After the success of his debut album ‘Long Way Down’ in 2013, British singer-songwriter Tom Odell is back with ‘Wrong Crowd’, an album that takes the rawness and heart of his earlier outings and smoothens them out into powerhouse ballads and slow, polished love songs. With ‘Wrong Crowd’, Odell tells a cohesive story about a man coming to terms with his childhood, grappling with memories and feelings he can’t quite control, feeling alienated from nature while seeking to understand himself.
The album as a whole, with the added tracks on the deluxe version, runs to 15 songs which despite the cohesiveness of the story doesn’t quite carry on through till the last song. The album starts off strong with the title track ‘Wrong Crowd’ that has the singer’s mother and brother trying to stop him from destroying himself by hanging out with the wrong kind of people, but in a bleakness reminiscent of Tove Lo’s ‘Habits’, he just can’t help himself.
The song starts to unpack what Odell said was a man held ransom by his childhood, a theme carried further by ‘Daddy’. The song speaks of a family going to pieces as the father leaves them again, with the singer switching from a second person in the verses to a first person voice in the chorus to highlight the present day consequences of his childhood. As the singer blames himself – for what we don’t know – Odell manages to really bring out a sadness as the man confronts his childhood.
‘Magnetised’ is a swirling mass of nature, a tale of unrequited love. “Wish I had a little mother nature in me,” he says, speaking of the natural order of things that is denied to him. The ideas about birds and their instinct is explored deeper in ‘Sparrow’, a dainty and heart-breaking tune that has Odell questioning the little bird known for its singing voice about life and its meaning.
“Sing, sparrow sing, sing away the pain
When you get to the bones of it, we are just the same”
Is one of Odell’s favourite lines on the album. ‘Constellations’ is narrated as a story of lost loves being told in a bar, an evocative tune that captures the atmosphere of late nights in a pub, reminiscing to the backdrop of old songs that everyone knows but that still have meaning to the singer.
‘Concrete’ is one of the many songs that borrow from the older hits, with a brand of soul and funk reminiscent of Prince. ‘Silhouette’ is another of those, a tune about remembering someone the singer lost and seeing them in shadows and flashes of blinds. ‘Jealousy’ is a mature number, one that Odell said he wouldn’t have been able to write when he was younger. The song accepts and apologises for his jealousy, as his security shines through in his ability to talk about his insecurity.
Overall, the album is a steady progression from ‘A Long Way Down’. It is, however, a little disappointing to notice that something original has been lost in the production, as the album feels more pop than his previous endeavour. Still, it’s a pleasantly melodramatic effort and signals good things for the young Brit.