Tom Misch’s kaleidoscopic debut album features such a wide variety of composed, tightly wound styles that it almost sounds like the work of multiple artists. Opener Before Paris eases into proceedings with a spoken-word mission statement about doing art for art’s sake, before building into the slinky, rubbery jazz of companion piece Lost In Paris. It’s joyous, bright and sexy. After a couple of minutes, the bass drops out and the track shifts fully into bliss-out jazz territory. South Of The River – apparently an homage to Misch’s South London origins – is significantly heavier.
It’s built around a fat, punchy disco bassline and choppy, Nile Rodgers-esque guitar chords. It’s an exercise in maximalist funk, with a preposterous synthesizer solo, handclap beats and sultry vocals. That vibrant funk/disco hybrid returns a couple of tracks later with Disco Yes (featuring Poppy Ajudha). Misch’s vocals (distinctively British, without pretence), often sound like he’s split the difference between Calvin Harris’ deadpan functionality and Oliver Sim’s knowing, understated masculinity. Here, it’s contrasted with Ajudha’s warm, sensual vocal and sounds all the better for it.
Of course, the album wouldn’t be complete without at least one ‘sexy time’ slow jam – this record has two. The first, Movie, is the more (ahem) explicit of the two, with a thudding beat and an erotic guitar line. The press-kit professes Misch’s love of D’Angelo, and on this track, that love shows.
The second of the slow jams is the hazy, psychedelic We’ve Come So Far. The vocals are pushed into falsetto, there’s a heavy, narcotic vibe and the mood is hot. Only, Tom Misch being Tom Misch, he bumps up the BPM for one last disco workout before the end of the record.
The album highlight is Cos I Love You, which sounds truly innovative and annoyingly impressive. Borrowing a beautiful chorus melody, Misch blends his modern take on South London disco with the original source. It’s a mashup, of sorts, but ends up growing into something unique. Misch here sounds like the playful, romantic younger brother of Disclosure or Jamie xx.
Of course, it isn’t all perfect – you could argue that there’s a bit too much syrup and not enough flavour. The album is largely built around two (very similar) vibes, and can blend into one cloying whole, but this music is built for the summer. It’s tailor-made for being on in the background while you drink, dance, barbecue and copulate your summer away. On that level, it all works.