Arguably 2014’s best (and most talked about) new artist, Sam Smith proves on his debut album that the hype is justified. While many first discovered the British singer’s now-trademark falsetto on Disclosure’s house hit “Latch,” this ten-song tour de force of impassioned ballads and blue-eyed soul shows a vulnerable side.
An open letter to unrequited love, In the Lonely Hour works through a range of relationship-fueled emotions, from desperation (“Stay With Me”) and jealousy (“Leave Your Lover”) to anger (“I’ve Told You Now”). Album opener and lead single “Money On My Mind” — comparatively upbeat with its snappy drums and high-flying chorus — seems the one exception to what would otherwise amount to a concept album.
Most of the songs on Lonely Hour follow a similar path: spare instrumentation — simple guitar strum, plaintive piano — paired with Smith’s tremulous vocals, which builds to an emotionally charged payoff, combining strings and a gospel choir backing the singer’s unmistakable wail. This is nowhere better realized than on album standout “I’m Not the Only One.”
In his liner notes, Smith tells us, “I hope that this album helps you as much as it helped me, in my lonely hour.” Lovelorn or not, Lonely Hour is sure to move you at times (just try to ignore the achingly beautiful “Not in That Way”). My only hope is that the 22-year-old phenom receives the validation he seeks, so his sophomore effort might be as ebullient as it is heartfelt.
- Album: In the Lonely Hour
- Artist: Sam Smith
- Label: Capitol
- Songs: (1) Money on My Mind (2) Good Thing (3) Stay with Me (4) Leave Your Lover (5) I’m Not the Only One (6) I’ve Told You Now (7) Like I Can (8) Life Support (9) Not in That Way (10) Lay Me Down