Chichester’s star-boy Tom Odell saw mass success early on in his career with the release of single Another Love, and the subsequent album Long Way Down. Just over ten years on from that, and Tom has shown that his creativity hasn’t faltered. From pop-centric album Monsters, to 2022’s sparse and beautiful Best Day Of My Life, he has revealed not only his darkest thoughts, but also his range as a songwriter and performer. Now, he has returned with Black Friday.
Answer Phone showcases what listeners can expect from the entire album, a lo-fi aesthetic with a warmth in the instrumentation, and arrangements that include a variety of things, from strings to outside noise. The aforementioned track flows into Black Friday on a wave of atmospheric sound. It’s a subtle song, with touches of reversed fragments and orchestral flourishes. It builds into an explosive outro of drums and guitar, finishing where it started. Loving You Will Be The Death Of Me gallops along, the acoustic and drums leading the charge. Lyrically this one stands out, Tom talking about a relationship moving too fast in stark detail. It’s a great but quick tune that takes the album into the first of its three interludes. The Orchestra Tunes Up, The Orchestra Takes Flight, and The Orchestra Is Feeling Tense all feel very natural, and somewhat theatrical. They convey a feeling of momentum across the album without feeling like filler.
Spinning and The End Of The Summer are quick flashes of brilliance, the former being simply arranged but full of feeling, the string section really taking the tune to the next level. The latter is even more stripped back, artefacts of bird song and a light breeze bleeding through from behind the picked guitar, gentle piano, and Tom’s vocal. Again, the strings take hold of the tune and raise it up. The chaotic ending of Somebody Else flows seamlessly into Parties, another up-tempo track, seeping in melancholia. A voice note separates the final two tracks, Nothing Hurts Like Love and The End, the former being a gorgeous, subdued piano ballad while the latter builds on an ebbing and flowing orchestral passage, ending in almost total silence.
Black Friday is an album breaking at the seams when it comes to emotional resonance. Lyrically, it’s contemplative, almost to the point where at times it’s as though Tom is talking to himself, forgetting that anyone else will be listening. The rough and naturalistic mixing adds to this spur-of-the-moment feeling, and help make the album a very unique and interesting listen. The stand out piece of this puzzle, however, is the Orchestra. Their arrangements are beautiful, at times haunting, and at others so subtle as to add texture without the listener realising. A wonderful album, if disappointingly short.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.