Sleep is the debut record from London based enigma artist Tom the Lion. Word spread of his talents after the release of a limited edition vinyl-only EP The Adventures of Tom the Lion at Rough Trade shops in late 2011 when, despite gaining no critical or social media attention, it completely sold out. In lieu of this past success, Rough Trade have now made Sleep their ‘Album of the Month’.
The album begins with its eponymous track; a beautiful beginning of sliding electric over gentle acoustic guitars creates a mystical introduction. Tom’s vocals are soft and soothing, similar to some peers in his genre such as Lewis Watson, with falsetto elements clearly influenced by the stylings of Thom Yorke. Gentle verses contrast with uplifting and heartening choruses and Tom’s versatile voice reflects the mood perfectly – “You could wait a lifetime for this, strike my name off the list”.
‘Ragdoll’ is the most interesting song on this album – jaunty off beat mysterious chords that continue throughout the song added to the almost out of time vocal rhythm make the song feel uneasy, but it is clear this is intentional. This feeling however is only slight, and does not detract from the other elements of the song. The lyrics stand out due to the simple backing – “Leave me here in my defeat and wash me down with a frown/she weeps but girl forbid I live all my life like this”. His beautiful use of metaphor and wordplay is intelligent and masterful; the skill of storytelling thus being perfected in his lyrics. This carefree section suddenly stops to make way for reverb filled guitars, creating a shimmering and glistening effect Sigur Rós would be proud of to fade out the song.
In ‘Beholden’ you can once again hear the melodic talents and song writing skills that Tom the Lion possesses, the chorus and verse intertwine perfectly making this one of my favourite tracks on his debut. The passion in his vocals is clear and in depth and, although a stronger bass line with some drums and piano chords that crescendo at the chorus would perhaps have filled this song with more excitement to back up Tom’s excellent vocals, there is a beauty in its simplicity.
Tom the Lion would probably come under the acoustic/folk/pop genre, and ‘Heal’ is easily the most ‘pop’ sounding track on this record (thoughts of the success of fellow indie pop artists like Ben Howard or Saint Raymond spring to mind…) However, tracks such as ‘Silent Partner’ show Tom the Lion’s heavier folk attributes, reminiscent of the likes of Dry the River. Folky or poppy, all songs on the album fit together excellently; there is a consistent aesthetic despite the variety of sounds. With such a versatile scope of sounds and textures, it is no surprise that Sleep is a truly wonderful listen. Furthermore, with Tom the Lion’s beautiful and impressive vocal range – from low and husky to high falsetto – I will be shocked if the industry does not pick up on his talent in the near future…
Sleep is out 11th August and you can catch Tom The Lion live on 8th September at Hoxton Bar.