|Smith, Sam / In The Lonely Hour|
|Add Date:||2014-07-25|| ||Pull Date:||2014-09-26|| |
|Week Ending:||21 Sep||14 Sep||7 Sep||31 Aug||24 Aug||17 Aug||3 Aug||27 Jul|
In The Lonely Hour
Capitol Records, 2014
Full disclosure: Sam Smith has designed his debut to be popular and radio friendly. Just getting that out there, as even the briefest of listen-throughs of the album will solidify people as either pro or anti Sam Smith (I can’t really see a middle ground, especially at college radio). However: by virtue of this man’s vocal range, it can’t be denied that this album is very well performed. Definite gospel, soul and R&B influences, with maybe the slightest bit of jazz in there. The sound of this album deviates from that of, say, his breakthrough collaboration with Disclosure (too electronic for this album); being designed to single out Smith’s voice over all else, melodies are kept pretty simple. There are, admittedly, quite a good number of ~dramatic~ ballads, but he’s very definitely got the vocal chops and flare for theatrics to back it up.
*01. (3:14) Extremely catchy, probably his next single to make it up the charts. Built up and driven by bouncy piano/keys and slightly repetitive percussion. Vox hit falsetto in the chorus with an incredibly sing-alongable “money on my mind” line.
02. (3:21) Opens with flourishing strings (think early 30s, 40s film scores). Really nice way of constructing the melody, where instrument after instrument kicks in: guitar, drums, piano start to build, and then tease away.
03. (2:53) You have heard this on Top 40 radio, and it’s probably still there. A yearning ballad, complete with cameos from a gospel chorus, dramatic strings and a tambourine.
04. (3:08) Another ballad, but this time stripped down to a simple acoustic guitar and piano (some strings make the cut in the latter half). Great showcase of Smith’s vocal range.
*05. (3:59) Groovy and toe-tapping. I’m a fan of the piano here. Harmless and radio friendly.
*06. (3:30) Vox get pretty raw in the chorus, making for (in my opinion) the most emotionally charged ballad on the album. By this point, also, I can safely bet that Smith’s a fan of instrumental layering/charged mid-track build ups. This one is definitely hit or miss for people, so I’d recommend a listen first (for what it’s worth, I liked it well enough).
07. (2:47) My least favorite, simply because it’s a bit like whiplash: soft, then fast paced, then soft again (and so forth). Quite a shame, because this one okay track has the potential to be two really, really great ones.
**08. (2:53) Lyrics are kinda corny, but I’m really liking the driving beat and the layering/special vox effects going on here—they’re definitely making use of Smith’s voice as an instrument of its own, which makes for some fun listening.
09. (2:53) Slower, sleepy, a bit sad, lullaby-esque. Just guitar, which is totally eclipsed by echoing, louder than life vocals.
10. (4:13) Strings that really set the tone—it goes from a bit melancholy, ballad-y to a sped up, marathon-like pace accentuated by rolling drums.
***11. (3:53) Whoooo this is a chill, funky, shamelessly 80s-influenced lounge(?) tune that is probably one of the best (or the best) on the album. The actual music is surprisingly detailed, and, while Smith is still on point, this track doesn’t depend on vox nearly as much as the rest of the album. A very welcome (danceable) addition.
12. (3:44) Smith’s take on the previously mentioned Disclosure hit. Smith’s vocals are much better here, much more emotive, but without Disclosure’s hook this feels a bit half-done.
13. (3:39) You have also heard this on Top 40 radio. As a disclaimer, this includes some “la la la”-ing backing vocals that may get on your nerves a bit and/or stay stuck in your head for a while. You have been warned.
14. (2:44) Pianos and strings, dramatic vocals, pianos and strings. Similar to the other ballads, but shout out to the nice addition of a backing guitar to close out the track.