘Don’t Belong in Hollywood’ is another notable song for its apparent rejection of the entertainment industries and any form of pretences that people try to maintain to impress and to modify themselves. “Fool me, did you think you could?” Tom quips early on, perhaps asking a lover or even a friend who has been changed for the worse in their pursuit of success. This track is an interesting diversion from the black and white depictions of blooming romance or failed love that are the subjects of the majority of the album and is a respectable favourite of mine.
Jubilee Road possibly lacks the skills to invoke heartache the way that Long Way Down manages to- it is not an obvious tear-jerker. What it is, in parts, is the musical manifestation of butterflies in your stomach or the peace you feel late at night, on a Friday night lit by streetlights perhaps? By that I mean, it is personal. Tom Odell’s greatest asset is perhaps the honesty in his lyrics, there’s nothing embellished about these tracks and their focus on the heart in all its ups and downs. I loved it during the first listen and adored it by the third. Seeing Tom be more ambitious with the diversity of his tracks is exciting and will hopefully pave the way for future albums. A personal favourite moment of Tom Odell’s career is when his upset dad made a phone call to NME to complain about the harshness of their review after the release of his debut album. I hope that this time around, no phone calls need to be made and this album is received with the adoration it deserves.
Jubilee Road is released on 12th October.
Tom Odell’s upcoming UK tour dates:
16th October: O2 Academy, Leeds
17th October: City Hall, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
18th October: Usher Hall, Edinburgh
19th October: O2 Apollo, Manchester
21st October: O2 Academy, Birmingham
22nd October: Corn Exchange, Cambridge
23rd October: Eventim Apollo, London
25th October: Brighton Centre, Brighton
26th October: O2 Guildhall, Southampton