Graham Reid | | 1 min read
samRB is a New Zealand singer-songwriter who has faced mental health issues and this album comes with assistance from NZ Mental Health Media Grant (and some top gun musicians in support of her).
I've been on record as looking askance at "the album as therapy" (most recently here) and have run into trouble when denying people their special pleading because of a physical or mental condition (here). I know this lays me open to accusations of a lack of empathy -- but to me art should stand on its own merits, and so much therapy-music simply doesn't.
But from the first few bars here, samRB captivates with a voice which is confident, intimate, persuasive and melodic -- and it only adds value that she writes memorable songs.
Sometimes she labours a line ("I'm so small I fall between the cracks in the footpath" on the Bic Runga-like Half-Filled Empty), and in the opener Recommended Viewing a phrase like "another government policy, another dole line queue" is always going to jar within the otherwise broader poetic context.
But there are minor concerns in the long view.
Yes, if you know a little of her background you will discern her dealing with issues (with maturity and reflection), but equally if you didn't know that these 13 songs (aside from perhaps Medicate into Madness) would stand as songs of compassion, love, self-doubt and a yearning for acceptance which have a universal quality.
Delivered as embellished folk-rock (producer Andrew Buckton, who plays just about everything, take a bow) with cutting electric guitar solos where required, gentle keyboards at the other end, these songs are engrossing and SamRB certainly has a way with an intelligent interpretation of a lyric, whether it be the understated "I choose you" or an uplifting "I wish you freedom" which change the emotional tone.
Interesting musical dynamics here too: Everything You Said rides a stabbing electrobeat in places, the title track is spare and emotionally naked. Outside Dreams opens with dramatic chords before focusing right down on samRB's vocals alone.
Two tracks here -- the gorgeous, positive Life Has Just Begun and the meaning-filled To Whom It May Concern -- appear in the soundtrack to the film The Insatiable Moon, and if that gains more attention for this impressive debut album then we could only applaud.
Read the lyrics here however you will, but samRB is a real talent and we can only be glad she has found a place from which to deliver such a confident, emotionally engaging album.