Album Review: Insides by Samara York.

Insides front cover copy

Insides by Samara York is nothing short of spectacular. This forthcoming album from the Toronto based singer songwriter is well crafted, with continuous lyrical atmospheres of regret, anger, and betrayal. Despite these incendiary lyrical themes, the music is powerfully calm, surging energy gradually; simmering without coming to a full boil. When these two elements collide throughout this record, it gives the listener a sense of powerlessness as the walls come crashing down in slow motion. 

The album starts off with a gorgeous, echo-laden piano arpeggio on “Intro” that creates a foggy dreamscape, only to be punctuated by York’s voice. The music and lyrics set the general mood of the album, and York demonstrates her impressive control of her vocal range.

The song immediately segues into the mid-tempo songs “Skeletons” and “Space Between”, bringing in York’s band in a rockier wake-up call. These two songs make use of  guitarist Jaime Cazes’ classic stratocaster tone to add a alternative rock texture to the choruses of both. The modulating bass rhythm on “Space Between” by Tudor Gagea is also worth noting, as it drives the song to it’s climax in a powerful, yet contained manner.

“No Prisoner” is the fourth track of the album and has a more playful staccato rhythm. The groove is reminiscent of classic jazz artists, albeit with its own flair. In particular, the overlaid backing vocal tracks give York’s vocal performance a more rounded sound. Excellent placement by producer Joe Coupal if I do say so myself.

The mood immediately changes with “Live Here” and “Loud and Clear”. Both tracks are slow, remorse-filled tracks that exude a sense of helplessness. The darker overtones in both songs act like an incoming storm front slowly creeping over an otherwise calm summer’s night. The electricity hovers somewhere between the rhythm and melodic instrumental tracks in these songs. In “Loud and Clear”, the contrast between the rhythmic and melodic sections is make apparent by the stark shifts from full band crescendos to quiet vocal and piano choruses. With each crescendo larger in scope than the last, the chorus of the song becomes more powerful  as the song progresses. In addition, the drumming of Adam Thomas compliments the rises and falls in the music in a skillful manner, giving the songs a tight feel.

“Guilty Mind” is a bit of an oddity on this song. This acoustic guitar -oriented song is up tempo and upbeat, breaking up the album’s musical flow in a great way. After this short jaunt into the world of levity is the rather desolate “After the Funeral”. A well crafted song with rather complex vocal harmonies, the track continues the sense of foreboding that is intricately woven throughout the album’s lyrics and musical motifs.

“New Earth” follows a similar vein to “After the Funeral”, but comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. Whereas “After the Funeral” is focussed more on driving, rockier rhythms, “New Earth” is a more operatic piece that consists only of York’s vocals and piano, and an elegantly simple strings accompaniment. Although it has the potential to become too grandeoise to fit the rest of the album, this track demonstrates excellent restraint in the use of the strings section, soliciting the listener to visit the track multiple times in order to uncover their intricacies rather than displaying them out front for all to see.

The final official track is called “Escapism” and is my favourite on the album. This track starts simple and quiet but has a slow build to a beautiful chorus and bridge section that features a subtle but well crafted guitar solo and use of the same contained string elements from the previous track. An excellent end to the album, this track provides a sense of closure for the listener, at least musically.

The use of contiguous elements in the album proves to be addictive, and makes the listener want to listen to it over and over again to uncover the meanings behind the metaphors in order to fully understand the relationship between the lyrics and the unspoken vibes of the music itself. 

Insides will be available this July from Samara York’s website. I recommend this album to anyone who enjoys music with soul and purpose; two things this album is chock full of. For a sample of what is to come on Insides, click 


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