Music

Tom Misch's 'Geography' Feels Like the Start of Something

Photo: Charlie Cummings (Melt! Booking)

Geography is an accomplished, mature record that will have you reminding yourself over and over again that Tom Misch is a mere 22 years old.

Geography
Tom Misch

Beyond the Groove

6 April 2018

Tom Misch is finally releasing his debut album. If that sounds strange, it's because Misch has been around for what feels like forever, years of releasing tracks on Soundcloud, throwing together mixtapes and EPs, collaborating with more established artists like Loyle Carner and Alfa Mist. All of this time he's been bubbling under, waiting for his moment, putting together his "hello" to the world. That time has arrived in the form of Geography, an accomplished, mature disc that will have you reminding yourself over and over again that Misch is a mere 22 years old.

There isn't a huge market of late for heavily jazz-influenced R&B, but don't tell Misch. The two-minute intro that is "Before Paris" gives his listeners an excellent idea of what to expect over the following 50 or so. Guitar licks drenched in jazz, with extremely slick R&B/hip-hop beats are the norm here, and if you ever want Misch to fall further to one side or the other, well, you'll be waiting a long time.

That said, once Misch opens his mouth it doesn't matter. Whether crooning a ballad to a lost love or just wanting to dance the night away, Misch sings in a smooth baritone heavily tinted by the inflections of his native South London. After "Before Paris" comes "Lost in Paris", an obvious dancefloor-ready single that comes with a non-essential but perfectly welcome rapped verse from Goldlink, but it's Misch's voice that steals the show. He has a dating-but-not-exclusive relationship with melody here, opting for a conversational tone rather than a sing-songy one, and it suits both the quick beat and lyrics like "I hope you're warm and safe / The memory I can't replace / You're lost in Paris." He's lost love, but he's not broken up about it, it was good, but now it's gone, so he wrote a song.

It's in this attitude that Misch's maturity shines. Somewhere between devil-may-care and emotional basketcase lies the well-adjusted human being most of us would like to believe we are, in touch with our emotions enough to let them shine, but strong enough to keep those emotions from overwhelming us. For every "Movie" -- a beautiful little song written with his sister Polly that contains such personal touches as "Does my record still hang on your wall? / Such a sentimental way to groove / I hope it still touches you" -- there's a counterpoint, something like "Disco Yes", whose lyrics also point to a lost love, but in celebration rather than wistful remembrance. Misch would rather dance his troubles away than wallow in them, his super-clean electric guitar licks leading his listeners through complex emotions with the aplomb of artists twice his age.

An in-plain-sight nod to Stevie Wonder, whose influence is all over Geography, doesn't hurt the perception of Misch as wise beyond his years. By leaving his version of "Isn't She Lovely" an instrumental hat-tip rather than creating a full-fledged cover and being faced with the feat of duplicating Wonder's brilliant vocal, Misch avoids the sort of pitfall that can ruin the album of a less savvy artist.

There are occasional moments where Misch's lyrics can be a little bit too locked in a moment. In the otherwise sublime "Water Baby" (featuring the criminally slept-on Loyle Carner), Misch starts listing situations that might get you down: "When the hot coffee pours will stain / And when the Uber left you in the rain," he sings. There might be no better way to make a lyric sound immediately dated than to include a reference to Uber. Later on, in the exceedingly groovy "You're on My Mind," he sings of a love he can't forget: "And this fire I feel / Why does it burn so slowly? / Can't stop thinking of you / Like the five pounds you owe me," he sings, realizing of course that nothing makes a lover want to come back more than remembering borrowed cash or a lost bet.

That said, Geography feels like the start of something. It's not necessarily going to break big, at least not yet; there's no big pop single here, there's very little crossover potential. Nothing here is going to become ubiquitous. Even so, you can see it coming for Misch, maybe an album or two down the road. Misch has too much talent and too much charisma to stay bottled up for long. Don't you want to be able to say you knew him when?

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.

Film

A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.

Music

The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Books

90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.

Music

Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

'Avengers: Endgame' Faces the Other Side of Loss

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our pandemic grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.

Music

Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.

Music

Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.

Books

First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?

Reviews

HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.

Music

Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.