Posts Tagged ‘Sam Evian’

Johanna Samuels broadens the definition of pop music. The melodically and lyrically focused singer-songwriter stands on the shoulders of the great musicians of the 1960’s and 70’s she manages to create a sound and sense of musical place that is completely her own. Although Johanna Samuels has been sharing her music with the world since back in 2016, there’s a certain buzz around her of late that suggests an artist very much on the up. Back in October, Johanna shared a new single, “High Tide for One”, the first offering from her upcoming Sam Evian-produced album, due this Spring as a co-release between up-and-coming UK label, Basin Rock and Mama Bird Recording Co. The album was recorded in the Castskill Mountains alongside a small band of musicians, and features guest vocals from a stunning array of female singers, including the likes of A.O. Gerber, Lomelda and Courtney Marie Andrews.

Born in New York, and named after a Bob Dylan song, Johanna’s path to music was never really in doubt. After re-locating to Los Angeles, Johanna has spent the best part of a decade honing her song writing craft and learning to find a way to balance her inherent way with a melody while crucially finding plenty to say. Thankfully, High Tide for One was a particularly exciting example of Johanna achieving exactly that. The track was written in response to watching Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, as Johanna recalls, “it felt a bit hopeless. I felt exhausted, and for a while, I didn’t have the strength to explain it or try to talk it through with anyone who wasn’t working to change it”. These feelings are set to a perhaps contrastingly lush backing, as warm Rhodes-piano and a gorgeous-meander of slide-guitar, the breeziness of the musical backing set against the steely quality of the vocal, as she sings, “last night I saw that man on TV, his tears tasted like silver bullets and supremacy“. It may only be a single track, yet there was plenty within it to suggest Johanna Samuels might just be one of 2021’s most important musical voices.

Released October 27th, 2020
2020 Mama Bird Recording Co.

At the core of Widowspeak’s allure is the creative chemistry between singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, perennially anchored by warm, expansive arrangements, references to 90’s dream pop, 60’s psychedelia, and a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. It’s comfortable, lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood.

“The stone that’s buried: what the fruit is for.” So goes the title track from “Plum”!, Widowspeak’s fifth album. The line serves as an apt analogy for the record itself: the self-aware sweetness that the band employs to deliver the seed of a harder, sharper idea. Singer Molly Hamilton coats wry observations in a voice as honeyed as the sun-ripened fruit, and Widowspeak have always made a bitter pill much easier to swallow. From its opening strum, there’s a palpable warmth and familiarity to the music even as it hints at darker truths below the surface, questions about inherent worth. What value and meaning do we assign ourselves, our time, and how do we spend it?

With Plum, the song writing partnership rooted in the creative rapport between Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas continues to expand on shared visions, delving deeper into what was always there: dusty guitars, ear-worm melodies, warm expansive arrangements. Each entry to their catalogue has marked a subtle reimagining of Widowspeak’s sound, though perennial points of reference remain the same: 90’s dream pop, 60’s psych rock, a certain unshakeable Pacific-Northwestness. Speaking to the timeless feeling of each, the albums continue to be discovered well beyond their respective PR cycles, made beloved by new listeners through word of mouth.

More akin to the sunny spaciousness of “All Yours” (2015) than the darker, denser “Expect the Best” (2017), “Plum” carries a sense of unhurried self-awareness. It feels comfortable and lived-in: humble in structure, heavy on mood. Perhaps that came taking time off from the touring grind, instead working full-time jobs and settling into the rhythm of daily life in a small upstate New York town. Plum was recorded over a handful of weekends last winter by Sam Evian (Cass McCombs, Kazu Makino, Hannah Cohen) at his Flying Cloud studio in the Catskills, and was mixed by Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Aldous Harding, Perfume Genius). In addition to Hamilton (vocals, guitar) and Thomas (guitars, bass, synth), it features instrumental contributions by Andy Weaver (drums), Michael Hess (piano), and Sam himself (bass, synth). Plum nestles into the band’s canon like it was always there, but with new textures coming to the fore, like the polyrhythmic pulse of “Amy” and “The Good Ones”, or the watery, Terry Riley-influenced track “Jeanie”

The broader themes that run through Plum are almost eerily prescient for the time of its release, written and recorded in the eve of a global pandemic. Hamilton couldn’t have predicted the relevancy of mesmerizing track “Breadwinner”, with its central analogy of bread as time as money, or the song’s yearning pleas to a partner who’s “always bringing their work home”. And on “Even True Love”, Hamilton acknowledges the imminent loss of those closest to us: “In the deepest wells, in the shallow sick/I can see you shaking in the great unknown/Will you learn to live with what you chose?/Even true love, you can’t take it with you”. They’re songs for our time to be sure, but Plum reckons with existential pain that was always there, that will endure well beyond social distancing and into our collective new reality.

Still, Plum isn’t weighed down by crushing angst. The approach is humble and frank, like a friend sharing intimacies. These are songs made to be listened to, enjoyed. “Money” is particularly hypnotic, built around a repeating, cyclical motif that serves as both skeleton and body. “Will you get back what you put in?” Hamilton asks over an insistent guitar riff. The line is delivered with a knowingness that transcends its surface critiques of late-stage capitalism, asking both herself and the listener whether this is, in fact, the world we want to live in. A world that increasingly sees monetization as the greatest goal, even at such great expense to ourselves, and especially our future. What does it mean to contribute? And what is the cost of “selling out”?

