Tom Misch Discovers His Voice on Debut Album “Geography”
Issue   |   Tue, 04/17/2018 - 21:37
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Tom Misch makes his first album debut on “Geography“ after years of releasing singles and full-length projects as a Soundcloud artist.

Tom Misch is a unique talent. The 22- year-old British producer, singer and songwriter began his rise to fame on SoundCloud, where he released his homemade samples and mixes. He started making beats at 16 and got his first big break when the label Soulection found him through SoundCloud.

On April 6, Misch released his first album “Geography” through his own label, Beyond The Groove. “Geography” is a tour de force and one of the best debut albums in recent memory across all genres, although Misch himself does not seem to fit into any single one. The album combines smooth beats, relaxing strings and vocals from both Misch and guest artists for a modern soulful experience.

Misch’s sound is an amalgamation of jazz, hip-hop and alternative. He refrains from adhering to conventions, which allows his creativity to flourish. His sound is so singular that comparing him to another artist is a disservice to both him and the person to whom he is compared.

Misch studied jazz guitar at the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College and has built his following first and foremost due to his beat-making abilities. In an interview with VICE Media’s magazine “i-D,” he insightfully deconstructed the significance of his first two full-length projects, “Beat Tape 1” and “Beat Tape 2.” “‘Beat Tape 1’ is a collection of instrumental hip-hop beats. ‘Beat Tape 2’ is a continuation of this, this time with vocal features; and it showcases my development as a producer and my new influences,” he said. “I’m only singing a tiny bit on ‘Beat Tape 2’, as the release isn’t about my voice but about my production style being fused with the vocal features.”

On “Geography,” Misch combines the best of both “Beat Tape” projects as well as shades of his 2016 EP “Reverie,” with incomparable beats and soothing vocals. The album opens with “Before Paris,” a monologue that encapsulates and explains Misch’s attitude towards music: “And it doesn’t matter if you broke, you still gon’ do it … You have to love it and breathe it and — It’s your morning coffee.”

The first true song on “Geography,” “Lost in Paris,” is the album’s morning coffee — lively and reminiscent of a brisk morning on the Seine. A catchy guitar beat carries both Misch’s chorus and GoldLink’s featured verse. “Lost in Paris” is one of the most pleasing songs to listen to on the album. In “Disco Yes,” an upbeat guitar solo compliments Poppy Ajudha’s verse. Loyle Carner’s soulful singing over Misch’s funky saxophone beat is outstanding on “Water Baby” and meshes beautifully with Misch’s chorus. De La Soul’s feature `on “It Runs Through Me” floats effortlessly on top of Misch’s keyboard. The appeal of these songs is as much as testament to Misch’s ability to make versatile beats as the talent of the artists whom he features.

Unlike in his other works though, Misch does include three songs on the album in which his vocals and lyrics surpass those of the artists he brought onto the album. On “Movie,” the first single he released from the album, he fondly reminisces about a past lover. However, instead of weighing the song down with sadness, he maintains levity. On “South of the River” Misch finds his comfort zone in a heartwarming verse set over groovy string instruments and bass, while “Cos I Love You” showcases an impassioned Misch: “Love is hard to find/Girl give me some time to say/That I love you.”

Those who dismiss Misch as just a coffee-house artist are short-sighted and fail to appreciate his technical prowess. Not one of the songs on any of “Beat Tap 2,” “Reverie” or “Geography” discography lose focus or deviate from the overall work’s creative vision. The cohesion of his releases as a whole, the purposefulness of each song and the minimalist attitude that he embraces ensure that every single chord, note and verse is necessary.

His greatest weakness is over-streamlining at times. He could add lyrics or spice up songs like “Isn’t She Lovely” and “We’ve Come So Far.” However, by keeping his songs streamlined, he teaches listeners an important lesson — instrumentals are just as important, if not more so, than lyrics. A clean, energetic guitar riff can tug on the heartstrings as much as the latest popular crooner.

Even though there are fewer instrumental songs on “Geography” than on Misch’s other projects, they still exude a sense of upbeat levity. Songs like “Tick Tock” and “Isn’t She Lovely” set the mood for studying or relaxing. They’re still clean and thoughtful, and the listener can feel Misch’s passion for his music and his dedication to his craft.

The fact that the album is so enjoyable and inherently listenable with still so much room for improvement speaks to Misch’s immense potential. His choice to not change his style or beats for this album, instead pushing himself to provide more vocals, shows growth as an artist and lays out a promising blueprint for his future. Misch will find it difficult to follow up “Geography” with a comparable work, but he’s certainly up to the task.