Thursday, 22 January 2015

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Sam Smith's In The Lonely Hour seduces and satisfies

HIGH NOTE: The talented British crooner gives us something to sing about.

Let's just get this out of the way: Sam Smith is, without doubt, the male version of Adele. Given the striking parallels in their work and origin stories, there is no other way to put it. Extravagantly gifted as songwriters and vocalists, they both exude a very exquisite (and very British) kind of artistic brilliance, which effortlessly comes across in their music, equal parts soulful and angsty, enlightening and evocative. 

At the same time, they chart similar territory when it comes to the themes they choose to explore in song passion, pleasure, life's bittersweet moments, lovers done wrong and their legions of fans can't get enough. That's why they've sold millions of records and their names are on everyone's lips. 

Did I neglect to mention that they're also a hit with Grammy voters? While Adele scooped up two trophies for her astonishing debut 19 and six for 21 (her sophomore release), Smith's In The Lonely Hour has racked up six nominations for next months awards, specifically bids for Best New Artist, Pop Vocal Album, Pop Solo Performance, Record, Song and Album of the Year. Listening to the songs on the album, it isn't hard to see why. 

Smith, who wrote or co-wrote all ten tracks (an additional four appear on the deluxe version) certainly knows how to craft and deliver a memorable lyric and work his way around a gorgeous melody. As such, the album is laden with moments that give you pause. Put another way, the artistry and maturity he displays belies his tender 22 years. Again, in Adele's case, that's something observers have always remarked on. (Case in point: witness her splendid writing and vocal performance of the Oscar-winning smash "Skyfall".) 

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year of so, you've heard "Stay With Me," Smith's haunting petition to an indifferent lover that has spawned countless cover versions. Then there's "I'm Not The Only One," a sublime jewel all the more noteworthy for its sincerity and slow-burning sensibilities. And you can't deny the between-the-sheets appeal of a track like "Leave Your Lover," which, thanks to its sly and subtle innuendoes, wouldn't be out of place on an album by, say, James Blunt of Michael BublĂ©. 

In The Lonely Hour is a record of iPod-worthy highlights that draw attention to Smith's knack for bringing together the key ingredients that make up a successful tune: meaningful words, unforgettable melodies and the vocal talent to guarantee a pleasurable listening experience. In the end, the album is a seductive and satisfying effort, in spite of its brisk 40-minute running time. Whether you're vibing to the playful, moody "Money On My Mind" or entranced by the evocative, vivid "Lay Me Down", Sam Smith never fails to connect with you on some level. 

Overall, the album is a triumph, hugely enjoyable and featuring songs that dually warm the heart and challenge the mind. Adele should unequivocally approve. And, needless to say, we expect Sam to fare well at the upcoming Grammy Awards. Tyrone's Verdict: A- 

> BEST TRACKS: "I'm Not the Only One," "Life Support," "Good Thing" and "Stay With Me" 

> GRAMMY JUKEBOX: TALLAWAH plays and rates 2015's Record and Song of the Year hopefuls

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