Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Now, we meet British singer-songwriter and pianist Tom Odell. His first album, "A Long Way Down," arrives in the U.S. this week. Odell has sparked widely disparate reactions in his home country and our reviewer Tom Moon predicts the 22-year-old is destined for more of the same here.

TOM MOON, BYLINE: When Tom Odell was named the 2013 Critics' Choice at the British equivalent of the Grammys in February, his career looked to be on the fast track. Previous winners of the award, which recognizes a promising newcomer, include megastar Adele. But weeks later, a critic at the music weekly NME gave Tom Odell's album a rare zero-star review, describing him as, quote, "a poor misguided wannabe." So, who's right?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MOON: This much is for sure: Tom Odell is a type, that somewhat fragile, sensitive soul who sings busted-apart love songs hunched over the piano. Musically, he travels in the same lane as bands like Coldplay. He describes heartbreak using big, anthem chords. His songs can feel fervent and calculated at the same time.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TOM ODELL: (Singing) Or if I was so nice, I could have convinced my friends that you weren't right. I could promise you my heart don't cry. Would it all make sense? 'Cause I've been feeling pretty small...

MOON: That's the song that first got my attention. The melody may not be terribly daring, the words describe a fairly ordinary moment in the arc of a love affair. And still, there's something arresting and vulnerable about the way Tom Odell sings it.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ODELL: (Singing) Oh, I'm feeling pretty small. Sometimes I feel like I'm slipping down walls. And every line I get, oh, it seems to break.

MOON: Much of the album is not quite this raw and, as a result, not as riveting. Perhaps that's why some in the British press groan about Tom Odell as the latest dismaying example of paint-by-numbers pop music. Sure, he's working within the lines of an established template.

But every once in a while, sometimes for just a measure or two, he slips away from the familiar to offer a moment of unguarded, transcendent beauty. If he can manage a whole record of that, he'll really be someone to watch.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ODELL: (Singing) I want to take you somewhere so you know I care. But it's so cold and I don't know where. I brought you daffodils on a pretty string, but they won't flower like they did last spring.

SIEGEL: The debut from singer-songwriter Tom Odell is called "Long Way Down." Our reviewer is music critic Tom Moon. He's the author of "One Thousand Recordings To Hear Before You Die."

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.