Sunday, July 13, 2014

Week 27

In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

This one is big. One of my favorites I've heard this year big. As a matter of fact I'm calling it. This album will be right up there with 21. Just you wait.

Sam Smith is a British singer/songwriter who you've already heard. He did the vocals on the song "Latch" by Disclosure. He's got a refined, almost-classically-trained thing going on - very similar to Adele, actually. And just like his female counterpart, this album is a long story centered around a single heartbreak, which also happened at age 21. 

Anyway, here we go.

The opener "Money on My Mind" is one that's been getting plenty of radio play recently so you may be familiar. To me this one's hit or miss. The song seems kind of out of place on the album. It also has much more of a club feel than anything else. That's all I have to say about that. 

Next up is "Good Thing." This is a pretty somber tune that gets into what the album's really about. With the line "For a moment I believed you loved me too,
But life is never like this, and you're never strong," we certainly get that we're talking about unrequited love here. While the instrumentation is sparse (like most of this album's songs), it's still surprisingly genuine.

Following "Good Thing" is another one you've probably heard on the radio. "Stay With Me." Confession: I really like this song. I can't tell you why. It could be the use of gospel choir, it could be subtle Timberlake falsetto, it could be something else, but I've been burning up this track in the Mazda's CD player all week. The pleading subject material contrasts well with the hopeful chord progression. Throw in some steadily growing strings, a smattering of gospel backup vocals and you've got yourself a tasty single. 

Next is "Leave Your Lover." While this one and "Life Support" (track 8) both have a simple genuine sound, I don't really like 'em. I know the emotion is genuine, but I still think that both songs have an immaturity that makes it harder to buy into. Loving someone only to not be loved in return sucks, but I still can't get over the almost whiney sound of "Leave Your Lover" and "Life Support" is just too mushy. There. I said it. 

The album's fifth tune, "I'm Not the Only One" sounds like it'd be right at home on 21. Old school organ, Aretha-inspired vocals, and plenty of understated sass. Need I say more?

"I've Told You Now" is next and I'm still enthralled with the simplicity. While some of the songwriting has some maturing to do, I'm still so impressed that Sam retains this ultra-simple sound that doesn't require a ton of electronics, disco beats, or sexy guitar. Three and a half minutes of admitting you love you someone never sounded so good.

Next up is "Like I Can." This one sounds and feels a lot like "Rolling in the Deep." Slow build, aggressive lyrics, and tons of energy have the same affect that Adele gets on hers. Give it a listen.

"Not In That Way" follows and this song is the closest to a normal ballad you're gonna get. Think Adele's "Take It All" with a little less belting. Sam certainly delivers lots of raw, haunting, emotion on this one, which is an interesting flavor since he's got a very musical theatre style. Not exactly at home in a dive bar like you could imagine Adele. 

The 10th track is "Lay Me Down" which honestly sounds like it'd be just fine in a musical. Great song, I like it, but... every time I hear it, I imagine a single spotlight on center stage at a Broadway show...

"Restart" follows and it gives us a little more of the post-production we've been missing. It has an almost George Michael/Rick Astley thing going on. Lots of falsetto, lots of old-school synth. 

Almost there. Next are two songs you've probably heard before. First is a stripped down version of "Latch." Actually pretty cool, especially if you're sick of the original. After is "La La La" by Naughty Boy feat. Sam. This one's been all over the radio blah blah blah...

And finally, the closer is "Make It to Me." Is it cliche? Yes. An entire album about heartbreak ends on a hopeful note. Shocking. But still, it's a good song. Thoughtfully written, and once again, the simplicity draws you in.

All in all, I love this album. Even if it's not your cup of tea, for those of us who are just plain music fans in general, there's something captivating about hearing a singer sound genuine. Not too common this day and age. Sam does it well and hopefully that will never change. 

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