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Now Hear This: Frame of Mind - Sam Levin

Rating: ***

Must Listen: Ride, Frame of Mind, Telescope

Skip: Make My Day, Because'

I hadn’t heard much about Sam Levin coming into this one. I know he’s a singer-songwriter from NY. He apparently has a wide variety of musical tastes from Kings of Leon to Childish Gambino and according to his bio he was originally inspired musically by pointing at a Fender Mini-Strat in a local music store and saying “I want to do that!” Cute. I’ve done so many mixed open mics over the years that the thought of listening to an entire album of singer-songwriter moaning wasn't exactly thrilling. But I’m a man on a mission. I will get start, listen, and finish this record without taking my preconceived baggage with me. Let’s do it.

Watch the video for “Everything’s Okay” below:

We get started with, Everything’s Okay. It’s a fitting title. It’s okay. Nothing groundbreaking here but we learn a couple of things about Levin. He’s a good songwriter and he can sing. The song bounces along nicely despite lacking originality. Setup is next and it treads some familiar ground again. Annie Robinson chips in with some nice harmonized vocals on this one. Pleasant. Shades of Pale is track 3 and it sounds musicaly, eerily similar to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran. That’s not a bad thing, per se. The song Ride is the funnest tune so far. It’s got an almost They Might Be Giants feel to it. He seems to be at his best when he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Title track, Frame of Mind, is next and it’s the most complete song thus far. I hear some Conor Oberst in this one. The chorus of “It’s all gonna be alright” makes sense. The last two tracks have been alright indeed. Hide and Seek mixes it up a bit with a nice little electronic quotient to it. I Sure Hope Not (Again) is another fun one. Lyrically, Levin is at his best in this playful context. Track 8, Make My Day, is solid but forgettable. Telescope features co-lead vocals by Haley Shickman and it really works. This is the highlight of the second half so far. Because is another electro-coffee shop cut and while I appreciate the effort here, it never really connects. Metronome is a little too literal musically and lyrically for my taste but that’s not to say it isn’t catchy. I could actually see this one being a single. Tru Mo ends the album with a 50’s hypnosis audio book sounding voiceover set to a pleasant beat. It’s actually a good way to cleanse the pallet.

Overall there’s a lot to like here. Sam can sing and strum his guitar well and he spins a good yarn. There are going to be things you’ve heard before but it’s never awful. If you’re a fan of Head and the Heart and Bon Iver there’s going to plenty you like here. I suggest giving it a spin or two.

Produced by: David Levin