Tom Odell’s fourth album marks a striking diversion from any music the Sussex-born artist previously released. In place of the piano-led singer-songwriter stylings of 2013 debut Long Way Down and 2018’s Jubilee Road or the high-fidelity sounds of Wrong Crowd (2016) sits a much rawer and sonically ambitious collection of songs. The ragged fuzz and warped vocals of “problems” or the skittering beats that undulate under “fighting fire with fire” recall Thom Yorke or the bedroom pop of Mica Levi. “When the pandemic hit, it forced me to record in a totally different way which is much more in line with the way most contemporary music is made, in isolation and over laptops,” he tells Apple Music. “We were experimenting. It was painstaking. The arrangements here are much more minimal.” Lyrically, too, Odell has ripped away all artifice. On the quivering opener “numb” and “monster v.2,” he takes an unflinching look at his own experiences with anxiety and recurring panic attacks. “It's taken time for me to realize how I actually felt, and how I was actually struggling,” he says. “I don't think there was any point during the writing or the making where I was like, ‘I need to make a sad album because this is how I'm feeling.’ It's almost like I observe myself writing songs rather than trying to control it. I realize now that I was in a pretty dark place and I was very sad a lot of the time.” Odell is thankfully now out of that dark place, but from the turmoil and pain he has created an adventurous and emotionally impactful record. Let him talk you though it, track by track. “numb” “We have this natural inclination as humans when we're talking about something that's sensitive and delicate to protect ourselves. We say, ‘Oh, I’m feeling really sad, but maybe it’ll be better in an hour, or maybe it wasn’t so bad…’ We put up defenses, and I was constantly, particularly in the recording process, trying to tear those defenses down and trying to say the thing as brutally and as clearly as I could.” “over you yet” “The lyrics are very slightly tongue-in-cheek: ‘Designer logos, smiling in your photos/I think it kind of shows though, you haven’t gotten over me yet.’ I was listening to a lot of Drake. Where his genius is, is that it’s always tinged with this sadness. It’s like, ‘Look at me, I’m fucking untouchable’, but there’s also this melancholy to it. In the summer of 2019 I was on tour and on the face of it having a good time. I was traveling everywhere, playing shows, I had money, but it felt so desperate. Not talking to anyone or ever telling anyone how I felt. I think it’s amazing the damage that can do to both yourself and those around you.” “noise” “With songs like ‘noise’ there’s definitely humor in there. I hope people get that and they get the absurdity of it. Because ultimately there is an absurdity to my life. I’m also singing about things that are personal. I’m singing about how I just feel as a person in terms of the media. How I’m constantly fed information and asked to pick a side. It is a comment on the divisiveness of the media and social media, and how it’s just so overwhelming. That’s massively a theme on the album: feeling overwhelmed by the pressures of today.” “money” “The funniest thing is the dissociation from your own name. When you grow up, you only ever hear your name when the teacher calls it out or you’re in trouble, and suddenly that’s not the case. It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s a fucking strange job. If you start looking at it existentially, it’s a bottomless pit. If that song sounds like Thom Yorke, I do love Thom Yorke. And Jonny Greenwood.” “tears that never dry” “Kanye does this thing when he vary-speeds stuff, he takes an acoustically recorded instrument and speeds it up loads. We became quite obsessed with doing that on the whole record. We recorded ‘tears that never dry’ really slowly and then sped it up so you get this amazing tone out of it. It becomes warm and also slightly surreal, because you could never play like that, it just doesn’t sound the same. It’s in a slightly alternate reality.” “monster v.2” “That was the moment I realized what the record was becoming about. I’d been suffering from panic attacks for so long and from anxiety for so long, and it felt like the moment where this monster that had been chasing me for so many years, I finally turned around and faced it and sung about it. It was amazingly liberating. It was the moment that I started getting better to some extent. I started walking towards that, at least.” “lockdown” “We wrote that in the studio [in summer 2020]. I had quite a few of these shorter tracks and I’d use them as sort of cornerstones of the record. When I listen back to this record in five years, I want to remember some of what it felt like to be in lockdown. I think the music certainly felt like that to me, the sort of robotic-ness of it.” “lose you again” “It’s very emotional, it’s very expressive. It was bloody difficult to record; we spent a long time trying to capture it. It’s one of the older songs on the record. Some songs just feel instinctively correct and describe a time. I also feel like it reflects an element of my character which I’d been learning more about—this pressure to be a man, and a pressure to be a hero and all of these things.” “fighting fire with fire” “I wrote this in the summer of 2019; there was so much shit about the Trump administration and the growing right-wing populists around the world. It just felt like we were losing control and every conversation I had with friends was that of frustration. We recorded this in the summer of 2020 and Trump was still in power, the horrific death of George Floyd had just happened. It’s definitely the angriest song I’ve ever written.” “problems” “It touches on this drinking-problem thing. I’ve been around quite a lot of that in my life, and it’s certainly a subject that I’m a bit sensitive to. We made a conscious decision to make the songs really short, because we wanted to have this slightly attention-deficit feeling on the album.” “me and my friends” “When I was living in LA for a bit in 2019, there was this girl that was homeless outside and I got to know her. She told me about her experiences of doing heroin, and she said to me, ‘You think that we're mad, but we think that you're mad.’ She was like, ‘You don't know the experience we're having.’ I realized very quickly that sympathy was the wrong feeling to have.” “country star” “I was interested in this idea of your conscience, of good and evil on each shoulder. I liked the idea of ‘country star’ being this slightly evil presence. The song tells this story of a sort of A Star Is Born-type brush with fame. To some extent, I had a brief brush with worldwide fame when my first album came out. I didn’t have any interest in it, but it’s very alluring. And it’s very self-perpetuating. If you want, you can stay there. You can go out with the right people and you can go to the right parties. The price you pay is your privacy, and it was far too great a price, I felt. I needed to acknowledge that experience.” “by this time tomorrow” “I’ve known a couple of people that have gone to jail, and I was exploring this idea of imprisonment. I stayed up one night and wrote a song about feeling imprisoned. Again, this is an exploration into masculinity.” “streets of heaven” “‘streets of heaven’ is about a school shooting, written from the perspective of someone that was killed. Obviously it’s an incredibly delicate subject of which I have no experience, but I try to remain nonjudgmental and empathize and imagine what that must be like. I really hope that people don’t think I’m meddling in things that I don’t need to, but I think as an artist I always have the right to empathize and observe.” “don’t be afraid of the dark” “It’s hopeful. It’s the song I’d say you would play at my funeral. The piano sounds like it’s recorded in a huge room but it’s just in a small studio. I don’t think the album is super dark; it ultimately is quite hopeful.” “monster v.1” “I never planned on bringing another version of ‘monster’ back at the end of the album. Just before I put [the single] out, I had this acoustic version and I was like, ‘I have to put this out. I can’t put this more polished version out there, it has to be this rawer version.’ So I called up the record label the night it was meant to be uploaded and said, ‘We can’t do this.’ They were really upset because they’d planned this whole thing. But I don’t regret it. I feel like artistically it was something I had to do.”

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