Album Review – Tom Odell – monsters

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It is hard to find an artist that is equally emotional and talented without it coming across too theatrical. British singer-songwriter Tom Odell does it well with grace. 

The 30-year old vocalist has been around the block, with this new album being his fourth full-length record in less than a decade. He slightly strays from his typical DIY bedroom sound with his most experimental piece of work, putting a dark twist on pop music. 

Lyrically, he keeps it simple. They are messy, yet understandable and quite straightforward. A lot of the album documents his journey with mental health and coming home to his parents in England after living the LA-musician life and this past year in lockdown. 

monsters is a daring rebirth of Tom Odell as an artist. On the first downbeat single, “numb” he cries “I hold my hand over the flame / to see if I can feel some pain.” It is no surprise that his top playlists on Spotify include ‘Sad Songs’ and ‘Life Sucks’ where his smooth and vulnerable tracks are ones for crying alone in the car. Throughout the thumping piano and melodramatic lyrics, he pours out his feelings with genuine passion.

He expresses frustrations with the reality of the world on the eery “money” singing about consumerism, climbing corporate ladders and societal pressures. And does it again on “fighting fire with fire” asking “If you ain’t got the motive, what have you got?” He looks himself in the mirror and realizes all the wrong in the world, and wants everyone to know it too. 

In many recent interviews, Odell has come to terms with his anxiety as this new record paints soft pictures over a rough canvas. In one of the album interludes, he repeatedly exclaims, “I haven’t got a drinking problem’ which is a strange interruption on an already dramatic list of songs. 

On the album’s title track, he repeatedly cries, “You’re only there if I believe / And you’re just a monster / Just a monster and I’m not scared” over simple beats in a deeply personal way. He says it is “about trying to overcome panic attacks. the more I’ve begun to speak about this subject, the more I’ve realized so many people are going through the same thing.” The official video released earlier this year is a compilation of fans describing what the word monster meant to them and what resulted is one of the most powerful pieces of art Odell has produced. 

His strong voice shines when he lets it all go on “lose you again” which is self-explanatory; about love and loss, “Sometimes you gotta tear apart two broken hearts to put them back together.” It is not all gloomy lyrics. As the album comes to a close, he picks up the beat with “don’t be afraid of the dark” which is an optimistic two-parter that inevitably ends in a somber piano solo.

Sixteen electro-pop tones that distract us from the underlying sadness, with a few interludes sprinkled throughout. Odell uses darkness as his inspiration on this one and confronts his demons while proudly realizing that he is not alone. monsters is truly an emotional rollercoaster. 

‘monsters’ is released July 9 on Columbia Records

Ryley Remedios

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