Sam Levin recently dropped his sophomore album, called I Am, the follow-up to last year’s Frame of Mind. His sound encompasses alt-rock-lite and pop flavors blended into soft, nice-Nancy sonic concoctions.
Only 16 years old, Levin began his musical career at age five, when he began playing a Fender Mini Strat. Between the ages of seven and 11, he wrote original songs and produced videos. At age 12, he dropped an EP.
I Am comprises 11 tracks, opening with “Intro,” a mish-mash of synth sounds and spoken lyrics. “Carbon” offers a light, folk pop feel that’s decent, pulsing with a thumping, bumping rhythm and layered vocals. The title track features a sparkling piano and a nice flow.
Two other tracks stand out as better than average: “I Was,” which features trembling colors that increase as the instrumental number escalates, and “Everyone Goes” which rides a measured, deep bassline and emanates quasi-hip-hop flavors, along with a psychedelic feel.
For me, the problem with Levin’s music is its derivative mediocrity. The songs trundle along with insipid harmonics and weak vocals, as if he’s leery of turning it all loose. In reality he has a great voice, custom-made for alt rock numbers with gusto and oomph. His arrangements are good, and he obviously knows how to write music. It’s simply that the music is enervated, limp, and lacks flamboyance and flair.
“First World Problems” has potential, but is devoid of dynamic thrust, meaning rousing, raging tonal dimensions are fugitive. The bass should be extended, the drums imbued with potency, and the harmonic scope re-sized and enlarged with skater boy, punk rock spirit. As it stands, the tune is half-finished, a work in progress.
Frankly, I truly believe Levin could be the next Blink 182, if he would uncage his inner demons and cultivate verve, indignation, and turbulent energy rather than the dreary flatness which presently pervades his music.
I Am is average at best, beset by unrelenting syrupy melodies that are calm and collected and quaint.