COVER TESTIn May, I wrote about 25 year old singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels from New York, and her single “For You To Do”.  Today, I’m taking a look at her first full-length record Double Bind which was released July 22nd.  I really loved the single, and Double Bind does not disappoint, and fits in quite nicely with some of our favorite albums of the year, like Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness or Tiny Ruins’ Brightly Painted One.

The first track is the piano-led pop single “For You to Do” which turns into a pretty awesome guitar solo by the end.  It transitions seamlessly into a slow build rocker “Real Tragedies” which ends with another really awesome guitar solo and some distortion. Part of what is so striking about Double Bind is the diversity of styles Samuels hits on the record, the distortion from “Real Tragedies” lends way into a beautiful piano ballad “Please Say Some Good” which has some incredible harmonies, and some heavy lyrics. That’s followed up by the slick groove of “From Above You” which is a danceable number that’s got some great electronics and an infectious bass line. Lyrically, Samuels is a great storyteller, one standout lyrically is “This Place”, which tells the story of two store clerks who leave town.

In the middle of the LP, the title track, “Double Bind” starts up with Samuels singing through some effects, until she slowly begins getting drowned out by an organ, cleaning up the vocals, and the organ fades out, it’s a really cool effect, and it’s the perfect lead in to a southern-style rocker “Your Door”.  Samuels really understands the space between tracks, between “Your Door” and “Almost”, there’s some dead space, but it builds up some tension before going into “Almost”. It’s executed perfectly, and it’s necessary on this album where Samuels goes from a southern rocker to an indie-pop track like “Almost”. “Give It Up” is the penultimate track on the record, it’s a great track with some more harmonies and piano, and a total change in direction about two-thirds of the way through.  The record comes to close with “Chanson” which is another epic build, and a perfect way to close the record.

A double bind itself is defined as an emotional conflict in which two (or more) conflicting messages negate each other, and you can feel some of that frustration in Samuels’ music.  Double Bind is an impressive debut. Johanna Samuels’ songwriting and storytelling on the record is impressive for a debut record. I guess it shouldn’t be too much a surprise, over the last couple of years, Samuels has put together a four piece band, and released a great EP Giant Fantasy Life. You can listen to and buy the record on her bandcamp here, she’s got vinyl, CD, and of course download, and some cool merch as well.

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