Album Review: Tom Misch – Geography

After creating an astounding amount of hype on his recent European tour, the release of Tom Misch’s debut album ‘Geography’ has been eagerly awaited…

Since joining Soundcloud in 2011 aged sixteen, the twenty-two-year-old ‘musical chameleon’ has curated an impressive online musical portfolio; honing a smooth, jazz-hop sound reminiscent of artists such as J Dilla, Misch has also collaborated with artists such as Zak Abel, Jordan Rakei and Loyle Carner and has amassed an alarming amount of followers (two million to be precise) on Spotify despite having only released EPs and Mixtapes. However, the release of Misch’s self-proclaimed ‘stupidly made’ mixtape ‘Beat Tape 2’ (2015), despite its relaxed creation, solidified Misch as a respected musical innovator, and thus it has come as no surprise that the South Londoner’s debut album features collaborations from some of hip-hop’s most prominent artists who have recognised Misch as a rising force.

Although embodying a more pop-heavy sound than his previous work, the album still very much remains in Misch’s jazz-disco style. Whilst still heavily featuring heavy elements of violin and saxophone, it is overall less instrumental-heavy than ‘Beat Tape 2’ (‘Tick-Tock’ being the only original purely-instrumental track) and hooks at times are slightly repetitive. However, Misch believes himself to a ‘multi-genre’-list, telling Billboard that the primary aim of this album was to get listeners to move:

“I love going clubbing and love dancing. I want to make people dance with my music as well. Because I cross different genres but still maintain my sound, it opens up so many doors — I’m not defined by one genre, and that’s what I tried to [prove] with this album.”

It is clear from the start that ‘Geography’ has been well thought-out. The opening interlude ‘Before Paris’ features a passionate, instrumental, spoken monologue about the essence of being an artist, with Misch’s recognisably-renowned funky electric guitar melodies, and ‘South of the River’ and ‘Water Baby’ (featuring another collaboration with fellow rapper Loyle Carner) being clear odes to his roots. More romantic sentiments are revealed in ‘Movie’ (featuring a spoken word monologue from sister Polly Misch) and ‘You’re on My Mind’, in which Misch reminisces over and longs for a past lover, letting his bluesy yet distinctive South London vocals take centre-stage. Groove-infused numbers such as ‘Disco Yes’ featuring up-and-coming neo-souler Poppy Ajudha (who also supported Misch on his recent tour) and ‘It Runs Through Me’ featuring De La Soul certainly live up to Misch’s wish to make people dance, yet without sacrificing artistic musicianship and well-cut production. Misch is also not without tongue-and-cheek, with ‘Lost in Paris’ (featuring GoldLink) a track about the singer losing his hard drive under the guise of a love song, and a playful minute and a half guitar cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ adding to the fun.

As far as debut albums go, Misch’s hard work has paid off. Whilst at times this album can be less harmonically inventive than projects the musician has previously released, you nevertheless can’t help but enjoy it. Still in his early twenties, it seems with time Misch’s work will only become more refined, and as he sings in the closing number, he has indeed ‘come so far’ – the sixteen-year-old boy in his bedroom is most likely very proud.