Tim AtlasIf Tim Atlas’s new single ‘Sidestep’ were a t-shirt, it would have a retro, reclaimed vintage look. The material would be soft to touch but filled with holes that could use some stitching up. It would be an accessible grey, with a hopeful blue-sky tinge. The graphics on the item would be imaginative, but also overwhelming and tangled, concealing an important message about social anxiety that gets lost in the detail. The fit would look good on paper, but in reality, is slightly off-kilter.

‘Sidestep’ is the first single off Atlas’s forthcoming EP ‘All Talk,’ due for release early next year. The young LA-based artist will be familiar to fans of The Voice, where he got his first kick-start in the music business. Egged on by praise from Pharrell, Rhianna, and affluent tastemakers, Atlas is continuing along the pop path with his second EP, after reaching 20 million streams on 2013’s ‘Lost in The Waiting.’

Atlas’s unusual rise to fame is accompanied by unexpected career choice number two: Atlas creates every aspect of his music himself: from writing to producing, to teaching himself instruments, to directing his music videos and booking his own European tour. This is an ambitious feat, and whether or not he’s pulled it off with ‘Sidestep’ is still up for debate.

The track itself is laced with an 80s retro pop ambience, but the synthesised harmonies bring it back to 2018. A dexterous swinging tempo and distorted percussion make the melody difficult to follow with your hips, transforming the dancefloor into an uneasy place when this single comes through the speakers. However, it’s still devilishly catchy and would be more at home at the beginning of a pre-drinks than in the middle of a night out.

The slightly abrasive, chaotic instrumentals detract and drown the vocals, which is a shame because Tim Atlas really does have a terrific voice – it is both affecting and distinct, as he dawdles on the vowels and withdraws at the consonants – but it’s not showcased in this single. “I’m so exhausted/Lost in the social cues” Atlas sings, addressing a relevant theme of social anxiety, rarely focused on by those in the public eye, that gets somewhat sidelined in the song.

There is high promise in Tim Atlas and his latest single has all the right ingredients but has been stirred so much that the taste isn’t quite right. However, with a good polish, he has the potential to make some really marvellous music.