Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Life, Life, Love

New Recordings: Sam Smith; Lewis; Ed Sheeran

Sam Smith: "In the Lonely Hour"
Sam Smith: "In the Lonely Hour"
Sam Smith: "In the Lonely Hour" Gallery: New Recordings: Sam Smith; Lewis; Ed Sheeran

Ratings: **** Excellent, *** Good, ** Fair, * Poor

Sam Smith

In the Lonely Hour

(Capitol ***)

The "male Adele" label hung around 22-year-old Brit Sam Smith's neck extends to music-business strategy. As with Adele's mega-selling 21, Smith's album, In The Lonely Hour, has been held off streaming services such as Spotify. If you want to get your hands on the debut album by the blue-eyed soul singer with the attention-getting voice, you'll have to buy it.

Which plenty of people are. Smith's path to stardom began with his vocal turn on "Latch," the breakout single from dance duo Disclosure, fellow Brits. A Saturday Night Live gig this spring sealed the deal. In The Lonely Hour is an auspicious beginning built on sincerity and vulnerability. Smith possesses a supple tenor that moves startlingly up into falsetto range. From start to finish here, he uses it express his regrets over a love affair that never came to fruition. "I put everything out there, and I got nothing at all," he sings in "Good Thing." At a young age, Smith is a seasoned vocalist who knows how to employ his voice with subtlety, and while his one-dimensional writing could use a little work, he's already got the knack for the time-honored practice of singing it like he means it.

- Dan DeLuca



(Light In The Attic ***1/2)

The artist is a mystery: Randall Wulff recorded 10 songs in Los Angeles in 1983 and released them on a privately pressed vinyl album under the pseudonym Lewis. The record went unnoticed until a collector in Edmonton, Canada, picked it up at a flea market in 2007 and heard something special. Now, L'Amour receives its first wide release, although no one has been able to track down Wulff himself.

The music is mysterious, too: slow, spare, soulful, seductive. Wulff sings these melancholy love songs in an intimate, drowsy croon, accompanying himself with minimal piano or guitar lines and backed by Philip Lees' spacey waves of synthesizer chords. It's outside of time and place: Wulff's contemporary Arthur Russell comes to mind, as does ours, James Blake. Vive L'Amour!

- Steve Klinge


Ed Sheeran


(Asylum/Atlantic ***)

Maybe it's his soft, slightly throaty voice, or his wisdom-of-age outlook, but it seems as if Ed Sheeran has been around longer than 23 years. That mix of innocence and sage wistfulness comes together handsomely, and unpredictably, on x, following Sheeran's economical, twisting, dark lyrics.

Musically and vocally, "Runaway" and the stompy "Photographs" sound like the dewy-fresh, ebulliently youthful Sheeran you know and love from "The A Team." Sheeran's rap (yup) on "The Man" may signal disgust toward a cheating heart, but it comes off like a kid with scuffed knees. Then again, it could just be that his rap is so awkward. Luckily, he does better matching falsettos with Pharrell Williams on the slick, woozy "Sing."

The rest of x portrays Sheeran and his protagonists as weeping-in-his-cider guys whose fame means nothing in the face of love and the fate of a bruised heart. It's a little too obvious to be "stumbling off drunk," on "One," or to reveal the ache of love so bluntly on "I'm a Mess," or to grouse cattily about the competition on "Don't," but all in all, Sheeran's directness comes off as refreshing, balanced by a gentle toughness to his vocals.

- A.D. Amorosi

Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally   

1   2    Sam Smith In the Lonely Hour   -    

2   1    Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence   -    

3   3    Linkin Park Hunting Party   -    

4   5    Willie Nelson Band of Brothers   -    

5   8    Jennifer Lopez A.K.A.   -    

6   4    Various Artists "Frozen" Soundtrack   2    

7   7    Jack White Lazaretto    1    

8   12    ColdPlay Ghost Stories   3    

9   9    Deadmau5 While (1<2)   -    

10   15    David Gray Mutineers   -    

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 7/5/14 © 2014


In Stores Tuesday

Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy; 

Trey Songz, Trigga;

Eno & Hyde, High Life;

Robin Thicke, Paula

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