After the plagiarism allegations following his work on Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” Tourist had many worrying the electronic artist (a.k.a William Phillips) solo work might suffer from a lack of originality. After years of EPs and singles, he’s released his debut LP U, and it’s definitely informed by the years of work behind it. The album plays to both dance and focused listeners alike but does it escape the overly derivative trappings some might suspect of Phillips?
Title track “U” opens the album on a slow build of samples and loops to a surprisingly nonchalant beat drop. The sonic sophistication leads the charge on this track, especially with some great synth play at the end, but the opener definitely leaves the listener wanting more. There’s a lot more attack to the beat on “To Have You Back” where Tourist further showcases his wizardry with vocal samples. The track pulls a fake-out with its sombre first half, then it sucker punches listeners when it finally dives deep into its powerful chorus.
There’s a sense of urgency to the single “Run” which has a much fuller sound and instant hook to it. The beat comes in powerful, kicking the song into full-effect and taking the track from interesting headphone track to get-up-and-dance in one moment. This urgency and hook continues on “Wait,” which separates itself with some eerie vocal-synth tracks, and a beautiful piano. The track holds its heaviest moments for the very end as it jumps into heavily syncopated beats and radiating bass to close out.
The dance continues on “My Love (Interlude),” which revels in its simplicity and doesn’t try to overdo it. There’s an undeniable power to the sound and drive of “Waves” that’s instantly catchy. Every piece of the mosaic of its sound is rich. The vocals added in the second half renew the energy that may have been waning after the repetitive nature of the song, letting it finish strong.
“Too Late” carries one of the most addictive rhythm sections of the album, and one of the strongest builds as well. The drop in this track puts the beat into overdrive and turns it into an almost tribal mix of rhythms and vocal chants. The beat changes gears on “Foolish” where a truly funky synth line drives the song, mixed in with some catchy vocal lines and hooks. The track’s arpeggiated synth line is divine and the track has a subtle groove to it that feels more intimate and enjoyable than some of the heavier dance of the album. This track, although not a typical single, definitely stands as a standout track on the album.
“Separate Ways” uses similar vocal hooks with a much more straightforward beat to knock out another dance track for the album. Although it’s a lot easier to dance to, it’s hard to feel as satisfied after “Foolish.” “For Sarah” ends the album on an ambient groove, with synth lines colouring the track from top to bottom, with a neon sounding flourish to close the track out.