Sam Smith’s vocal input on Disclosure’s “Latch” is undeniably a large component of what made it an international hit. A stripped, acoustic version of “Latch” on Smith’s Nirvana EP eclipsed the Disclosure fellows, proving Smith can carry the song on his own.
A number of the tracks on Nirvana (particularly the extended U.S. version) show up on Smith’s debut full-length, In The Lonely Hour. Smith’s soulful tones, in turns smooth and falsetto, are the centerpiece of Lonely Hour, lending themselves handily to the unrequited love that forms the album’s theme. The strongest track, album opener “Money On My Mind,” follows neither the yearning air nor the midrange tempo of In The Lonely Hour. Ripping synthesizers are laced with the best of both sides of Smith’s vocal prowess, creating a searing party-rocking tune. “Like I Can” bridges the effervescence of “Money On My Mind” and the rest of the album’s wounded elegance with vibrant beats and an infectious chorus.
It is retro-soul and gospel, however, that are the driving forces of In The Lonely Hour. “I’m Not The Only One” illustrates this with sophisticated piano and escalating strings, while “I’ve Told You Now” does so with Adele-like heartbreak. The rest of In The Lonely Hour doesn’t stray far from this prescription—to the point of redundancy. Smith’s voice remains rich, but the songs and their sentiments are one-dimensional. As singles, the LP works. But as a whole product, listeners could start wondering if they hit “repeat” by accident.