Imagine, if you can, a mor annoying 2013 sound than the trout-tongued singer from Bastille going "Ayd if yew clews yer ayezzz" before EVERY SINGLE YouTube clip of the year so far. Can't do it? Then imagine this - an act that's three parts Ben Howard, five parts Adele, four parts Keane, eight parts Florence and 500 parts Marcus Mumford's arse. The sort of artist that's a shoo-in for the Brits Critics Award, voted for by made-up "Critics" from Whatever Soporific MOR Shite Sold Fuckloads Last Year To people Who Don't Really Like Music Magazine. Welcome to Tom Odell. Please, you're welcome to him.
Just as there was a certain brooding promise to his teaser hit "Another Love" before someone waterboarded it with cod-pagan pomp until it was a trembling, desperate mess prepared to do anything its overlords told it to, "Long Way Down" is a decently bland album by a (probably) decently bland sort of bloke that's been shafted so hardly by The Man it's submitted to gospel choirs ("Can't Pretend"), Coldplay chorus ballast ("I Know", "Till I Lost") and Mumford money jigs ("Grow Old With Me") - all over-emoting songs about nothing.
During the maudlin quietude of "Sense" or the title track, a tiny inkling of pity emerges in your sickened soul, and you convince yourself the 22-year-old from Chichester is just a poor, misguided wannabe who's fallen into the hands of the music industry equivalent of Hungarian sex traffickers. Then he comes over all Lionel Richie on "Supposed To Be". I wish I could say there's a place in Hell reserved for Tom Odell. There's not. Just loads more Brits. He'll be all over 2013 like a virulent dose of musical syphilis, pounding and warbling away at every Papal election and Bradley Wiggins finishing line. Be warned, you can't unhear it.
If you're not familiar with Odell's work, what is most immediately striking is the fragile vocal style, something that you wouldn't expect to have a commanding presence. It isn't disguised behind a wall of sound though, nor is this a collection of a cappella work. Predominantly accompanied by keyboard, he engagingly stomps through numbers such as 'Hold Me' and the passionate 'I Know'. The voice is endearingly emotive without feeling in any way forced and this is the key to the songs being so captivating. The majority of writing is about heartbreak, but where Odell mainly succeeds is in conveying a genuine grief as refrains from turning to clich's. Take 'Till I Lost' for example, a towering track with touches of gospel and haunting backing vocals that makes no mention of crying or sadness, it is instead conveyed through the soundscape.
The touch of soul that is 'Supposed To Be' marks another highlight of this release, but it's not all doom and gloom. 'Grow Old With Me' is a spritely piece that builds to a rousing conclusion which could easily have audiences dancing but, truth be told, Odell is best when he's hurt - his pain is our gain. 'Another Love' sees him sounding at his lowest and most vulnerable, emphasised by a sparse arrangement to begin with, then developing into a huge and powerful crescendo that will strike a chord with anyone who has been damaged by a relationship - if you're going to wallow, this is definitely how to do it. The peak of a good record - there's a couple of fillers in the middle that stop this from being great - it proves that the hype for this artist is very much justified.