written by Chris Familton
Local songwriter Sam Shinazzi is onto his fourth album with When The Lights Come Up and he again captures that easy listening indie-country vibe that was so prevalent in the 90s with acts like Lemonheads and Buffalo Tom. This is a record that will never set the world on fire but contains eleven solid, wistful and heartfelt songs.
The bulk of When The Lights Come Up settles into a laid-back vibe, sounding like the musicians are all playing from a couch or peering through the fading light of a long day. It suits Shinazzi’s songs about relationships – with people and places – and primarily there is a theme of loss that pervades his stories. Feel So Much Better and Everything To Me approach the subject matter from different angles. The former is take on the positive side of a dead romance while the latter is filled with regret at the same outcome.
The aforementioned vibe of the album does have its downside by creating a flat monotony if the listener isn’t prepared for and wanting such a morose listen. Perhaps in realising this Shinazzi inserts Grey two thirds of the way through the album. It lifts the mood and feels like the opening of windows in a stuffy room even though the song’s subject matter is consistent with many of the previous tracks. The cool breeze and effortless momentum of the song saves the album from wallowing in its own gloom.
From that high Shinazzi pulls everyone back down to Earth with a sparsely-arranged ballad that stands out with the minimal use of instruments and some wonderful pedal steel courtesy of Jason Walker and Shinazzi’s piano playing. It recalls Wilco in their stripped-bare moments and is a bold statement on an album comprised mainly of relaxed and plaintively strummed songs.
this review first appeared in Drum Media, Sydney