Northern Ireland based Sam Wickens makes music purely for the soul. As a mesmersing solo performer, Sam’s been turning heads for quite a few years now. Compared to fellow male solo artists such as Paolo Nutini, Jeff Buckley and John Martyn, Sam blends a perfect balance of soul, folk and even electronic together. Back in 2017, Sam was taken under the wing of world famous Tony Visconti. Mentored and nudged in the right direction, Sam’s process with Tony was featured on the Sky Arts documentary “Tony Vistonti’s Unsigned Heroes”. Now here with his debut album “All I’ve Seen”, let’s take a look into the tracks that shaped one of the best albums to come out of 2019.
Combining layers of a folk voice mixed with electronic loops, ‘Falling’ is a fascinating album opener that points the flow in the right direction. Showcasing Sam’s vocal range in all the right areas, the soft falsetto he portrays blossoms the track as one that stands out. Not afraid to prove his versatility within music, “Ice” sees a completely different approach to the first number. Ambient and spacious, the synth’s secure comfort in the background of the mix. It’s the modulation effects on the vocals that bring the song closer to the atmospheric vibe.
Stripping it back and situating the air with folk elements again, “Cliffside” and “Forest” feel like Sam in his natural habitat. Poetic, the tracks feel more traditional and slightly more influenced by artists such as Bon Iver and Passenger. Forest tells a story of what seems like battling with your demons and working past them taking over your mind. “My depression’s now a trend, I burned the candle at both ends” has to be the most magical lyric on the track purely because Sam’s confessing he’s exhausted from the anxiety thoughts.
Bringing us back to the electronic flavouring of previous numbers, the sub bass effect throughout “Eden” points the direction of the album slightly more alternative then folk based. Engaging, there’s a slight haunting presence within this number from the arrangement. A beautifully put together track that sticks as a highlight on the album for me. “Red” is like Jeff Buckley had a soft songwriting session with Paolo Nutini. Angelic and insecure, the bones of this track are shaking at it’s core. Mesmerising, Sam will keep your gaze and ears from the start straight to the finish with this number.
Heavenly ballad “Ravens & Crows” hooks you on like a seat belt does in a car, it protects you from whatever struggles you’re going through. Numbing you from the pain, the raw vocals motivate the aura with the transforming degree of strength. A sinister presence lingers again with this one, and it feels like a ‘mourning’ track. There’s empathy within and there’s so much love for this song. “You’ve Got Nothing Left” & “Grove” play as subtle tracks that still hold onto the strong momentum of the album, but it feels like it’s been done before better on the album already.
“Jericho” is a friendly goodbye that doesn’t feel like the end. The only thing I could say to improve on the album, it feels like it needs more of a momentum towards an upbeat arrangement, but saying that, I couldn’t picture most of these songs would work well upbeat. A beautiful mixture of arrangement, Sam Wickens’ “All I’ve Seen” will be the album that makes Sam reach for the stars. Here’s to the future, Sam.