Kid Sampson's 'Soda' Tastes Wonderful
By by SHIN-YI LIN, Staff Writer
Almost two years after their debut album, "This Is A Real Album," Kid Sampson released their second musical effort, "Last Chance Soda," this past summer. For those of you who have not heard of Kid Sampson, this rock 'n roll band is composed of Mara Levi '99, Jeremy Sosenko '99 and Mike Sullivan '00. Since the spring of 1997, the trio has gradually stepped up its visibility. While they were still students at Amherst, the band played concerts regularly in the Keefe Campus Center Frontroom, often paired with other local independent artists.

The album was recorded in spaces in and around the College by Owen Muir '01. The main difference between "Last Chance Soda" and "This Is A Real Album" is that their newest effort has been much more meticulously recorded, mixed and mastered (in fact, the release of the album was delayed on this account).

"Last Chance Soda" demonstrates the maturity of their artistry-a maturity that was only hinted at in "This is a Real Album." Even though these songs are excellent performed live, the album is not merely a duplication of what one would hear at their concerts. Instead, the songs on the album are produced in such a way that new light is shed onto each song's artistry.

The album begins with the echo of a timid piano solo, which ties the album together through its reiteration in "Mr. Wonderful" midway through the album and in "Dansk Ferie" at the album's end.

The first song, "Lullabye," features Levi on lead vocals, at times accompanied by subdued vocals from Sosenko. The track starts quietly but builds into a driving rock groove anchored by Sullivan's steady drum beat. The subtle tone shifts in Levi's voice demonstrates her considerable growth as a singer since the first album.

Similarly, "She Moves" is marked by excellent lead vocals by both Levi and Sosenko. In the middle part of the song, Sosenko's half-whispered, half-spoken, harsh, guarded vocals are juxtaposed with Levi's sweet, innocent and lyrical vocals.

In contrast, "What About Your Friends" relies on mixed instrumentals to gather steam. This dark yet sweet rebuke of someone in the midst of heartbreak features layer upon layer of instruments woven together, including a string sextet and synthesizers. After Levi's sullen, vulnerable vocals have been gradually overwhelmed by the thick instrumental layers, the layers are muted when she sings, "I'll find a way to get by if I get out," mirroring her musical escape from the deluge of sounds.

"Mainstream Band" is one of their best upbeat songs, partly because of its great driving sound, and partly because of clever, tongue-in-cheek lyrics such as "We are not a mainstream band / We are searching for the soul of America." (The backing vocals: "We're not in the mainstream / We don't have a soul ... of America")

In addition to more classical sounding rock songs, the album also delves into other musical genres. "Not Good Enough" features brass instrumentals that give the song a smooth retro/lounge feel reminiscent of Burt Bacharach. The nostalgic "So Right" sounds at times like a song in a Broadway musical, with its pronounced strings.

Kid Sampson develops all the promising aspects that were present in their debut album: instrumental variety, clever lyrics, carefully delivered and perfectly harmonized vocals and a keen sense of shifting tones within and between songs.

Since the release of their sophomore album and the launching of their website, Kid Sampson have relocated to New York City, where the band hopes to continue the success they found in the Pioneer Valley.

For those Sampson junkies still at Amherst (and those of you who may very well be die-hard fans but just don't know it yet!), here's hoping that the Kids will return to the Amherst area and again perform live some of the excellent songs featured in "Last Chance Soda."

Issue 04, Submitted 2000-09-27 16:18:05