record reviews november 2018

TOM ODELL

Jubilee Road (Sony)

odell

His third album, this find Odell casting his songwriting eye around the East London terraced street where he wrote and largely recorded the album, fictionalising its name and the friends he made while he was there, but otherwise telling it exactly as it is.

The piano-accompanied title track opener literally sets the scene, peering out from his bedroom, early Elton John echoes bouncing off the walls, switching to an uptempo funky pop handclap drum beat on ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ with big soaring backing vocals before reining it back in for ‘Son Of An Only Child’ (which actually includes an Elton reference), the spare piano and clicking metronome intro giving way to an upbeat brass band Motown meets Billy Joel bounce.

Piano ballad ‘You’re Going To Break My Heart Tonight’ sounds pretty much as you’d expect from the title, but then its spins off-kilter to the cheerful uptempo, percussion and piano romp of ‘China Dolls’, another number that calls to mind the more jubilant Joel moments like ‘Tell Her About It’ and even sports a kazoo solo.

Once more sounding those inescapable Elton comparisons, another piano ballad, ‘Queen of Diamonds’ takes a stroll to look in on the gamblers at the local betting shop in a song that deals with more than loss on a flutter, after which he’s joined by Alice Merton duetting on ‘Half As Good As You’, which, calling to mind The Beautiful South, is as good a heartbreak post-break up loneliness piano ballad as you’ll get this year.

Opening with barroom chatter and applause as he takes to the stage, cod-live recording ‘Go Tell Her Now’ launches into a drum-led uptempo pop with 60s Motown inflections, the album closing with, first, the downbeat gradually building ‘Don’t Belong In Hollywood’ with its mix of broken dreams, self-loathing, isolation, buried emotions and an Amy Winehouse namecheck and, finally, just voice and piano, the bittersweet, tear-jerking ‘Wedding Day’, emotion overflowing as he sings in the persona of the bride’s little brother wishing her all the best and how their late mother would have been so proud.

It’s common knowledge that Odell grew up listening to Elton John and, as the album makes clear that influence remains strong. Think of this then as Odell’s ‘Tumbleweed Connection’, still the finest and most consistently brilliant album in the Rocket Man’s orbit. Mike Davies

SHE DREW THE GUN

Rev*luti*n of the Mind (Skeleton Key)

she drew

The alias of singer-songwriter guitarist Louisa Roach, this is sociopolitical activist psych-pop dressed up in swirling electronics, drums with numbers that range from the pulsing dark urgency of ‘Arm Yourself’ and the motorik ‘Resister’ (which gets a reprise towards the end) to the narcotic hazing of the spokenly hushed steam of consciousness ‘Between Stars’, the cosmic wash of ‘Ocean’ with its lapping sound effects and samples and ‘Something For The Pain’ which, curiously comes over like a slow relation to Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’.

There’s equally an aptly druggy vibe to the sweetly sung ‘Dopamine’, one of several tracks where she’s talking about the way we numb ourselves to the world around by escaping into the pleasure zones of our plastic screens or, as the folksy Cohen/Buckley-like Human puts it, “you can’t see the path for the world at your feet.” The Eastern-flavoured title track, another spoken word number, addresses how change can only be brought about externally if we first bring it about within ourselves.

It’s not all protest pop, driven by a bubbling synth pattern, pulsing bass line and caressingly sung, ‘Wolf & Bird’ is a bewitchingly gorgeous love song despite the hunter and prey imagery, but that’s potently the album’s beating heart, one that, she declares, “will never know defeat, my song is unity, liberty, romance, so let’s dance dance dance dance dance.” Take your partners. Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2018