In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith’s passionate major label debut, isn’t as much about loneliness as it is about distance. In fact, it isn’t about loneliness at all; it’s about the painful, unavoidable desire for suffocating closeness fostered by unrequited love. It wallows not because of isolation but because of a glaring lack of intimacy and empathy. It spends its time trying to minimize emotional space (for solidarity’s sake, Smith dreams about getting mugged outside a lover’s house), physical space (he wants to hold hands during a one-night stand), even relational space (he pushes a beau to leave another lover). It’s musically stark, too, compressing chord progressions and melodies into subdued acoustic guitar and piano riffs draped occasionally in strings. It hums along at one bleak, naively hopeful tone that often loses affect. Its fatal flaw is not its singular mindset, but the monotonous execution of that mindset. In the Lonely Hour only knows one way to spin its grand thesis.