Written while he was living in a house in East London, and encorporating real life stories from the time – with the street name changed of course, to protect the privacy of his former neighbours – Tom Odell’s ‘Jubilee Road’ is ten tracks of intense honesty and personal insight.
Odell is still only 27 years old, and yet his voice sounds much older than that. It certainly sounds older than he looks, and clearly Odell has been doing something right. The incongruous nature of his tones doesn’t quite reach the same depths as George Ezra, but there’s nonetheless an old soul quality about his voice.
Odell has taken full control of this album, not simply writing, singing and playing piano, but also producing all ten tracks on the album.
In speaking of the album, Tom said,
“The lyrics are inspired by the lives of the friends I made whilst living there. I recorded most of the songs in the living room of the house, and if I listen back closely I can still hear the sound of the old man’s television shows coming through the walls from next door, the kids from the house opposite playing football in the street below, and the sound of my girlfriend’s footsteps on the wooden floorboards above. I don’t live there anymore, my life has changed somewhat, but I will always remember the time fondly and I hope you enjoy listening to the album as much as I did making it.”
Tom Odell’s first album, ‘Long Way Down’, which debuted at the number 1 spot in the UK, featured his breakthrough single, ‘Another Love’, which was met with critical acclaim. He won the Brits Critics’ Choice Award in 2013 at the tender age of 22, and followed it up with the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriter Of The Year in 2014. ‘Real Love’ followed ‘Another Love’ into the UK Top 10, with the latter, which was a cover of a Beatles song, used for the UK John Lewis Christmas TV campaign in 2014. Odell has seen a massive 1.8 million album sales, and 10 million single sales worldwide.
Odell reminds us of Billy Joel in many ways; not just his piano playing and his emphatic singing style, but also his storytelling lyrics. ‘Jubilee Road’ in a sense could be Odell’s ‘The Stranger’ – just as Joel sets the scene with ‘Anthony’s Song’, so does Tom with the title track, establishing the album as a concept, and drawing us into his relationships, both personal and neighbourhood.
The choral nature of second track, ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ takes us to church, with Odell’s voice rising to its full strength, while ‘Son Of An Only Child’ is moving and poignant, with him recently explaining to Build London that it’s about “generational friction”:
Towards the middle of the album we realise this isn’t all fun and games, and if we weren’t aware of this already with the previous track, then we’re all too sure of it by the time we get to song 4, ‘You’re Gonna Break My Heart Tonight’. Again featuring stunning backing vocals and Odell’s magnificent piano, plus some stunning horns, we’re left as devastated as he is: he realises his life is going to change dramatically and he can see it all playing it out in his mind’s eye, and regardless of how prepared he is for it, it’s no less hard.
We take a bit of a break with ‘China Dolls’, an almost reggae style track, packed with emotion still, but also with encouragement. Opening with guitar and soon swelling into piano, percussion, and horns, as well as the Gospel backing vocals once again, Odell belts out the lyrics:
That’s the way it goes
Some you win and some you don’t
Some you king and some get broke
Like China dolls, like China dolls
Delicate and beautiful
‘Queen Of Diamonds’ marks the halfway point, and once again we’re reminded of Billy Joel, as Odell sings about gamblers trying to hit the big one and yet doing it with fear, throwing away everything they own.
After the break-up of track 4, it looks like love is back on the menu with ‘Half As Good As You’. Odell is joined by the stunning Alice Merton on vocals. We’re willing for the pair to get together and have a happy ever after, and it seems this might be the case, as track 8, ‘Go Tell Her Now’, touching on ska in style, sees the singer imploring what is presumably the person in track 7 to go tell his lady love how he feels. Love’s young dream is not dead!
Penultimate track, ‘Don’t Belong In Hollywood’ is bittersweet and tragic. Making choices between career and love, following the dream, but risking the love of those he holds dearest. The track has all the production of a Hollywood soundtrack, and again, we’re drawn to compare Odell to Billy Joel, both vocally and lyrically.
Final song, ‘Wedding Day’, takes us back to the poignancy of ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’. At the start we think it’s about Odell, but it’s not long before we realise it’s him looking on, it’s someone else’s love, someone else’s wedding day – maybe the wedding of the woman who broke his heart in the fourth track. We know this is the end for them – as much as they’ve tried to stay friends, once she’s married, that’s it. She’ll move on. Much as they try, she’ll have different interests. It’s a tear-jerker, that’s for sure, but it’s a fitting final track, and ends suddenly, but not unexpectedly.
‘Jubilee Road’ is set for release on October 26, and can be pre-ordered now on CD/Vinyl, signed CD, iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. You can find out more about Tom Odell on his official website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Tom is on tour to promote his album. You can find further information on his website.