By Sarah Zimmer
Samia’s first EP Scout (released July 23 via Grand Jury) follows her beloved debut album The Baby. It feels like an addendum to her first releases, creating the same sonic atmosphere filled with ringing distorted and shoegaze-esque guitars, driving drum beats, and sparkling, ambient synths that feels anthemic and leaves you both with a nostalgic reverence for young adulthood and an appreciation for the trials of womanhood. To classify her music as just synth or indie-pop would be a disservice to her usage of sounds of 80s and 90s, and her poetic, poignant, and cleverly written lyrics that belong in a folk song (Samia is a self proclaimed fan of Father John Misty, after all).
“[Scout] feels like a part two — it's The Baby's slightly older sister letting her know that everything is gonna be alright,” notes Samia. Fittingly, when her vocals come in, it feels like she’s a friend satiating and calming you with love and a reality check. Her vocals stand on their own, with a tone similar to the likes of Japanese Breakfast and the legendary Madonna, with the subtle intimacy and deadpan of Phoebe Bridgers; it’s beautiful and unique, and both confident and reserved at the same time. Wide and doubled, Samia’s understated vocal production almost makes you lean in to hear her more.
Apart from its similar instrumentation, Samia also references moments from The Baby in Scout that avid listeners will pick up on immediately. Notably, voicemails from family prelude both albums' opening tracks. A prelude or overture to a long orchestral piece sets the themes and moods of the symphony or concerto. Thus, these voicemails say loudly: I come deeply from my family, and this album is filled with references to the people I love.
On The Baby, Samia explored the trials of growing up and coming into womanhood with intensely catchy melodies throughout, and a variety of upbeat and downtempo tracks written with lyricism that was both metaphorical and literal at the same time (similar to the writing style of Michelle Zauner of Japanese Breakfast). She delivers this same punch with Scout, and with the insight of someone a bit older and wiser, but still in-between.
Thematically, as with those opening voice mails, her work is tied deeply to her experience and she often quotes people and places of those she holds close — her sister, her friends, her father. For example, on the first single off the EP, the catchy “Show Up,” she sings, “I still cry every time my dad hangs up,” and on the second single, “As You Are,” a song perfect for slow dancing, she sings “Almost every time my plane lands / I can see my mom with both hands,” and later about her sister, “There are no expectations / you are already on your way.” In succession, “As You Are,“ with its ambient vocals and slow chug, Samia sets the stage for an EP about her deep connections to those around her in relation to her changing circumstances and self. On “Show Up,” a song where Samia’s vocals shine the most, she declares her commitment to her friends, with introspection on the percolating anxiety she feels, despite the good she has around her — “No good intention is ever good enough / to feel like I’ve done nothing wrong.”
The final two tracks on the four-track EP are “Elephant,” the most experimental of the four, and my favorite track, a cover of When In Rome’s “I Promise” featuring Jelani Aryeh. On “Elephant,” Samia still finds herself pondering her relationships with the people around her and the lessons learned in loving others with lines such as “You can’t make everyone happy.” At the same time, thoughts on the places she’s been and lived are scattered throughout: “Last time I was drunk I was in Minneapolis, swore I wouldn’t end up here again” (from “Elephant”) and “Last time I came here / I stayed at Michael’s”/ so disappointed in our whole cycle” (from “Show Up”).
The last track, “I Promise,” is perhaps at the heart of Scout and makes me wish for an entire collaboration between Samia and Jelani. With lines such as “Take a look around / I’ll be here,” and later, “I’m sorry I’m thinking of the right words to say / I know they don’t sound the way I planned them,” the track has a The 1975-like vibe and the massive guitars make it an end-of-the-movie track. It’s as if the character has perhaps finally found the right words to say. In general, I would have loved if she included a more acoustic track, like The Baby’s “Is There Something in the Movies,” but this album being a celebration of facing fear, holding tight the ones you love, and wandering away from the places you don’t is powerful enough on its own.
Ultimately, Scout expresses love, gratitude, and lessons that Samia has learned from the people around her. As shown throughout the EP and through these themes, she has grown to be more bold, more confident, and more learned, but she is still so scared, as we all are. If you can, you should grab tickets to her headlining tour as soon as possible. Having not yet been able to tour The Baby, she has provided an excellent opportunity to explore these two albums together in a live setting, and it’s bound to be beautiful.
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