The second album to be released by New York based solo artist Sam Himself, “Never Let Me Go” is an instrumental delight providing songs that could soundtrack any indie coming-of-age movie.
Having received much praise and critical acclaim for his debut album “Power Ballads” (2021), his 2023 release “Never Let Me Go” see Sam Himself cementing his melodic style and creating a soundscape that is both dreamy and exhilarating. Teaming up with The War On Drugs producer Daniel Schlett, the hazy acoustic atmosphere that runs throughout “Never Let Me Go” is perfectly orchestrated allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the record.
Opening with the track “Strangelove” the racing and immediate hit of the music of Sam Himself on his sophomore album is soon clear. Diving straight in to waves of acoustic melodies pure elation is the first word that comes to mind when hearing much of this album. Whether using acoustics or electric guitar on the second track “Baby’s Eyes” Sam Himself maintains the same electrifying, enlivening tone to each and every song on “Never Let Me Go”. The instantaneous hit of dopamine and soaring of the senses that this sound provokes makes every track from the album sound like it belongs in cinema, it’s the kind of thing to listen to in those moments when you want to imagine yourself inside a movie of your own.
A key skill that Sam Himself shows off on “Never Let Me Go” is his ability to create an intensely emotive atmosphere, delving into a multitude of emotions throughout the album’s run time. Switching with ease from the melancholic and tender sadness of tracks like “My Great Escape” and “Left Of Me” to the vibrant and road-trip-ready number “Heartland” the passion that Sam Himself puts into the emotive environment of each of his tracks ensures each feeling is authentic and the listener therefore feels it too. Each song on this album feels alive and has its own beating heart.
Not only does Sam Himself capture these emotions in his music, but he does so always beautifully. Showcasing attention to detail and an obvious ear for melody, the sonic bliss of what Sam Himself does with sound on “Never Let Me Go” cannot be understated. Songs such as “Golden Days” and the lulling closing track “You” simply feel as though they’re floating. Each song on this album feels light as a feather. Using different genre influences such as the folk style of the tranquil track “Blue Mountain” or the funk groove of “Mr. Rocknroll” Sam Himself weaves a dazzling and intricate musical map on “Never Let Me Go”. The titular song “Never Let Me Go” particularly stands out in this regard with the addition of synths and bells to the nostalgic acoustic verses creating an almost childlike dreamland that explodes into a shimmering chorus.
Despite all this, one element that for me holds this album back from perfection is the mixing of the vocals. Often on this album, the vocals seem to be overpowered by the instrumentation. Particularly on earlier tracks, the waves of instrumentation almost completely drown out the lyrics. This is a shame as Sam Himself proves himself capable of poetic lyricism such as on the track “You”, where the vocals are clearer, the words “you hold me together much better than my own skin”. To add the finishing layer to these gorgeous instrumentations more powerful and clear vocals would have greatly benefitted “Never Let Me Go” and completed it’s charm. With this polished, the musical dream world of Sam Himself would be complete.