A debut album from british singer-songwriter Rhodes has been hotly anticipated ever since the release of his Morning EP last year. Needless to say, his first full length LP, Wishes, does not disappoint. The same purity and beauty of the past characterizes Rhodes’ voice, all set against familiar pared back instrumentation and gorgeous arrangements, but Wishes has a marked maturity compared to previous recordings.
Primarily working as a guitarist, and garnering an understanding of songwriting from a stint as bassist, Rhodes arrived as a vocalist much later in his musical career. Experimenting with writing his own tracks accompanied by his own voice, early releases were very much exploring territory as a solo artist. In Wishes that same sound is unmistakeable, but has a confidence and assurance that was more tentative before. Penning all the tracks himself, as well as co-producing the album with longtime collaborator James Kenosha, Rhodes’ vision is clear.
Opening with the eery, simply titled Intro, Rhodes plays towards Jeff Buckley comparisons with an eastern lilt to the guitar line and a falsetto vocal. Experimenting with his vocal on Losing It, he pushes right up to a place that is really reminiscent of Dream Brother. Songs are led by his ethereal vocal and evocative lyrics, often smooth and soul influenced, like in the piano led Close Your Eyes, but capable of reaching for greater power and reverberating across space in bigger moments on Breathe and Better. Building to open armed, soaring moments, Rhodes opts for layering sounds and instrumentation rather than pushing pace and energy. Creating vast effects, tracks like Turning Back Around have an almost stadium feel with chorus vocals and crashing beats.
A reworked version of Your Soul really exposes the new confidence that shines through on Wishes. There is a polish to the sound, and less hesitancy in the performance. Embracing the emotion of the song and refining the arrangement, this version really hits home as a strong track. Rhodes has clearly found his feet and settled into the spotlight, Wishes definitely demonstrates a bravery of execution that was maybe missing.
Though there was a great deal of charm to the untried, untested talent that hinted at a great deal more to come, Rhodes more than delivers on that promise with Wishes. The album really steps forward to give everything that could have been hoped off the back of earlier releases and spell binding live shows. And even better, you get the feeling that even now, Rhodes is still just beginning to touch the edges of his talent.