Hamilton cites a crisis of meaning as being central to the origins of Plum. “I didn’t want to write for a long time; I didn’t even really want to listen. I stopped believing in ‘music as a career’ and the distorted idea of what it had become in my mind: building and projecting a personality, promoting it, selling it. Losing that sense of purpose… it made me question my own value, usefulness.” She looked methodically for ways to reframe those thoughts about overconsumption, and found inspiration in the writings of MFK Fisher, in the Danish film “Babette’s Feast” and David Byrne’s “True Stories”, and in YouTube playlists of pop songs remixed to sound like they’re being played in abandoned malls. She also found a book about wabi-sabi principles by Leonard Koren (who founded WET magazine): “So much of it is centered around allowing things to be what they are, and just noticing. I tried to notice more, and I think those observations became the songs.”

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Plum is an album that navigates the spaces between the lesser emotions of modern life. From the creeping dread that “things are getting worse” to the resigned but sanguine recognition that “no one is old, nothing is young,” Hamilton’s lyrics speak to the unique turmoil of anyone who creates as their work, who must somehow survive off such “fruits of their labour.” With its release, Widowspeak have brought something into the world that seems to know its own worth, even as it wonders aloud about what is to come. Like the wabi-sabi tenant that lead to the song that became the album, all things are devolving to, or evolving from, nothingness.

“You’re a peach and I’m a plum.” 

Their fifth album “Plum” was released 28th August

Lazy days

With his new album You, Forever, Sam Evian, the project of New York-based musician, songwriter, and producer Sam Owens, is here to add some eternity to that sentiment. You, Forever is Owens’s first foray into a more soul-baring sensibility and places the artist directly in the sightlines and heartlines of his listeners. The album (as well as 2017’s Need You, a collaboration with the multi-hyphenate musician Chris Cohen) was written on the heels of his experience touring Premium with his band and was recorded across the latter half of last year. The tours – which included opening shows for bands like Whitney, Teenage Fanclub, Luna, Nick Hakim and Lucius – taught him much about feel and interaction. Further fueled by a desire to escape from the glow of screens and to embrace a sense of limitation, he quickly developed a new set of instrumental songs written for a band rather than just himself and recorded them on a Tascam four-track cassette recorder in his parents’ house in North Carolina. Inspired by these limiting techniques, Owens borrowed an eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder from a friend, rented a house in upstate New York, and took his band – Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals) – there to record the new album in July of 2017. Focusing on instrumental grooves and the vibe he had achieved on the original four-track recordings, Owens found the process so enlightening he decided to up the ante yet again by banning tuning pedals from the house. For fans of Whitney, Bonny Doon and Woods.

Recorded to 8-track reel-to-reel and released today on Saddle Creek Records, the sophomore album from NY songwriter Sam Owens has a stomping, 1970s soft-rock vibe to it. “Country” details a dust storm encountered on a cross-country road trip.

Classic and cutting-edge music, with New York-based musician, songwriter, and producer Sam Evian live in session.

Sam Evian, (real name Sam Owens) is responsible for recent Riley favourites Health Machine and IDGAF . He’s in the UK for a brief tour before releasing his second album You, Forever in June..

With his new album You, Forever, Sam Evian, the project of New York-based musician, songwriter, and producer Sam Owens, is here to add some eternity to that sentiment. “This is you, forever: deal with yourself,” he says. “It’s about accepting that you are responsible, that you are in charge of your actions. Everything that happens to you is because of you; no matter what happens, go there and learn from it.”

It’s a mantra that powers self-starter Owens, who released his debut Sam Evian full-length, Premium, in the fall of 2016. You, Forever (as well as 2017’s Need You, a collaboration with the multi-hyphenate musician Chris Cohen) was written on the heels of Owens’s experience touring that first album with his band. The tours—which included opening shows for bands like Whitney, Lucius, Luna, and Nick Hakim—taught him much about feel and interaction. Further fueled by a desire to escape from the glow of screens and to embrace a sense of limitation, he quickly developed a new set of instrumental songs written and recorded on a four-track cassette recorder in his parents’ house in North Carolina. Inspired by these limiting techniques, Owens borrowed an eight-track reel-to-reel tape recorder from a friend, rented a house in Upstate New York, and took his band there to record the new album in July of 2017.

That sensibility is both practice and theory on You, Forever. Dreamy album opener “IDGAF” provides suitable exposition with its notion of embracing one’s passions and pursuing one’s goals no matter the impositions in their path. “Health Machine” is a crunchy, slow-burning but deliberate stomper glowing with warm electric guitar noodling, saxophone wailing, and Owens’s reverb-laden lyrics that he says detail an abstract version of how he relates to his own physical form. “It’s about the unattainable health that I would like to imagine for myself on tour. Health is your job if you’re touring as a musician, although it’s a job I don’t do so well.” The song was the last recorded in the summer session, with Owens playing acoustic guitar through a heavily distorted microphone.

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“There’s a ton of romance on the record,” he says. “It’s all romance. It’s also about living in New York and trying to separate myself from any idea I had previously of living in New York, and how I’ve kind of designed my own world there.” Whether traveling through America, navigating the bustle of his adopted home, playing festival stages with rock legends, or getting back to basics in his parents’ garage, no matter where Sam Evian goes, there he is… forever.

releases June 1st, 2018