Saturday, October 12, 2013

Sam Phillips Push Any Button 2013

Sam Phillips has had an interesting career and made some very good, quirky pop in the nineties with then husband/producer T-Bone Burnett. The four she made with Burnett between 1988 and 1996, The Indescribable Wow, Cruel Inventions, the acclaimed Martinis & Bikinis, and Omnipop were all good, and featured exceptional songwriting from Phillips, and wonderfully rich and inventive arrangements.

She's been busy since then, with several releases, writing for TV, and a number of download releases that she distributed herself. And now she has a new one. And it is a dandy.

The record breaks out of the gate with Pretty Time Bomb (the rocking opener with the serious backbeat), All Over Me, and When I'm Alone, and those three are almost worth the price of admission on their own. When I'm Alone has Indigo Girl harmonies hung on a hook-filled, acoustic guitar-driven pop gem. But there's more. The beautiful string arrangement on Going, the pounding pop-rock of Things I Shouldn't Have Told You, the chamber pop of Speaking Of Pictures, the jangly sixties vibe of You Know I Won't, and the cabaret stylings of Can't See Straight.

Her voice is lovely. Her lyrics are brilliant. The arrangements are great, with every song featuring a different mix of sounds, but nothing too jarring. Sometimes it sounds like Fiona Apple with less anger, or Swan Dive, but less precious, or Shawn Colvin with less angst, or Aimee Mann. But mostly it sounds like Sam Phillips, and certainly not an imitation of anything. Some of the eccentricities of the early work are smoothed out, and that lets you concentrate on the quality of the songs.

Anyway you cut it, it's a great new pop-folk-rock gem from a very talented pen and voice, backed by a crack ace band.

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