‘Long Way Down’ sees Odell more than live up to the hype, with its superb collection of tender piano ballads
The expectation surrounding this album has been building since Odell claimed the Critic’s Choice Award at this year’s Brit Awards, beating off competition from Aluna George and Laura Mvula. The public appetite was whetted further following Odell’s interview with The Observer earlier this year, which revealed him to be a sensitive yet stoic individual. It helps as well that he’s a really excellent songwriter, straddling the extremely difficult middle ground between pop sensibility and raw emotive storytelling. Odell is both the insider and the outsider.
Grow Old With Me opens proceedings with a piano line of trademark beauty, augmented by Odell’s skilled backing band, with the singer’s vocals hanging delicately over the melodies and catching softly against the ear. Hold Me is one of the more forgettable moments on the album, lacking the emotional punch of Long Way Down’s finest moments. Another Love will be familiar to even the most casual of Odell’s admirers and represents one of the album’s highlights, fitting Odell’s finest qualities – his acerbic, self-reflective romanticism and his ability to write melodies that are chillingly addictive – into four minutes of brilliance. I Know lays bare Odell’s debt to Elton John, who helped to shape the formative stages of the Chichester-born songwriter’s writing style, while Sense is another delicate number which leads to another highlight, the excellent Can’t Pretend. Further high points include the tender Supposed To Be and the heartfelt title track.
Long Way Down is replete with the sort of elegant, poignant piano ballads that Odell’s EPs had promised, and is a resounding success. If a criticism were to be levelled at Long Way Down it’s that it doesn’t veer from the template that Odell has set for himself: poignant piano lines, aching vocals and raw, romantic lyrics. However his mastery of his songwriting style is such that this becomes a positive.
At time of writing, Odell is due to appear at Glastonbury festival, where his will be one of the most recognisable faces among the festival’s 130,000-plus attendees. It will be a fitting venue for Long Way Down, which has ‘Glastonbury breakout success’ written all over it.
Verdict: Tender and heartfelt piano ballads