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Samiam

Astray (Hopeless)

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As one listens to Samiam's new album, two thoughts spring to mind: 1. My, that's a bouncy little opener. 2. How long before this poppy song reveals itself to be, in fact, a three-chord rocker-stomper? The answer, apparently, is 33 seconds, give or take a few. The band rarely strays from this quiet-to-noisy evolution, and the similarities to Diary-era Sunny Day Real Estate are transparent, but there are much worse crimes than following a formula and having obvious influences. Samiam's elegantly melodic lead-ins are quite pretty, its heavy parts churn out fist-pumping intensity, its strained backup yelps add an emotional edge, and its whole package feels refreshingly sincere.

Because of the monotony of the format, the album as a whole blurs together, but except for the six-minute "Why Do We?" which drags a bit, Samiam delivers the goods on a song-by-song basis. Its finest tune, opener "Sunshine," recounts either a dying relationship with a romantic partner or, more likely, a messy divorce from a former record company. (Major labels, such as Atlantic, tend to mistreat and abandon such underground bands as Samiam.) Jason, the frontman of this first-names-only crew of punk veterans, sings, Blind them with kindness/until they are reminded/they're lonely and desperate/... They see what they want in you/they get what they need from you/and they take advantage of you/They would be nothing without you. Aimee Mann would approve.

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