Music writing is full of unending discussion of the fabled album number two. It’s a hurdle so many fall at – buckling under the weight of expectation, overreaching, rushing – all pitfalls for the difficult second album™.
Well, one way to side step that particular cliché is for your debut record to go unfairly unnoticed. This, however, creates a different pressure entirely; pressure from within. If that fire isn’t within you then you will be tripped for the very same reasons.
London born Tom Hickox has sidestepped such dangers with aplomb, producing a riveting work which expands on the intimacy of his debut into a richer, fuller sound.
Monsters in the Deep actually picks up where first effort War, Peace and Diplomacy left off; opener Man of Anatomy is brooding and atmospheric, Hickox’s moving baritone front and centre.
An impressive voice can only stretch so far though and Hickox has proved here that he knows his way around a melody too. The title track and Istanbul are both shining examples of his newfound comfort in catchy songs good radio station selectors should be salivating at.
The Camden singer has compiled a record full of beautifully honed tales littered with significant small detail often overlooked. Refugee’s plight, homesickness, and the promise of new beginnings are all covered here in vivid storytelling. Like life itself, the pace changes and it’s impossible to see what lies round the next corner.
Undeniable highlight is The Dubbing Artist, which deals with obsession through the life of Irina Nistor, who illegally dubbed all dialogue of foreign films in her native Romania, becoming an unsighted, cult star in her own right. It’s pulsing and breezy at the same time; this is catchy, literate songwriting at its best.
In a world of identikit radio hits and the constant barrage of immediacy in our culture, it’s refreshing to play a record paced so beautifully. From the bustle of The Fanfare to the cinematic Collect all the Empties, there is real reward here for finding the time to sit back and take it all in.
As Hickox puts it on closer Mannequin Heart, he gave “my Heart, my body and my soul”, and we’re all reaping the rewards for it. Roll on cliché-free album number three.
Release Date 31st March 2017 (Family Tree/Warner Chappell)