I’m so proud to be able to not only talk about but really get into the international treasure that is Geography. I say international because the man who created this masterpiece was born and raised in London. Tom Misch is a vocalist, a multi-instrumentalist musician excelling in jazz guitar, as well as his own producer. Tom began releasing music on SoundCloud in 2012 and finally in 2018 released Geography as his first studio record. Tom’s also been a featured guitarist on countless songs, as well as a performer on NPR’s YouTube series “Tiny Desk Concerts“. He’s rapidly making a name for himself thanks to Geography. To quickly and effectively summarize this album is hard, I’ve listened to it realistically dozens of times since the day it released. Yet, every single time I manage to hear something different, or it triggers new emotions that I hadn’t experienced throughout other listens. In my honest opinion, Geography is really one of the most flawlessly assembled and enjoyable albums of this year.
Geography is kicked off with a monologue of jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, that I believe Tom threw in to make a statement about his journey from SoundCloud artist to (6 years later) this new chapter in his musical journey. The general idea of the monologue is best described by this quote from it:
“Starting to try to be a musician or artist—something like that—because you wanna make money, because you wanna do a job, that’s- that’s the wrong way. You have to do this because you love it. 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. It’s your food. That’s why you become an artist.”
Damn dude. As a musician this makes me feel some type of way. Making great music is about putting your hard work, passion, creative brilliance, heart, and soul onto a track for the world to hear, critique and enjoy. Crafting a fantastic album is such a spiritual process. That being said I can keep going but so far we’ve only covered the first minute and a half of this project.
Tom Misch brings his lo-fi jazz vibes to new heights when he adds vocals into the track. Before Geography, Tom dropped two EP’s called Beat Tape 1 & Beat Tape 2, so it’s incredibly nice to hear his angelic voice again. It’s hard not to appreciate this music when you hear the genuine soul in this young man, as Tom is only 23. You can tell Tom really discovered his voice on this album, and he brings new vocal abilities to the table that were previously unheard of from him. Tom takes the lyrics and runs with them, often times playing around with different melodies, or harmonizing with himself on guitar. Tom shows his diverse range of vocal abilities by hitting a pretty wide range of highs and lows, as well as bouncing around on the beat in short little beautiful bursts. You can really hear the emotion and soul in his voice whether he’s reminiscing about lost love on the track “Lost in Paris”, or dancing the night away in “It Runs Through Me”. This helps bring the record to a whole new level and adds aspects of emotional attachment that are hard to form with albums these days.
As I mentioned before, Tom dropped Beat Tape 1 & and Beat Tape 2 in 2014 and 2015. So he has already proven his ability to stray from the norm and make attention-grabbing yet flawlessly cohesive, super funky, soul-fueled instrumentals. Geography is yet another trophy in Tom’s metaphorical cabinet of absolute bangers. The instrumentals help weave this beautiful tale of Tom’s mind and guide the listener through the album. Geography really exposes the core of the young Brit’s musical genius, his instrumentals being the puzzle pieces that he himself entirely pieced together. After all, he produced the whole thing, as well as (with help on some songs) wrote all the lyrics. Tom keeps it super tight and outlandishly funky with his instrumentals.
One of my favorite aspects of his instrumentals on Geography is that while they all have their own personality, they all have a recurring melody that wrangles their differences and keeps the album familiar to the ear. I swear instrumentals that are actually planned out on this level notationally, instrumentally, and rhythmically actually change you emotionally. If you focus on the instruments, their roles in the songs, and actually pay attention to what’s going on in the song…it’s seriously a deeper experience. Tom really abuses his multi-instrumental abilities to create these jams. Not only is he a wicked talented jazz guitarist, but he shreds the violin, piano, and pretty much every other instrument you hear. The star of the instrumentals though is Tom’s ability to make his guitar sing and tell a part of the story on its own. Tom Misch is proving that he is capable of, and currently becoming something comparable to the likes of John Mayer or a young Eric Clapton with much to learn.
Once again, I gotta say it…this man is a damn genius. Even though he limits the features on his debut album to five, I know only four are credited on songs. Meanwhile, his co-writer throughout, Carmody, does backup vocals on multiple tracks, “You’re On My Mind” being a good example. Tom chose a great set of features to add an even more soulful and funktastic vibe. The first we hear is GoldLink, a relatively famous and insanely talented rapper from Washington D.C. If he sounds familiar, you probably know him from his spot on the XXL Freshman Class of 2015, or from his most popular songs “Crew” which has been remixed a healthy number of times, or my favorite “Late Night.” GoldLink drops a super hot verse on “Lost in Paris” that not only fits flawlessly into the song itself, but makes the song feel complete. The second feature is classic hip-hop trio De La Soul, from good ol’ Long Island. I don’t know how this collaboration happened, but let me tell you it made for one hell of a song. On the track “It Runs Through Me,” Tom and De La Soul become one with the funk, that in turn, their voices are more instruments than vocals. It really is awesome. Our third feature is found on one of my personal favorite tracks “Disco Yes.” Poppy Ajudha is a singer and model also from South East London. Her voice is absolutely perfect on this song. The sheer excitement and emotion in her piece on “Disco Yes” are enough to make the song good. But once again, Tom finds the singer who is destined to be on this song and take it to a whole new level of musical perfection. Our fourth feature is Loyle Carner, who is a rapper and actor from South London. We find him dropping heat on “Water Baby”. His thick English accent and smooth lyrics matched with Tom’s instrumentals is such a unique sound that creates this flowy “basement style club banger” vibe. Tom flawlessly picked his features for his debut album and are yet another piece to the puzzle that forms the full picture of Geography.
The Overall Vibe:
Sheesh, I know it’s been a long review but I wanted to be as thorough as possible and appreciate the vibes of Tom Misch. The overall vibe is so many different things. Funky? Absolutely. Soulful? Without a doubt. Timeless? I sure hope so. Tom showed us that he’s making music on a more conscious and appreciative level. It’s obvious that he lives, breathes, and exists for this, which is reflected in the opening monologue. Tom is a sick musician, and well on his way to becoming a legend. Geography is one of those albums that instantly and constantly makes you wanna get up and dance. I can ensure that you’ll at least find your smile ear to ear at times and your foot uncontrollably tapping. For the full effect I suggest not skipping around and actually just jammin’ out to this in all its glory, but hey – do you…I just hope it’s as fantastic for you as it is for me.
“Lost in Paris,” “Tick Tock,” “It Runs Through Me,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Disco Yes,” and “Cos I Love You”
Overall, as mentioned before, this is one of my top 3, if not single favorite albums of 2018. So much thought and musical genius went into completing this. Tom did it basically all by himself and proved to the world he’s got a long and funky road ahead of him, and he’s only getting better with time. That’s why I’m giving this album a solid:
In my opinion, it’s a solid 10 but assuming you don’t have the exact same musical appreciation and taste as me, a realistic and fair rating is 8.8. Like I said, this man made the instrumentals, wrote the vocals, and put together Geography pretty much by himself. At the age of 23, Tom Misch is truly a fascinating and incredible musician. I highly recommend Geography as an everyday playlist, as well as Beat Tape 1 & Beat Tape 2 for study music, or even for some empty instrumentals to practice your freestyle game over. For smooth vibes that come packing major doses of funk, hip-hop, and soul, or simply study music, Tom Misch is the man for the job.