Nirvana (EP)

Sam Smith

PMR, 2013

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


As a grad student always in the midst of procrastinating one thing or another, I spend a lot of time poking through the Spotify new releases section, trying to find something that will pique my interest and jumpstart my motivation for more paper writing or Freud reading. My latest discovery? British soul-pop singer Sam Smith, who has hit airwaves with his debut EP, Nirvana. His full-length, In The Lonely Hour, is set to arrive later this month, but for now, these seven songs are an utterly stellar intro to a unique and resonant young talent. At only 22 years old, Smith writes and croons well beyond his years. His voice is steeped in soul, and each track soars on the clarity and warmth of his commanding performances.

Opener “Safe With Me,” produced by Two Inch Punch, has a slinky, trip-hop quality to it, the static flurries of drums accompanied by subtly distorted vocals. But it’s the melted chocolate quality of Smith’s singing that really pulls you in.

This is no more evident than on the slow-burning torch song “Nirvana,” which has broken my heart and mended it back together every time I listen it. Paired with perfectly lush, hazy instrumentation, Smith describes the tenuous, electric charge of reconnecting with an old lover: “I’m done with running so I give in to you / This moment has caused a reaction / Resulting in our reattachment.” In the span of three minutes, Smith manages to capture the whole precious scope of a captured moment in time that will never last, and yet…It’s a stunner that has to be listened to (and believe me, I have about a hundred times now). There is also a remix of “Nirvana” by Harry Fraud included as the final track here, but personally, the original is a perfect statement that needs no additional tinkering.   my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Sam Smith first emerged on the music scene through his collaboration with British electronic duo Disclosure on their 2013 album, Settle, which featured Smith on its lead single “Latch.” While that version is certainly good, Smith’s acoustic take on this EP provides a nice counterpart to Disclosure’s tricked out, effusive pop. Here, his voice lilts effortlessly into a gorgeous falsetto as the piano trills softly behind him, turning this into a powerful ballad: “Now I got you in my space / I won’t let go of you / Got you shackled in my embrace / I’m latching on to you.” Smith’s live version of “I’ve Told You Now,” performed at St. Pancras Old Church in London, is similarly evocative, tethered to the ethereal swirling of his voice with little else than strings and piano.

The US edition of this EP features three additional tracks: the aforementioned remix of “Nirvana,” a quick, slinky-smooth pairing with Disclosure and Nile Rodgers (“Together”), and “Money On My Mind,” which is incidentally the track that led me to Sam Smith’s work (Thanks, Spotify!). Again, it’s his effortlessly pure falsetto that takes center stage as he sings, “I don’t have money on my mind / I do it for the love.” Idealistic, maybe, but Smith is so endearing that he pulls it off.

Cleary, I’ve been entranced by Sam Smith’s debut EP. The songs are evocative, honest, and wise beyond their years, uplifted even higher by Smith’s gorgeous voice. Even better, each track is distinctive, both from the rest of the material on the EP and from other artists of Smith’s ilk. It’s the pairing of glitchy instrumentation and silky-smooth vocals on “Stay With Me,” the cracked poetry lyrics of “Nirvana,” or the seamless genre bending on “Money On My Mind.” Hopefully the iMinent In The Lonely Hour has as much to recommend, but in the meantime, I’ll keep spinning this EP.

Rating: A

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