Tom Odell - Wrong Crowd

by Jessikah Hope Stenson

Exeter’s Big Weekend festival goers will have already heard the haunting keys which open Tom Odell’s lead single Wrong Crowd. The track, which also names the album, is a memorable opener with unique instrumental and vocal melodies that experiment effectively with pace and are layered with Odell’s chilling whistles.

“But I can’t help it, I don’t know how, I guess I’ll always be hanging round with the wrong crowd,” Odell repeats mercilessly. It’s simple yet powerful; catchy yet meaningful. It’s a haunting song of being stuck in a vicious cycle and feeling completely hopeless, an emotion Odell captures perfectly.

Second song and single Magnetised is another step away from the solemn Odell found on his debut LP. Imagine a typical Tom Odell song in double or triple speed and you’re getting there. While Magnetised is a little Coldplay-like, the large sound suits Odell. Of course, in his live performances he’s got a bit of a way to go when it comes to his dance moves and stage presence, but for a studio recording it’s an enjoyable listen.

Speaking with RCA Records, Tom said: “I wanted the songs to sound big and dramatic; big strings and melodies emphasizing the songs further – rich in musicality and holding nothing back.”

His aim definitely matches my first impression of the album. Even the slower tracks like Constellations and Somehow have subtle string backings which provides them with a fuller sound than those like Sense from Long Way Down.

It’s at this point, only a few songs into the album, that I’m thrown into the deep end. I’ve never heard these tracks before and the slate is blank. Come on Tom, I think, you’ve been doing so well so far, you can keep this up. Sparrow is a pleasant listen, but it’s subtle. Silhouette is a much-needed lift and turning the volume up makes it a million times more desirable, however on a low volume I can imagine it would fade into the background of any random coffee shop.

It soon becomes clear that the album tells the story of a person longing for their childhood back, the innocence and all, as a way of escaping the harshness of reality. While Odell claims this is a fictional narrative, the songs have an emotional tone which make them seem personal. With more drums than Odell has collectively used in one song, Daddy explodes on my speakers. Reaching startlingly high notes, Odell sings, “And I blame myself, yeah its true, oh, for you”. Daddy is followed by Here I Am, another successful single which has a quirky beat and layered vocals to make it a stand-out from the LP. The huge notes make it another big anthem-like song, but this one’s not too Coldplay and Odell hangs on to his individuality.

Long Way Down, Odell’s debut, was released a long time ago – all the way back in 2013. Since then, Odell has become a more thoughtful song-writer and more creative musician all round. However, while Wrong Crowd pulls off exactly what Odell claims to have wanted, it’s not littered with catchy tunes that I can see myself singing at a festival three years’ time. It’s hard to imagine anything matching Another Love, even my personal favourite off Odell’s new album, single Wrong Crowd.

There’s definitely a bigger sound behind Odell’s second album, but I’m just left questioning if this is a good thing? In theory, yes. In reality… Well, go listen to it for yourself.