Sam and the Black Seas – The Game
‘The Game’ is a track that starts in a deceptively understated way – some enigmatic guitar strums allow for plenty of room around them to create an immediate sense of space. Not only that, but there is a curiosity from the start – what are we in store for?
Once those opening strums have taken place, we find ourselves head first into an upbeat anthem packed to the brim with Irish folk influences. Certainly, there are hints of The Frames to be found in Sam and the Black Seas’ sound, and yet they manage to evolve their own tone and deliver something that bristles with excitement.
There is a feeling of familiarity here – it would be fair to say that the band are drawing on some tried and tested styles, and in a post-Mumfords era, it’s easy to hear music in this genre and feel unaffected. But there is something to be said for the sheer energy to be found on ‘The Game’ that makes it stand out from the crowd.
As their second single, Sam and the Black Seas have clearly got something going on, and their polished sound suggests that they have what it takes to go far. The promotional video for the track is similarly packed with curiosity and creativity, blending weird illustrations with the real world and bringing elements from the natural world in among the intrumentation. It’s kind of creepy actually, and not unlike the work of crackpot filmmaker Jan Svankmajer who loved to add disturbing stop frame animation into his work.
What’s great about the track is that it doesn’t just pander to the three minute pop song aesthetic. Instead, it gives itself a good couple more minutes to give the song a chance to flex its muscles, with a breakdown halfway through the song that could quite easily be the end. Instead, we shift into a tender, almost glacial section where the guitars flutter and the cello swells, creating a lush soundscape. From there, it builds and builds, locking back into the electric sound of a bad fixed and focused on enjoying what they are doing. As a result it works for the listener too, and doesn’t feel like the band has gone off on one, jamming it out at the expense of their audience. Instead, it feels intense and intimate, as though we are right there in the midst of it all.
It’s as ‘The Game’ comes to its end that everything comes together so satisfyingly, bookended with the same elements that opened the song in the first place gives a sense of completion and having come full circle. This is alternative folk with a twist that is well worth checking out, especially if you’ve at any point been a fan of Mumford and Sons or The Frames.