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Sam Levin

I Am

Review by Gary Hill

Like his last set, this new album from Sam Levin is built on alternative pop sound, and tends to be a bit samey. As I said in my review of that disc, a lot of people (particularly the target audience for this music) tend to listen to one song at a time these days versus a whole album. This clearly works better for those kinds of listeners. When spinning this from start to finish there just isn't enough variety for the individual songs to stand out from one another. Still, there is nothing here that isn't entertaining one song at a time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Intro
Weird electronic angles of sound begin this. After a while some percussive elements join. There are bits of acoustic guitar that rise up into the mix. Some spoken vocals deliver the lines of lyrics on this. There are some non-lyrical sung vocals in the mix, too.
Carbon
Acoustic guitar and electronics begin this. The cut builds outward from there. Eventually the vocals join, bringing an alternative pop meets artsy kind of vibe. This is odd, but also tasty. It works to a more acoustic alternative rock based jam later with layers of non-lyrical vocals. Lyrical vocals come in over the top of that further down the road.
I Am
Piano sounds bring the title track into being. The vocals come in over the top of that arrangement. This is a tasty number that has some intriguing melodies and textures to it. It is really one of the best pieces on the disc, making it a good choice for the title track.
It All Comes
Some folk music is blended with the alternative pop rock elements of the tune. This is classy stuff.
Five Fortunate

I like the non-lyrical vocal arrangement on this little folk alternative pop rock tune. This provides some variety, and is a tasty interlude.

First World Problems
This bouncy pop rock piece works pretty well, but it's just nothing exceptional. It is catchy and has some interesting guitar and a prominent percussion element. It serves to illustrate how these songs work better on their own. When I reviewed it as a single, I said, "It fits pretty neatly into the alternative rock school of pop rock. It's a fun number with a good vibe and groove." That's because by itself, it can stand tall. Amidst a sea of similar music, it's more of an "also ran."
Sessions
While this song is a bit slower, it's not really enough of a change from the rest to stand out. There are some intriguing melodic moments, particularly during the acoustic guitar solo section, though.
With Love And Compassion
A bit mellower and more reflective, this cut manages to standout a bit. I like the picked guitar on the tune.
Common Sense
An odd little electronic bit that feels like an old video game serves as the backdrop. The cut works over the top of that in more of that alternative pop styled vein.
I Was
Folk music is very much at the heart of this instrumental piece. It's a nice bit of variety and one of the best cuts here. It's intricate and interesting.
Everyone Goes
Another that lends some variety, this is a mellower, slow moving cut that's quite electronic. I have to think that if these last two songs had been tracked earlier on the disc, each set between two of the more monolithic tunes, this would be a stronger set.
 
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