REX’S RATING: 10 / 10
“The Hands Of Love”
stalking Sam Roberts a Sammy-heart for going on ten years now. But besides the epic “Graveyard Shift” I pretty much skipped through his band’s 2011 album Collider; and I was starting to think that Sammy was losing his creativity now that he’s been popping out kids left, right and center with a woman other than me. So the first time I heard about Lo-Fantasy I grimaced. I didn’t need another reason to lose faith in my beloved Sammy, and if Lo-Fantasy was anything like his last album, I wasn’t prepared to give it a listen. Well I’m telling you now folks that after listening to his band’s new album I can honestly say that Sammy is back; and this time, he’s got a synth with him.
Sammy has always had a knack for knowing when to slow things down all sexy-like, speed things up all sexy-like, and not do anything particularly interesting all sexy-like; (you get my drift…), and this album is no exception. Besides the dance-happy “The Hands Of Love” as well as a dash of synth here and there on tracks like “Shapeshifters” and “Angola” (not to mention the Synthy McSyntherson “Chasing The Light”), Sammy proves that he is savvy enough to know that sometimes, just sometimes too much synth can be a bad thing. And yes, I understand he’s a little late on the rock-gone-synth front (which has been a hit or miss with a lot of peeps), but for me it’s…(you guessed it)…A HIT YO!! Is Sammy secretly reading RMD and writing an album according to our own personal tastes? (He did play “Taj Mahal” for me at a concert in British Columbia after all…true story). Maybe I have a stalker on my hands?
Now don’t go thinking that Sammy went all Reflektor-like and completely changed his sound to a more electronic, danceable vibe (like many of the critics claimed he did), because the majority of the songs mirror some of his past work on previous albums; (like what “We’re All In This Together” does to the verses of Chemical City‘s “Mind Flood,” the classic off-beat rhythm on “Angola” does to “With a Bullet“, or the poppy “The Hands Of Love” does to We Were Born In A Flame‘s “No Sleep”/Love At The End Of The World’s “Oh Maria“). As a whole the album isn’t that much different than his previous albums (besides Collider, of course), and it still features all of the great Sammy-like qualities I look for in any Sam Roberts/Band record.
The album is packed full of happy-go-lucky songs that you can dance and sing along to with a shit-eating grin on your face as you imagine yourself dancing with Sammy in the moonlight (or maybe that’s just me…); and although it may sound basic for first-time listeners and/or non-Sammy-hearts, this album encourages us to look deeper into his music and see just how much he and his band have flexed their musical muscles this go-around in terms of introducing a variety of new sounds. There’s also soothing harmonies, a coyful play on melodies, cultured lyrics, impressive instrumentation and songwriting (oh yeah, and the band is nice to look at too…not that that matters or anything…)
And of course with this album, just like any other Sammy album, there’s a complex arrangement of guitars, pianos, vocals and drums which proves the band’s inescapable chemistry. There’s the psychedelic guitar section and experimentation on vocals in “Human Heart,” (where in my opinion the album truly starts off), the great one-liners on “Chasing The Light,” the lo-fi guitar section in the intro for “Angola” …oh and can we give a round of applause to Sammy for the rare falsetto heard on “The Hands Of Love”? Because that was amazeballs.
But just like any other Sammy album, the songs are perhaps best meant for live consumption. And you’ll know what I mean once you go to your first Sammy show (Editor’s note: DO IT). So understand that if you’re not a huge fan of this album, check to see if Sammy is coming to a town near you because I can guaran-fucking-tee you will enjoy this album 1000x more once you’ve heard the tracks live.
So am I giving this album a perfect ten because of my Sammy bias?
Hell yeah! No, not at all. It would be hypocritical of me to praise Arcade Fire for turning to dance and tropical beats on Reflektor when Sammy pretty much did the exact same thing, only he toned it down a hell of a lot; (as best heard with the tropical xylophone action going on in “Kid Iracus” – what did I tell you about dem bongos hipsters?) I always have a soft spot for artists who tread new ground and completely revamp their sound and vibe, but only if they do it well, and Sammy certainly did just that. The album is cohesive, the catchy songs get stuck in your head for days, and even the songs you don’t like at first eventually grow on you after awhile.
Oh and Sammy? I’m living in England now. So the next time you tour across the pond, maybe, just maybe I can meet you after one of your concerts and we can hop off the good foot and do the bad thing? Just a thought…