Albums, Music, The Revue — June 4, 2018 at 5:10 am

Sam Evian – ‘You, Forever’ (album review)

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“In the end I will run back to you”, Sam Evian lushly expresses on “IDGAF”, the opener to his superb sophomore full-length, You, Forever. These nine words describe both the theme and emotions that fill the album’s eleven songs. In other words, You, Forever is made for summer road trips, as wind-swept, coastal melodies breeze through each track. The journey, however, isn’t just an adventure in one’s vehicle, but it is also an introspective and psychological trip and one that is unforgettable.

On the gorgeous, aforementioned “IDGAF”, for instance, Evian – the project of Sam Owens – addresses the late-night anxiety that regularly consumes him. As a shimmering, Laurel Canyon folk-rock melody circulates in the background, he reveals his struggles and constant turmoil, and he describes how one person helped him overcome his insomnia. “I don’t care, I don’t care anymore. Not like before”, he sings in tone that is slightly louder than a whisper.

The stunning tunes keep coming in the form of the late-’60s inspired “Where Did You Go?”, which is like a dreamier version of Jackson Browne, and the head-swaying “Summer Day”. The latter radiates of the blissful folk-rock of the Woodstock era with the rejuvenating message to match, as Evian recalls how “it took a summer day for me to know that the past was a long time ago”. Yet a sense of desperation and loneliness is heard on the R&B-influenced ballad, “Anybody”. “Who will look out for me? Who will know my name?”, he pensively asks.

Evian gets a little grittier with “Health Machine”. Commencing with the slow throb of percussion and grizzled guitar line reminiscent of T. Rex, the track grows into a gnarly rocker. A blazing saxophone and booming horns converge on the chunky guitar riffs and methodical rhythms to deliver a glorious finish and to reflect the uncertainty and unpredictability that comes with a young rocker’s life on the road. Evian’s words, though, are the notes that hit hardest.

“We slither out on a Tuesday,
Feeling tired and hopeless, and I don’t know why.
This life is a wonder.”

Like Unknown Mortal Orchestra stripped down to delicate psychedelic-folk arrangement with vocals mirroring Ruban Nielson, Evian further reveals his trepidation “Next To You”. He sings, “Days go by and I’ll never know. I’ll never have the words to explain what is going on.” Throughout his travails, however, there is always one person who has helped him persevere and helped him find peace. He again exhibits his affection on the dazzling “You, Forever”, which is a mesmerizing rocker in the My Morning Jacket / Jim James mould. The track commences with Evian’s stunning falsetto hovering gently above the sweet guitar riff and feathery percussion. It feels like a lullaby, and even his lyrics possess the warmth and optimism of a fairy tale. But instead of a Prince Charming, the hero is our own kindred spirit. That person buried deep inside us who is begging to be revealed.

The album’s road-trip centerpiece comes in the form of “Country”. It’s a head-noodling, country-folk rocker that echoes of the ’70s. It’s a song perfect for crossing the great plains of America’s Midwest or Canada’s Prairies. The track’s meaning is somewhat similar to this. Owens recounts a trip he and his partner took while traveling across the US. As they hit Nevada, they thought a dust storm was developing before them. As he explains it:

“For a hundred miles we didn’t see a person or even a tree. Then all of a sudden, this giant dust cloud appeared, which turned out to be ten cowboys on horses lassoing cows. It was the most real thing I’ve ever seen.”

Whether real or imagined, physical or psychological, Evian’s adventures are real and relatable. His songs are reminders to, as he says on “Summer Day”, not forget about the beautiful things. To stop, reflect, and meet all challenges head on and keep all eyes fixated on the open road before us. With You, Forever, he’s given us the soundtrack for our own personal road trip to the promised land, wherever that may be.

You, Forever is out now via Saddle Creek Records. It is also available on Bandcamp.

Evian heads out on tour this week. Dates and information are available here. His band includes Brian Betancourt (bass), Austin Vaughn (drums), Adam Brisbin (guitar), and Hannah Cohen (backup vocals).

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