Taking anthems to slumberland
Tom Rosenthal has always gone a bit against the grain. His style of indie folk-pop has always been very self-contained to acoustic versions of the types of songs that you would find daring to be on a mobile phone advert which bleeds colour everywhere, yet Tom’s work is always the right side of indie cheese. I mean this as huge praise even though it doesn’t sound like it. Tom Rosenthal continues to make songs that are ridiculously catchy but feel homegrown and cuddly too. There’s always been a side that does absolutely cracking ballads though and Z-Sides takes a scroll through his back catalogue and reimagines many of his songs as the quiet sleepy versions of them. It’s genius and because it dares to take on anthemic riotous tracks, it pulls it off with miles to spare.
Across the twelve tracks, Tom keeps things tied to a warm and soft piano, acoustic guitar and the occasional string work, soft keyboard ambience or guest vocalist. The rest is all on his re-arrangement and layers of his voice. He takes on the hugely percussive and shouty “Busy and Important” and turns it into a mournful piano and vocal lullaby. The lyrics instantly feel like they take on a different message because of how non-celebratory and triumphant the song now sounds. Singing about his love for “Watermelon” its no longer a table-thumping riot, its a heart-warming smile instead as Tom gently hushed to a whisper simply repeats the title over and over. Tom’s voice turned down to a low tone and hushed works a treat throughout the album and gets its special moment in the sun with the solely voice arranged “How Have You Been?” which see’s him sing over a chorus of himself ooh’ing the backing chords and melody. Other songs take on a simple folk campfire embers feel that would work for any Life Is Strange game. “Asleep On A Train” is pillowy, “Morning O” is so grassroots with its chirping birds and awakening eyes it brings a smile to your face and the guest vocals from Billie Marten (Hugging You) and Fenne Lily (Have We Met Before?) are both sumptuous and bluesy. Whilst almost the entire album is warm, luscious and cuddle inducing, there’s a single track that is a little darker. “All of Them Dreams” see’s Tom twin singing with Oly Gartland and whilst the track and singing is witchy, there’s a backdrop of waves crashing against the shore too and it gives it a really unique vibe and I love it.
Whilst perhaps not the best place to start with Tom Rosenthal’s catalogue, Z-Sides is a great concept, excellently conceived. As rearrangements, each track feels transformed way beyond just a simple re-instrumentation. As standalone tracks even if you don’t know the originals, these are fine folk tracks for those that want to be lulled into dream land.
Recommended track: Lights Are On
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