Sam Airey – ‘In Darkened Rooms’ album review

Sam Airey In Darkened Rooms album review

We first covered Sam Airey just over three years ago when we featured ‘Station Approach’. It’s taken a while, but now he’s finally releasing his debut album via Hide & Seek Records. Is it truly a case of good things come to those who wait?

Opening with the piano-heavy ‘Camera Lens’, Sam sings about puzzles that don’t fit and how your dreams are ‘not as real as mine’ and this self-depreciating and melancholic tone retains its place throughout the running time. A perfect introduction, there are elements of Ben Folds at his most reserved as Sam laments ‘the futility of life and the beauty of it all’ and how he’ll ‘keep worrying about the same things as I once did as a child, and all the while I’m drinking with my eyes open wide’. This is followed by the more traditional guitar-based indie of ‘Epitaph’, an Interpol-esque song that manages to reference everything from people dancing on Sam’s grave to victories in dreams. ‘In the Morning’ finds Sam delving into his love of folk for the first time on the record and is a gloomy and affecting piece that will leave you wanting a hug: ‘When in darkened rooms, we met our doom, eye to eye’.

‘Endless Sea’ continues in the folk vein as Sam talks about reaching the safety of the shore and how he has been ‘left to find my way alone’. As he sweetly sings ‘Endless sea, endless sea, as I drift into a dream I should feel free’, the merging of clever wordplay and poignantly nuanced instrumentation brings to mind Villagers. Throughout the five minutes of album centerpiece ‘Lacuna’, Sam vows to ‘kill every single memory’ and you would not want to get in his way. The song was partly inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and you can tell as it’s melancholic, loving and bitter. It provides an Antlers-style blast to your emotions.

The album contains a new version of ‘Station Approach’, a song that mixes the storytelling of Elliott Smith with the more powerful elements of Okkervil River as Sam pleads for ‘one last kiss before I go to everyone I’ve ever known to make me feel less alone’. This introspective sound flows throughout the record’s final three songs with ‘Stars’ in particular conjuring up some powerful imagery as Sam uses the writing process as a powerful metaphor. However, there’s a slightly more optimistic feeling on the closing ‘Nantucket’. Sam talks about finding ‘the light at the end of the show but then brings things down again by mentioning ‘every labouring breath’ over crashing guitar in the style of Sharon Van Etten.

With the songs so expertly crafted over a number of years (some were inspired by poems written as a teenager), this is a record you’ll want to go and sit in a darkened room and listen along to. Just be warned, it will make you feel all kinds of emotions.

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