Likes: Restart, Like I Can, Good Thing
Dislikes: Stay With Me, Lay Me Down
Overall: Decent album, typical lyrics, great voice and production.
Scratching the itch of Adele fans or lovers of eccentric Euro-soul, the very talented Sam Smith arises with his 1st LP, In the Lonely Hour. Filled with mostly slow and mid-tempo numbers, the album treads on being a bit of a drag, only being saved by his vocal performance and the creative and crisp production of Jimmy Napes, Steve Fitzmaurice and E.G. White, among others. The songwriting is decent for the most part, but doesn’t delve far enough with creativity for my personal taste. Knowing that this album was Sam’s love letter to a guy he had a crush on, I expected a bit more expressive bang due to the fact that imagination was mostly involved in the making of these songs. Sadly his imagination ran thin, only jumping from the topic of “wanting” someone to the topic of “losing” someone (arguably the same person), making the album a bit too repetitive by the 4th song.
Aside from these issues, the album is still very enjoyable, relying on the same song structure, rhythms (e.g. “Like I Can” uses the same 8th-note driven rhythm of guitar chords from “Rolling in the Deep”), piano/acoustic guitar focus, melancholy and soulful delivery that made Adele a huge crossover success, minus obviously personal lyrics. The writing had such a feel of general application. Smith powerfully emotes, but there’s nothing in the lyrics to carry the emotion in an effective, honest, raw or hard-hitting fashion. In terms of production, it’s usually lazily done on albums in Smith’s genre when there are live instruments, with preset leveling and less attention to detail. In the Lonely Hour’s team was present and proactive: tracks like “Good Thing” and “I’m Not the Only One” keep the natural warmth and resounding timbre of Smith’s voice at the forefront, while maintaining the tonal integrity of the accompanying instruments, and bonus tracks like “Restart” and “La La La” incorporate Euro-pop and disco. Even with all this production magic, Smith played it too safe and ended up sounding like a watered down Adele, which isn’t “bad;” just not amazing. However, I’m now really excited and anxious for a new Adele album.