Ryan Adams started most of the songs on his Love is Hell album with the type of slightly-out-of-tune piano effects that tend to stop you in your tracks; the effects that let you know you’re in trouble and that danger isn’t far away. By the time you’d heard Adam’s piano intro’s you knew that both he, and you, were in trouble; Adams troubles came from the deepest type of heartbreak, yours came from the knowledge that once you’d seen the effects of unflinching damage they would be impossible to un-see.
Love is Hell broke your heart because it gave Adam’s the chance to give heartbreak a voice and an identity. Worse, Adams helped you realise that you knew that voice; you’d just managed to put it out of mind for a while.
Whether or not Tom Joshua has seen the sorts of trouble that Adams has seen is up for debate; but at the very least he’s a fine actor.
Starting Cinema with the same style of distant, haunting, piano opening used on Love is Hell Joshua let’s us know immediately that this won’t be an easy listen; just as presumably it hasn’t been easy to live through the experience he is singing about. The piano sets the alarm, and the alarm wakes us up to see the danger just as it arrives.
Using Bon Iver styled falsetto, multi-layered, harmonies, the beauty of Cinema is not just in the way it provides an identity to heartbreak, it’s also in the song’s; Joshua building sullen, mournful, vocals on top of the minimalist piano foundation. An almost perfect blend of harmonised vocals and piano, Cinema builds from initial sparseness into complexity; before fading back into darkness, minimalism and a gentle fade out. Centered around an intimate vocal line, Joshua’s vocals provide Cinema’s main attraction and where the piano warned your heart it was in trouble, Joshua’s vocals are there to finish the job. Full of grief, Joshua’s vocals let you know that he’s been there himself and although he’s seen worse than you it’ll be okay in the end.
Blended across a narrative contemplating the difficulty of living a life to the full whilst trying to find moments to reflect and appreciate all that you have, Cinema ends up treading the line somewhere between Love is Hell and For Emma.
In his original EP release of Love is Hell, Adam’s released parts one and two; perhaps Joshua is working on part three.