Sleep, the debut album from shadowy Londoner Tom the Lion (probably not his real name), offers up 12 intricate slabs of meticulously arranged D.I.Y. indie pop that flirt with the mainstream from the relative safety of the shore. There's a real Gotye-esque, retro-'80s vibe to much of the material here that gives the album a bit of a commercial sheen, but Tom the Lion, who plays every instrument, seems torn between sophisti-pop craftsman and spectral singer/songwriter, resulting in a set of songs with plenty of moving parts that always seem to come up short of reaching a sum. TTL's soulful croon, which falls somewhere between Arcade Fire's Win Butler, Beirut's Zach Condon, and James Blunt, fits right in with the current crop of moody English pop purveyors like Tom Odell, Alt-J, Eugene McGuinness, and Wild Beasts, and he possesses enough pop acumen to deliver some real swoon-worthy moments. The sweeping title cut swings effortlessly between its staccato, fog-bound verse and opulent chorus, the bluesy and soulful "Beholden" impresses with its deft juggling of light and dark textures, and the curious "Ragdoll," with its sparse arrangement and evocative lyrics, reveals what could be construed as a closeted librettist peeking his head out from behind the fussy confines of radio-pop architecture. That said, Sleep, for the most part, reveals an artist who seems capable of crafting a gem, but at this point there's too much polish on the stones, and too few hooks on the line to warrant anything other than a cursory nod and polite applause.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger