Samantha Crain – You Had Me At Goodbye (2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 32:49 minutes | 351 MB | Genre: Folk
Studio Master, Official Digital Download – Source: Qobuz | Front Cover | © Full Time Hobby
Folk singer-songwriter Samantha Crain follows her 2015 release with “You Had Me at Goodbye”, recorded on analogue tape, produced once again by John Vanderslice and mastered by Grammy winner Bernie Grundman. The Oklahoma native says her songwriting on this album reflects more of her true self and her influences than ever before as she lets go of any musical restrictions that limited her in the past.
With John Vanderslice on board as producer for a third straight time, Samantha Crain’s fifth album, You Had Me at Goodbye, takes a fairly bold step away from her more rustic earlier releases toward a brighter if still earthy indie pop. Electronic keys, synths, and Brill Building-type strings, as opposed to fiddle, step in to reinforce guitars, piano, and drums. Crain has said that the record is dedicated to and inspired by strong women, and it opens with the retro sounds of early girl groups on “Antiseptic Greeting.” Glistening strings, mallet percussion, bass, and drum kit set an atmospheric groove as the singer feels the need to apologize for not being bubbly while running into people she doesn’t want to see. (“I know it’s an antiseptic greeting/Man, you think I could do better, but I don’t think I can.”) The off-kilter “Windmill Crusader” is a quasi-new wave tune with ’80s-style synths and like-minded vocal delivery. It slides into a more relaxed piano-and-bass interlude as she imagines a lover at the oceanside before returning to a more anxiety-ridden state, pleading for understanding. Also off-kilter but in an entirely different setting, the bluesy “When the Roses Bloom Again” employs piano, organ, and dissonant woodwinds. All of it still sounds like Crain, whose gritty vocal delivery and atypical songwriting style ultimately outbalance any changes in instrumentation. She includes a few mainly acoustic tracks, too, such as the sparse pedal steel-and-chimes closer and the acoustic guitar lament “Red Sky, Blue Mountain,” a reworking of a traditional Choctaw song (Crain is a tribe member). Elsewhere, standout “Betty’s Eulogy” is an earnest electric-guitar ballad that’s ornamented with strings and synths without relying on them, while on the other end of the temperature spectrum, “Smile When” embraces distorted electronics and sci-fi sound effects. Time will tell if the overall poppier disposition is a determined shift or a diversion, but, alongside the album’s dark humor and utter lack of stagnation, it’s one she handles with skill.
01 – Antiseptic Greeting
02 – Oh Dear Louis
03 – Loneliest Handsome Man
04 – Wise One
05 – Red Sky, Blue Mountain
06 – Smile When
07 – Betty’s Eulogy
08 – Windmill Crusader
09 – When the Roses Bloom Again
10 – Wreck