Independent release, 2011

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


More people should know Thom Gill (aka Thomas). This Toronto-based artist has been involved in a number of projects – the dreamy indiepop band Bernice, the droning ambient-folk project of singer/songwriter Brooke Manning called Loom, and the contemporary R&B-influenced duo OG Melody. Breath, which is the second release by Thomas under his own name (after the 2009 debut Self-Help, which is currently unavailable) is a pretty fascinating album, despite not having a consistent set of great songs. But this is exactly why Thomas ought to be discovered by more folks, because he is an artist who can still be very interesting even when he is not at his best.

Thomas’ music is a blend of minimalist downtempo electronic music, jazz, and soul. His vocals are shy and androgynous but with the heart of an R&B diva. His music is intriguing to say the least; he embodies a confluence of influences as diverse as Prince, k.d. lang, and Me’shell Ndegeocello. nbtc__dv_250

Breath is far from perfect. It is patchy at times – “The Wonderful Child” and “What You Mean” although well-intentioned, sound like products of musical ideas that just trailed off into nothingness before finding good endings. In addition, “I’ll Take Anything” and “The Kingdom” are so klutzy and have an oddball goofiness that makes it sound as if they were recorded accidentally after Thomas had a little too much to drink.

But even these relatively unflattering moments aren’t all that “unflattering” afterall. Even at its worst, Breath is at least interesting. This is because Thomas’ musical style is just so different and unique. The only way he can make a really bad song with his calm and meditative musical style is by making it “elevator music” bland, which he carefully avoids on this album.

The album highlights – “Words Of Yes,” “My Hand In Your Hand,” “When I Thought I Couldn’t Make It,” and “How’s Everyone?” – aren’t perfect, as the production isn’t quite that shiny and smooth for the plush sound that Thomas is aiming for, but they are nevertheless simply amazing songs.

Thomas’ brilliance is perhaps most clearly evident on his version of k.d. lang’s timeless song “Save Me.” Instead of creating a version that is very close to the original, which might naturally be a safe bet for an up-and-coming artist like Thomas, he braves against the fear of butchering such a classic by trying to do something new with it. Thomas transforms this twangy, jazzy, and sweepingly grand song into an introverted, stripped-down, and quirky number, which is nearly unrecognizable from the original and yet is a masterpiece in its own way.

Thomas himself would probably be the first one to say that he could do much better than this album in terms of the production and tighter songwriting. It is Thomas’ overall musical style that makes Breath a far more captivating album than the actual songs contained within. He is one-of-a-kind and special, and his work will not disappoint anyone who discovers him, especially if one does it through this album.

Rating: B+

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