Oklahoma sweetheart Samantha Crain treating us to her fifth album already. It’s like somebody made thoughtful upbeat indiepop-folk and that somebody was Samantha, because that's what she did. The album has a slight Western-sound to it, perhaps due to Mountain Goats-producer John Vanderslice’ production work, lending it an authentic feel. She had us at You Had Me At Goodbye.
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Samantha Crain is fucking funny now. I mean, it’s tragic, but she sings about her dog dying with a wink on “Antiseptic Greeting”, the opener to ‘You Had Me at Goodbye’, and I have to kick myself to remember this is the same artist who made a rather pastoral folk record on ‘Under Branch & Tree’. The strings and plucks are still here, of course, but this record is a hot-blooded rock record with more than just a sprinkling of electronics and drums and distorted guitars. It’s impassioned in both branches -- emotional and silly, Crain’s not too proud to feel both things in her songwriting.
“Oh Dear Louis” strikes me as Crain’s catchiest tune yet, it’s mix of forward momentum rock music and cross-attacking strings turning what reads like a love song into a spirited race to the finish. Produced by John Vanderslice, it’s no coincidence that this record reminds me of many a Mountain Goats record, so deftly does Crain mix excitable, earth-scorched tunes with stalled piano ballads that look out of the window at nothing. “Loneliest Handsome Man” is serene and stagnated, waking up only as she introduces jazzy flourishes that slowly raise the record back into its first gear.
There’s a case for Crain perhaps doing too much at once, as the fuzzily ominous bass of and sparse, glitching beats of “Smile When” suggest. Ultimately though, even songs that strike as out of place find their feet in a searching melody and dramatically shifting vocal performance from Crain, two things that seem to connect each song on this record to the other -- even when the song’s environment doesn’t sound like Crain, it still sounds like she belongs there. It’s very different record, with some of the same old tricks -- the lovely, opaque guitar of “Betty’s Eulogy” should bring you right back -- and a lot of new energy.
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- You Had Me At Goodbye by Samantha Crain
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