Sam Levin just released a new single, entitled “First World Problems.” The song is from his upcoming full-length album, I Am, slated to drop this spring. In 2017, he dropped his debut album, Frame of Mind, at the age of 15.
When he was five years old, Levin began playing guitar, a Fender Mini Strat. Between the ages of seven and 11, Levin wrote songs and produced his own videos. At age 12, he dropped his debut EP, I’m in Here. Since then, he has performed at coffee houses, arts festivals, and a one-week London Open Mic Tour. His influences include Herbie Hancock, James Blake, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover), Courtney Barnett, Bon Iver, Alt-J, and Gorillaz. His sound encompasses acoustic, electronic, and indie pop elements.
“First World Problems” opens with a skanking brittle guitar and crisp percussion flowing into dirty-flavored grinding guitars riding an indie pop tune with indie rock undertones. There’s a hint of proto-punk energy emanating from the grimy guitars that gives the music a kind of chaotic sensibility. The lyrics and Levin’s vocal delivery take on skater-alt-rock resonance that belies any punk association.
On one level, the music and lyrical delivery don’t equate; on another level, they tend to balance each other out. That being said, the overall feel of the song is hurdy-gurdy bubblegum pop, as if he came up with a riff, fuzzed it out and then decided to add some half-sung half-spoken lyrics to beef it up.
The lyrics are almost laughably earnest in as content-free a way as possible.
“I can skate so apparently I’m cool / And if I’m kinda fake / At least I’m being fake at private school / And there was no food left in the house / So I made myself a sandwich.”
Levin’s voice is good and pretty much custom-made for alt-rock, a mixture of stoner nonchalance and droll ambience. But the music lacks complexity and muscular dynamism.
“First World Problems” is mediocre at best, coming across like an amateur garage band trying to sound cool. I’m sure Levin has oodles of talent. He just needs to find the musical vehicle to express it.