Tom Odell – Ivor Novello-winning songwriting sensation, precocious master of the ivories – is at the very top of his game. It’s not as if, with multiple awards and 1.8 million sales under his belt, the Chichester-born prodigy has anything to prove. His debut album, 2013’s Long Way Down, topped the charts in the UK, on the back of breakthrough smash, ‘Another Love’, and by late ’14 he was in the Top Ten again with a cover of The Beatles’ ‘Real Love’, recorded for John Lewis’ Christmas ad campaign.
Alongside standout tracks such as ‘Grow Old With Me’, ‘Heal’ and ‘Can’t Pretend’, public affection for Tom and his quaveringly emotional way with a tune was only deepend.
Odell’s second long-player, Wrong Crowd, pretty much replicated its predecessor’s success, hitting No. 2 in ’16, with another biggie aboard in ‘Magnetised’. Still only 27, he quickly strikes back with his third, Jubilee Road – a career-defining record, which saw the multi-talented young artist take full control of his music, not only writing, singing, and vamping up his vibrant piano style on all ten songs, but also self-producing them, providing horn arrangements on three tracks, and layering up his trademark backing choir largely out of multi-tracks of his own voice.
Packed with grandstanding melodies and scintillating performances, it is, its auteur proudly declares, his bravest outing so far, and also his most honest and personal. It features ten songs each in their own way destined for classic status, rivalling Tom’s own heroes Elton John and Billy Joel (who now count amongst Odell’s most vocal fans) for sheer imagination and quality. Leading the charge, the terrifically catchy, gospel-soaked ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ may just be his highlight so far.
“I wrote the album in a house on a quiet terraced street in East London,” he explains. The lyrics are inspired by the lives of the friends I made whilst living there. I recorded most of the songs in the living room of the house, and if I listen back closely, I can still hear the sound of the old man’s television shows coming through the walls from next door, the kids from the house opposite playing football in the street below, and the sound of my girlfriend’s footsteps on the wooden floorboards above.”
Most of all, though, Jubilee Road itself is something to shout about: a fabulously cohesive collection which makes a mockery of the supposed ‘death of the album’ with its artful weaving of themes, and rollercoaster emotions. It confirms, if confirmation were needed, that the voting academy at the Ivors know their onions: Tom Odell is a songwriter from the very top drawer.