Samsolid90Solid songs from Sam Phillips' Solid State... the chanteuse returns with a hand-picked collection.


Solid State: Songs From the Long Play
Sam Phillips
13 tracks / 36:05

As the title indicates, these are songs by Sam Phillips selected from The Long Play. To answer your next question, The Long Play is (more or less) an ongoing year-long project featuring on-line debuts of new music by Sam Phillips. The format gave Phillips the freedom to pretty much do whatever she wanted to do – actually, something she's been in the habit of doing for quite a while now, to the delight of music critics and fans alike.

Having an unmistakable sound but avoiding the pitfalls of pop stylings and genre boundaries, Phillips sounds more 'indie' than most 'indie' artists, while avoiding the cliched self-indulgence and acting-out of that angst-ridden crowd. This is not to say that all is sweetness, light, and neatly-ribboned packages here. Phillips writes from the soul and has apparently had more than a few dark nights.

Artistic and eloquent, Phillips' lyrics reflect her graphic design leanings with references to 'full-frame' pictures and crooked lines, and phrases like, "when I'm a camera I see things," from the aptly-titled, "When I'm a Camera." In the same song Phillips sings, "you keep pulling beauty from this mess." Pulling beauty from a mess is, in fact, what Phillips seems to be very good at diong.

Solid State is a varied album of interesting, thoughtful songs that come from a bit of a world-weary soul (perhaps both the blessing and curse of the artist) - still, the messages are often positive and seem to reach outward and inward at the same time. " Don't let 'perfect' make you blind to this beautiful world, Don't erase your crooked lines, Take your mistakes and come with me," from "Magic For Everybody," is not only good advice for the listener but a template for Phillips' style, which is rough around the edges and full of a roguish charm.

The songs on Solid State are organic real-time songs, often starting out with just voice and acoustic guitar or piano, sometimes incorporating Sam's own vocal harmony, percussion, and even the occasional string section (always small and intimate sounding, of course). "Lying," which sounds influenced by The Beatles "The Inner Light" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," builds up to an impressive ending featuring a middle-eastern sounding violin solo – still, the tracks are essentially minimalist compared to most contemporary over-produced, auto-tuned studio projects. There's a definite home-made quality to the music on Solid State, and that is not by accident. Phillips created the songs on her own terms.

If there's a track that's even close to being a conventional pop love song, it would be the surprise Christmas track, "It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas," which – despite the potentially depressing title – sounds like a hooky demo just waiting for a big Phil Spector production, complete with sleigh bells. "So Glad You're Here" brings together all the album's key elements: a haunting Lennon-like piano accompaniment, poignant lyrics and a cello joining the mix – Phillips' vulnerable but capable voice weaving the melody against ascending piano chords and eloquent cello lines.

In theory, an open-ended project, the physical incarnation of Solid State (at least the version I've got) starts and ends with songs about relationships, fills the middle with observations about life, and even throws in a Christmas song! Originally conceived as an evolving, organic, on-line experiment, these songs can almost be thought of as ever-evolving demos – a must-have for fans of Sam Phillips and a should-have for anyone interested in thoughtful, well written songs from an artistic soul.

-Bert Saraco

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