Artist Spotlight

Review: Damen Samuel, “Odyssey”

No Comments 5 October 2014

Review: Damen Samuel, “Odyssey”

“Through the songs on Odyssey, Samuel indeed takes listeners on a journey. It’s a path that winds through the fog of emotion and the spare moments of vulnerability, but it somehow remains hopeful, pressing onward.”

Artist: Damen Samuel

EP: Odyssey

Genre: Soul Folk

RIYL: Ben Harper, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Jack Johnson

Damen Samuel Odyssey

Striking. Different. Those are the two descriptors that immediately come to mind as soon as the vocals kick in to Damen Samuel’s new EP Odyssey. What begins innocuously enough as a mellow, laid-back folk vibe quickly takes on a unique sound when Samuel’s expressive voice takes hold.

Samuel draws heavily upon his German/Nigerian heritage as inspiration for his style; but what’s most interesting is the experimental, poetic nature of his lyrics. It’s melancholic but hopeful. There’s a world weariness but powerful lyrical presence that’s enhanced by classic folk and rock influences. And it can’t be stated enough just how clever and wisely Samuel uses his unique vocal style to his advantage. He writes to enhance it, and it’s a great lesson to other songwriters who may be stuffing down the traits that make them unique vs. what they think people want to hear.

The atmospherically pleasing and instrumental “Misty” opens the album. Clocking in under a minute, it only takes that long to set the correct tone and mood for what’s to come. An amuse-bouche, if you will. Lead track “Where Do We Go” then slips in with a passionately applied vocal performance that charms as you wrap your ears around the breadth of Samuel’s sound. “The Whisper” picks right up where that leaves off, employing more of a classic singer-songwriter sound with an easy vibe while injecting a moody but impassioned folk lyric.

Again, more of Samuel’s mellow vibe and fiery lyrics lift up the wonderful “Noah’s Ark” and “The Gates”. But it’s the wisely chosen “My Way to You” that leaves the lasting impression. It is striking in its simplicity and measured melancholy. And highlights the singular tone of Samuel’s vocal talents. Clocking in at a whopping 7:15, you barely register the time gone by because of the masterful way Samuel paces this track musically and lyrically. Everything has room to breathe and maneuver in just the right time. Minimal accompaniment adds fuel to the slow burn on this track, and the payoff really begins to kick in around the 4:30 mark.

Through the songs on Odyssey, Samuel indeed takes listeners on a journey. It’s a path that winds through the fog of emotion and the spare moments of vulnerability, but it somehow remains hopeful, pressing onward. Similar to artists like Ben Harper or Tim Buckley, the more stripped-down it gets, the more you truly feel what Samuel’s soul is saying. This record will sneak up on you if you just press play and let it go; this is not the type of album you fast forward through and listen for a hook and a chorus. No, this is the work of an artist who pushes himself and experiments with the boundaries of folk music with his performance style. Odyssey is an adventurous album from an exciting artist to watch.


Damen Samuel website: http://www.damensamuel.com/

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