Tom Odell: Promising The New Piano Man.


Hometown: Chichester.

The lineup: Tom Odell (vocals, piano).

The background: We went to see a new singer-songwriter called Joe Banfi the other night at the Social in London. He did that gruff post-Buckley thing that young musicians of a certain type tend to do these days. The room was hushed when he sang his raw ballads of infidelity, and the applause when he finished verged on the rapturous. This fellow, we thought, is going to make some (quietly emotional, increasingly torrential on the chorus) noise in 2013. But now we’ve heard Tom Odell and we’re not so sure. If the male troubadour niche isn’t quite as crowded as the female soul one, there are still contenders out there, some of them serious (although whatever did happen to Marcus Foster?). Can more than one make it? Let’s see.

The space may already have been filled by Jake Bugg, even if Odell’s music is more florid and arranged than the Nottingham boy’s – he’s classically trained, you know. We’re still not sure what that means, or what effect being classically trained has on the student’s compositions because we’re not exactly talking Mozart here, but certainly there are voices stacked on top of voices and there are strings that swell as the singing becomes more passionate.

Still only 21, he’s signed to a major – the same one, incidentally, as the aforementioned Jeff – and we wouldn’t be surprised to learn that one or two of them over at the label have muttered something about them having signed a Brit boy capable of a Grace. Although blond, he has a similarly tousled yet haunted quality. Those good looks, and that boyish sensitivity, have already won him, or at least his music, favour in the fashion world, as it featured during a recent Burberry show.

There are four tracks on his debut EP and they range from averagely resonant to rivetingly sad. You may consider that Odell’s performance on the song Sense is quite mannered or you may feel it genuinely captures what it feels like to experience real pain. It’s like James Blake without the dubstep, the sound of one man perilously close to cracking up. It starts as just a voice and piano before he is joined by a series of humming, harmonising Odells. Another Love is equally ripe as Odell once again becomes his very own choir of fallen rough-boy angels. “If somebody hurts you I want to fight … so I use my voice, I’ll be so fuckin’ rude,” he croaks. Anger, betrayal, confusion, despair – and that’s just us. Stay Tonight is just a demo, to be fair, but it does suggest that, unadorned and allowed to bellow, he could be just another advert for hoarse lassitude, a solo Stereophonic. Which we really don’t need in 2013 at all.

The buzz: “He falls into a space that borders James Blake’s minimalistic territory, yet spills over into Alex Clare‘s soulful emotionality” –

The truth: It is really rather affecting, or a simulacrum of emotionality – you decide.

Most likely to: Have a nice day.

Least likely to: Wear a tramp’s vest.

What to buy: The Songs from Another Love EP is released by Columbia.

File next to: Joe Banfi, Jeff Buckley, Kelly JonesPassenger.


(reviewed by: paul lester for