There’s no mistaking Tom Wardle deserves to be in another era. His brand of sun-disposed pop tunes is rare these days, emulating the craftsmen of the 1970s like James Taylor or Jim Croce⎯but remaining somehow flashy and modernized. Wardle’s latest release, the meager, three-track One Last Kiss EP, is far less Beach Boys-driven than his previous EP, 2015’s She Kissed Me, which soaked in “Good Vibrations” rather than “Fire and Rain.” The British singer-songwriter, who has associated closely with prominent Brian Wilson-collaborator Van Dyke Parks (2004’s Smile), continues to delight with fresh-canned songs about sappy, young romance of the beach-bleached kind.
The closer, “Young Lovers Never Die,” appears to be the defining moment on the new set, buoyant and dazzling underneath a blanket of illuminated guitar tones and one of Wardle’s most truthful vocals. “It was beautiful for all it was,” he envisions in the latter half of the track, which pushes and pulls his phrasing across gridlocked harmonies, a Bryan Adams-edged spirit and an unfussy melody. It feels timeless, too, an often sturdy characterization of much of Wardle’s work, as he did so divinely on such previous songs as “Summer in Bloom” and “A Singing Bird Will Come.”
“The Man You Fell in Love With” carries a significant cinematic resonance and an alarming crescendo (blurring into a rather aching delivery), while “Front Seat of My Car” bounces along in the breeze. “Do you remember what I said to you in between those breathless kisses when I know it’s been years?” Wardle swells nostalgic, drums kicking the composition into overdrive. Again, his work scans mellow and focused, and he never compromises his character for the sake of commercial appeal. He is who he is, and fans are unapologetically drawn to that.