Sam And The Black Seas – Silver – Album Review
On April 21st last year in 2016, we received a link to a modest handful of songs via Soundcloud link to first discover the music of Sam And The Black Seas. As it turned out, those songs happened to be amazing…and my enthusiasm for this band was already way, way up there just from that first experience alone. Subsequent singles like “The Game” and “Something Went Wrong” came slowly trickling in over the year to follow, completely confirming what I already knew; this band is awesome. Sam And The Black Seas have been preparing for the release of Silver for some time now…after everything I’ve heard, no lie, this record is definitely one of my most anticipated releases of the year. Clearly the steady pace they’ve set for themselves has also led them to stunning quality…if there’s something to be said about Sam And The Black Seas aside from their music being completely amazing, it’s that they really only show up on their own terms…when they’re ready…when they know they’ve got material that genuinely and sincerely connects. I’m cool with that – you should be too. And if for some reason you’re unsure about what the results of taking the proper amount of time to truly do it all RIGHT sounds like – listen to the care, precision, musicianship and melodies in the music of Sam And The Black Seas and you’ll want to spend a lifetime perfecting your own next song. These guys prove beyond a doubt that their approach to their music & career has been precisely mapped out to bring out the very best in themselves.
I respect these guys for quality so damn much that I had to chuckle a bit when they started the official lineup of the album with “Something Went Wrong.” Don’t let the implication fool you…it could just as easily been called “Something Went RIGHT” – and it does make for a gorgeous introduction to Silver. I won’t bog down this new review with relentless comments of the songs I’ve reviewed in the past, which makes up just about 50% of this album. They’ve made sure the level of production in the older tunes matches the newer songs and their writing continues to shine just as brightly now as it did when I first heard the songs I know. I’ll stand by every word I’ve ever said about this band being one of the very best out there today and most complete in their vision for their art & their sound. Rest assured they’ve started the record with one of their most golden melodies – read the full review on “Something Went Wrong” right here.
Quickly into some new stuff, “Lately” and the title-track “Silver” come up next on the record – bring on the new tunes! “Lately” has incredible rhythm & movement – absolutely loved the pace they set for themselves on this cut and the captivating energy it has. The ever-reliable guitars Andrea Bianchi di Castelbianco & Samuele Rampani along with his vocals hit the mark in every possible way on this intensely subtle & sly groove – the tone of both elements add absolutely exquisite sound to “Lately” and its melody while Stefano Tedesco keeps the beat crisp and Mattia Boschi completely shines in a cello-solo in the middle of the cut. I’ll fully admit to being ready to receive whatever might float into my ears from the speakers while playing this album, but truly, the first new cut that I’ve been able to hear on the record seriously has the band crushing it once again – “Lately” is structured for pure entertainment. Up-tempo and intensely rhythmic – it immediately brings the energy up on the record and makes for a memorable highlight early on in the album, building on the solid ground they start with on “Something Went Wrong” & bringing you even further into the world of sweet sounds from Sam And The Black Seas.
“Silver” was one of the more interesting tunes from the album…there are a lot of clever ideas at work here in this one song. Structurally, the title-track from their record really has depth…clearly almost two tracks woven into one through the breakdown in the middle. Both parts bring a lot to the final result; “Silver” opens threadbare with sparkling guitars & isolated, tender vocals and gently blossoms into something bolder, brighter & more beautiful in sound from the middle to the end in a vibrant second-half. The contrasting introspective & personal words work well with the melody & idea and add that extra depth whereby you can hear there’s powerfully emotional words that collide with the beautiful music they make…you’d almost mistake “Silver” for an entirely happy & peaceful tune were you to just catch the song on the surface in passing, but further examination reveals a melancholy spirit that dominates the thoughts & expressions in the vocals & lyrics of this cut. Like a good album’s title-track should be, “Silver” has a sound that you can hear has longevity…while it might not be the first song you’ll latch onto from the album, it’s bound to be one of the ones that’ll outlast the rest on your playlist due to how much you can get out of it from listen-to-listen. Could be the stunning guitars, the gorgeous & flowing cello sounds, could be the vocals or even the insightful use of space on “Silver” – there’s a ton to be impressed with and I’m sure you’ll agree they’ve done a solid job on the album’s centerpiece.
