Albums Of The Week

The Sam Willows' debut album is polished, but too happy-poppy

The Sam Willows comprise (from far left) Benjamin Kheng, Narelle Kheng, Sandra Riley Tang and Jonathan Chua.
The Sam Willows comprise (from far left) Benjamin Kheng, Narelle Kheng, Sandra Riley Tang and Jonathan Chua.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Take Heart is packed to the brim with feel-good pop and showcases the band's buoyant mood

With their ascending popularity among the digital natives hanging out at YouTube, as well as mainstream audiences through major events such as the National Day Parade and Singapore Grand Prix, it was inevitable that The Sam Willows' debut album would be chock-full of feel-good, unabashed pop.

The band have admitted just as much to the press - the tunes on Take Heart are made for their core fan base, which range from primary school pupils to those in their late teens. A first album by a band that already have a high profile on the gig circuit in the past three years might be a little late.

However, this is music made by millennials for millennials and the quartet could have been content - and successful - to release just sporadic singles and music videos for fans of the streaming generation without having to release any long-form work at all.

For music critics to take them seriously as artists, though, a full-length release would provide a measure of their worth.

  • POP


    The Sam Willows

    Sony Music

    3.5/5 stars

Many of the songs are a far cry from the band's early tunes. The closest the album gets to the organic, alternative rock feel of 2012's Nightlight is Stay, a moody ballad with an introspective feel.

The rest of the tunes are glossier, with flawless, multi-part harmonies from all four members and a big, shiny production by Swedish producer Harry Sommerdahl, who is behind acts such as The Wanted and Ace Of Base.

Lead single Take Heart, released in May, was probably alarming for fans of their early work - it is a bluegrass-meets-electronic dance music ditty, not unlike Avicii's Wake Me Up.

Fortunately, the rest of the album is not as cheesy, although, like the title track, there seems to be a tendency to tap into tried-and-tested contemporary genres.

Taking All His Time, for example, could do without the overused dubstep-lite touches. Opening track Rest Of Your Life ("Won't you spend the rest of your life with me") is so full of enthusiasm and positivity that you can already foresee couples using it as the soundtrack of their proposal videos.

Not The Only One and Riverdance, and their horns and sing-along choruses, are just as buoyant. For Love skitters along with its R&B touches.

An old favourite, the version of Glasshouse recorded with multi- Grammy winning producer Steve Lillywhite when he was in Singapore in 2013, is also included on the album and it blends well with the other sanguine tunes.

Despite the quartet looking grim and unsmiling on the cover picture, there's a positivity that comes across as overwhelming at times - one wishes that the band would push the envelope more and imbue the songs with some grit.

Still, things are looking up for the Willows, who according to Take Heart, are in a buoyant mood.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2015, with the headline 'Flitting first for The Sam Willows'. Print Edition | Subscribe