Forever & For Now
With such great music being made within our own shores it’s easy, even with technology being as advanced as it is now, to miss out on what is happening elsewhere in the world. In the not so distant past there seemed to be a constant stream of exceptional albums coming from Australia’s Laughing Outlaw Records to remind us that there is a wealth of talent down there that really deserved to be checked out. Even now when thinking about the label a few names readily come to mind that defined the sound and vision of Laughing Outlaw. Perry Keyes was one; Jenny Queen, the Redlands Palomino Company were others, and then there was Sam Shinazzi.
Sydney’s Sam Shinazzi recently released ‘Forever & For Now’, his latest full-length album and he’s lost none of the talent he had previously displayed for setting his captivating story-songs to memorable melodies. If you’ve heard any of Shinazzi’s previous work you’ll know what to expect, his almost world-weary vocals coupled with that twangy guitar style that has dominated most of his albums is still to the fore here. The fact that Shinazzi can still capture the listener instantly after five albums while not altering his vision greatly surely proves that the sound he creates is timeless and classic.
The high lonesome sound of a guitar opens the album, instantly evoking wide-open spaces and a feeling of loss before Shinazzi has even sung a word. In under half a minute, without uttering a single word, Shinazzi perfectly sets the picture for what is to follow. But there’s no doubt that Shinazzi has the perfect voice for this type of song. The regret and longing in his vocals as Shinazzi details a struggling relationship is heart-tugging. It’s not just in this opening song, ‘Go’, that Shinazzi shows his talent of articulating the hardships and heartbreak of life so vividly. It’s a part of all of his work. Although a master storyteller it’s not only Shinazzi’s choice of words that convey the theme of a song. The instrumental opening and closing sections of ‘Go’ tell that particular story just as effectively as Shinazzi’s lyrics do. It’s the overall sound that Shinazzi creates that make his songs that much more captivating than most of his contemporaries. We’ve said this before but it needs repeating; along with label mate Perry Keyes there are few male singer/songwriters who can capture the minute details of life so eloquently as well as these two Australians do, especially when they wrap their words in such beguiling melodies.
While Shinazzi writes lyrics that we can all relate to at some point in our lives, he has this unusual trick of inserting his name into some of his songs which is quite a smart little trait; it adds an air of authenticity to the song but strangely also highlights another Shinazzi characteristic, that he’s singing directly to you, the listener, alone. It is a clever move by Shinazzi, opening the album with ‘Go’; while it leaves the listener wondering if the standard is going to be matched throughout the rest of the album that feeling is swept away by the following track, ‘Bones’. Taking an edgier stance than that gorgeous opening song, even the guitars, like Shinazzi’s vocals, sound more bruised and angry and another of Shinazzi’s trademark tricks is used to great effect here; the way that Shinazzi (like label mate Perry Keyes) can repeat the same line over and over increasing the emotion and meaning each time is breathtaking. There are parts of ‘Bones’, especially in the soaring guitar lines that recall ‘Out of the Question’, an earlier Shinazzi song that captured all that is unique about this artist, and which makes that one song alone worth the price of admission.
That Shinazzi has a sound of his own is unquestionable. Vocally there are few to compare Shinazzi to. He’s a soul singer in the purest sense, pouring every last speck of emotion into every word, but the music he produces to accompany his stories has its roots in the classic rock of say Bruce Springsteen. But the overall sound on Shinazzi’s albums is all his own, that distinctive wall of guitars is pure Shinazzi, melodic and with nagging yet beautiful solos taking his songs so much further than even Shinazzi’s well chosen lyrics are capable of doing.
The brooding ‘In Over My Head’ is disturbingly effective. Shinazzi slows things down to a funereal pace while still never losing his way with a beautiful melody for a second. “You’ll never know what you meant to me” and ”the sun comes up for another day and you try to get through it some way” are just two of the opening lines on what is one of the most soulful vocal performances not just Shinazzi but any artist has committed to tape. It’s not always that Shinazzi dresses his most heartbreaking lyrics in such melancholy surroundings though. ‘Grieving’, another of his love-lost songs, is wrapped in Shinazzi’s characteristic guitar sound which belies the sadness in both the lyrics and the singer’s vocals.
‘The Day We Met’ is possibly the prettiest tune on ‘Forever & For Now’, one of those once heard never forgotten songs that still appears to improve every time you hear it, even though you know it’s a perfect pop song from the very first listen. It also reinforces the feeling that Shinazzi says more in one line than many other artists do over a whole album, and that Shinazzi is one of the most expressive singers we have right now.
‘Ballerina’ is really the song to start with if Shinazzi is a new name to you; it carries all that is instantly appealing about this musician’s work – That classic rock sound that will recall Springsteen in places, Shinazzi’s outstanding, emotive vocals and that distinctive guitar sound that embellishes most of his work. It’s also highly addictive as is all of Shinazzi’s music. But really, if this was a slab of vinyl spinning around instead of a shiny little disc you could drop the needle anywhere and be instantly hooked.
It would be far too easy to say that ‘Forever & For Now’ is Shinazzi’s best album to date. The fact is that he’s never released a single song that has been anything less that great and it’s impossible, after five albums, to pick just one album out for attention; they are all special. Shinazzi hasn’t broken the mold here and for that we should be thankful; what he has done is given us more of what we’ve come to expect from him, a full, rich sound laced with some of the most astute lyrics ever afforded to music sung by one of the most emotive vocalists of modern times. Long may he run.