When the rookie singer-songwriter opts for artistic independence over collaboration, he takes a risk. Aside from the expertise offered by seasoned producers and bandmates the self-recorded, self-produced artist must also be a ruthless editor of his own work. The 24-year-old Londoner who goes by the name Tom the Lion clearly has the technical know-how to make his recordings sound professional, but he could have used a hand shaping the emotionally vague soft rock on his full-length debut.
On The Adventures of Tom the Lion, Tom seldom departs from the type of wavering falsetto that’s come to signify “sensitivity” among UK pop artists from Chris Martin to James Blunt. Unfortunately, this plays strictly as stylistic affectation here, with any intended sincerity undercut by pseudo-profundities like “With all your pages flagged and torn, an ancient story to be told / Read on, read on, read on / This case is solved” and romantic clichés like “You’re the clothes I wear / The food I eat / The sleep I sleep / The breath I breathe / The all I need”.
As for the music, Tom the Lion shows slightly more promise, particularly on “He Who Will”, built on a John Vanderslice-like bed of tinkling keys and synth flutes. But even on the best of this material, he can’t keep away from big gestures, which wouldn’t be a problem if it were clearer what he’s so worked up about.