William Phillips is a Grammy-award winning pop remixer and songwriter who’s worked alongside The Weeknd, Wolf Alice, Christine and the Queens, and Sam Smith—you might say he’s kind of a big deal. Away from the glitz, Phillips’s solo work under his Tourist moniker allows him the space to luxuriate without too much thought spared on function; songs like 2019’s “And So, You Were!” arrive as tender, unfurling spools. These Tourist projects allow Phillips—as the name perhaps suggests—to wander.
Inside Out, his third album in a decade-spanning career, packs plenty of inventive drum work and emotive melodic flourishes—all climbing plucked synth lines, and wispy, disembodied vocals—in the vein of contemporaries like Bonobo, Fred Again, and Bicep. Like those peers, Phillips dances on the line between peak time with the lights up and headphone music for the journey home. This restraint, at times, is palpable: Album opener “Speak In Symphony” slides and simmers its way in for a good three-and-a-half minutes amid pattering hi-hats and vocal blips reminiscent of a heart monitor, before busting forth with a thumping kick and sumptuously swung UKG snares. Phillips repeats this pattern elsewhere—“A Dedication” feels destined to soundtrack destination festival highlight reels; “Avalanche” gets a dancefloor lick from a chipmunked Ellie Goulding sample—and he builds the album around these moments of release and ephemerality. The result is a fast blur of an album (relatively brief at just over 40 minutes) that can feel like it’s over just as soon as it gets going.
Occasionally, the out-and-out euphoria is tinged with melancholia. Much of the album was written in the wake of the sudden death of a close friend. Hemmed in by COVID-19 lockdowns in England, without the release that only sitting and reminiscing with friends can offer, Phillips occupied himself with music. This results in flashes of real fragility and lends a dreamlike quality to interludes like “April” and “With You.” But this isn’t an album that marks loss with dark clothes and trudged processions—“Lark,” like much of Inside Out, has a contemplative pulse: at turns dim and murky, yes, but also bright with epiphany.