Sam Levin, at the wizened age of seventeen, is already releasing his third album. Having released his first single at the age of ten, he has previously recorded insightful albums such as I Am and Frame of Mind. On both of these Sam has shown a penchant for showcasing all of his ingredients. Some musicians excel at guitar, some with their voice, but Levin deftly mixes acoustic guitars with synth textures, piano, and plaintive melodies. Earlier songs of his like “Because” (Frame of Mind) display his clean guitar lines meshing with interweaving vocals and even his own voice as percussion. Other compositions such as “Carbon” (I Am) continue in this path as he pairs a straight forward acoustic finger-style pattern with bubbly synth undertones.
This brings us to Levin’s newest release A General Air of Regret, with its lead-off single “Bookmark”. Upon first impression, the guitar work is stunning. Bright and complex without sounding busy, it propels the song insistently. Most impressively the lyrics fitted on top are similarly paced, yet somehow feels relaxed. How is that? It’s almost an atmosphere that has to just pop out of thin air, as it seems it would be fantasy to consciously affix such complex pieces together to achieve simplicity. Part of the effect is his use of breaking the fourth wall to acknowledge the listener with a simple “…you get it”. In his own words, Sam explains “To me, ‘Bookmark’ embodies the feeling of being somewhere new, but where you’re not alone-so it’s not a scary new, it’s just new”.
I feel this may just be a landmark recording for the already critically-praised songwriter. I for one will be listening to his new album, the next step being somehow getting him to show me how he plays that wonderful guitar part showcased on “Bookmark”!