A break from the new songs for myself personally with pre-release singles “The Game” and “Within Me” filling the middle of the album with reliable, tested & truly strong material that’s already proven itself on my stereo system here at the studio and many others out there as well I’m sure. “The Game” always blows my mind for just how much Rampani ends up sounding similar to Peter Gabriel at times throughout the verses…but unlike Gabriel, there’s a much more aggressive energy to their acoustic sound on this cut. The guitars past the three-minute mark combined with the cello in the breakdown of “The Game” is absolutely mesmerizing…I’m sure I must have mentioned that in the original review but I thought I’d point that out again because that’s instrumentation that truly deserves recognition in the large instrumental section of this early single. As far as “Within Me” goes – I maintain, that’s just about everything I want to hear come through my speakers all day long. For those out there that love their Bon Iver tunes…you absolutely have to check this song out…still one of my favorites from Sam And The Black Seas and a song you’d NEVER skip. The instant melody connects right to the heartstrings…the cello, vocals and guitars all sparkle & shine as sweetly as you could ever hope to hear. I’ll admit, it’s been a while since I’ve heard this one and I’m massively glad to have it back in my life once again now on Silver…everything from the inventive instrumentation to the blissful smoothness of the vocals makes “Within Me” one highly memorable melody you’ll want to listen to over and over, no doubt about it. You can find my original comments on “Within Me” here in the first review I wrote on Sam And The Black Seas in April of 2016 – but KNOW that this is also proof of really making smart decisions when putting the album together. Some of the songs that hit the cutting-room floor from Sam And The Black Seas are songs that other bands would kill to write in one lifetime…they’ve truly taken the best of the music they put out there early to form one seriously impressive record from beginning to end.
Any song following “Within Me” would have a tough time in my opinion – but this is once more where careful planning & truly stunning writing pay off for this band & they come out sounding just as brilliant right away. “The Love We Owe” is a really powerful tune that incorporates beautiful accenting piano tones in with their traditional combination of cello, guitars and drums…definitely an idea that works strongly in their favor here. While each of the songs so far have had impressive structures all along the way, the punch into the chorus of “The Love We Owe” really has that extra drama to it that really stands out for its power and pulls you straight into the hook. Quite possibly one of the most satisfying tracks on the record to listen to, “The Love We Owe” has a wonderful combination of thought-provoking, deep lyricism, stunning music and a brilliant atmosphere that envelops you entirely as it evolves. The first run through the chorus has Sam singing in a minimal setting before the song launches into an extraordinary fullness as the rest of the band joins in…and that second time you hear the chorus of “The Love We Owe” shows you the absolute magic this band makes when they all play together. As stunning as stunning gets, Sam And The Black Seas are trying to outdo their own records previously set for beauty found within their own songs with this powerful new tune; the ending of “The Love We Owe” is packed with a growing, uplifting energy that expands the idea to its beautiful maximum before it breaks to its end and into the tinier, more isolated sound of the beginning of “The Day That Will Last Forever.”
I wasn’t tossed up on “The Day That Will Last Forever” but of the new songs that I experience on the full-release of Silver it was probably the one I was least sure of overall. Still think it’s a great song…wasn’t sure if the low-key beginning worked for me at first, but once it opened-up to include the rest of the band, “The Day That Will Last Forever” found its way to solid ground. I suppose it felt at times it relied heavily on the vocal melody & flow to deliver the goods…but every time I said that to myself I kept arriving at the conclusion that the melody-line pulls it off because it IS that strong & you can build an entire song around it. So…I’d readily admit that the more I listened to “The Day That Will Last Forever” the more I seemed to warm up to it…I love the added power in the chorus of this track and the way that the cello from Mattia is always a consistently spectacular element in the music & material of Sam And The Black Seas.
If you need further proof of that point, check out the beginning of “Heaven Gave Us Blessing” and the extraordinary way that Mattia’s cello and the drums from Stefano come rumbling in to start this song. One of the most intense ideas, structures, timings, melodies…you name it, “Heaven Gave Us Blessing” is a pure joy to listen to. At their most-full, you still hear every element in its stunning production & performance perfectly…and for the most-part, “Heaven Gave Us Blessing” stays pretty stuffed with all the members of the band at their most focused & involved. When they do let the track twist into a different direction post-chorus, right around the 2:20 mark when the song drifts into an instrumental breakdown, they’re charming, captivating and sincerely entertaining to listen to. As much as I like the sound of Sam’s vocals and I’m sure everyone out there would as well, there’s also no denying just how much the music itself speaks for this band too. Silver is loaded with ace-musicianship played with true heart & true passion…it leads to stunning moments like the instrumental-side of “Heaven Gave Us Blessing” and parts that have extraordinary depth you can dig right into several times over & never quite reach the bottom of their well of ideas – there’s always something more to listen to, like/love about & discover in their music, each and every time you listen to it.
For those that haven’t heard “Agata,” you’re in for a seriously special treat; for those that are familiar with it, you know this makes for the perfect ending to what’s been a seriously spectacular set of songs that showcases just how ready this entire band is for that next-level out there. You can read my full review on “Agata” here…I’ve actually had the chance to essentially review this one track on three separate occasions and every time I end up listening to this song it ends up wonderfully stuck in my head – I’d happily review it a fourth & fifth time if it means that even one or two more people will listen to these guys.
Some bands have potential. Sam And The Black Seas have already realized that potential and are well on their way to a career full of adventure and beautiful music after proving themselves plenty worthy of your ear-time all throughout this record. They’ve put in the time, they’ve put in the effort…it’s only fair now that they reap the rewards of a supportive fan-base and critical acclaim for their hard work and incredible talent. So they’ve got that to look forward to – and if that ain’t a Silver-lining, I don’t know what is.
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