The remarkable return of a Rough Trade favourite and bestseller. Tom the Lion is an enigma. Unafraid to experiment, yet with a gift for classic songwriting, he might just prove to be one of the UK’s singular songwriters, in a lineage of the greats from Nick Drake to Mark Hollis to Thom Yorke.
In November 2011, a pair of limited vinyl-only 10″ double eps were collected as ‘The Adventures of Tom the Lion’ and presented in a wooden box, as Rough Trade album of the month. Soliciting no critical or media attention, it was a sell out – over 2,000 copies sold via Rough Trade exclusively. Just the kind of validation required to spur Tom on to write his debut album proper. After 18 months of writing, playing and producing 12 perfect missives, that album now arrives to set the standard for debuts in 2014. ‘You could wait a lifetime for this. Strike my name off the list’. ‘Sleep’ – the first single and album namesake – begins the record with rich but subtle sonics. It draws the listener into inky deep waters, before its chorus finally breaks the surface, filling our lungs. It speaks of waking up in the night next to a loved one, only to feel distant and isolated. From there, the album documents the heightened emotions of dislocation and departure, like night terrors, through till a dawn epiphany.
Tom makes timeless but precision-built modern music. From the needling guitars of ‘Silent Partner’ to the slow jam of ‘Winter’s Wool’, the gospel soul of Beholden to the euphoric crescendo of ‘Every Single Moment’, every track is drenched in melody and atmosphere. Tom has created a unique liquid soundworld, layering his plaintive voice as both storyteller and instrument, against bold drums, bass, shimmering guitars and keys. In fact, literally every note of this record is played by Tom. Written and produced with a coherent sense of the whole journey of the album, it has a wonderful economy in its storytelling through elegant, poignant wordplay. An undeniably fresh release to welcome us into 2014, ‘Sleep’ has the distinct feel of a future classic.