Sama Dams
Avant Pop / Noise Rock
RIYL: Radiohead, Radiation City, Catherine Feeney

By Anthony Saia

The moment I heard that Sama Dams had a new record out, I stopped everything I was doing and started listening. Since being introduced to this band in 2013, I’ve been a fast fan. From their 2013 full length No Vengeance to this month’s newest full length record Say It, the Portland trio has made consistent strides toward making music they are seemingly proud of, and represent the here and now.

Say It starts with vocalist, electric uke, and synth player Lisa taking on lead vocal duties on “Pockets.” That’s the interesting thing about the trio. They have two great vocal powers between Lisa and Sam. What’s great is that they don’t rely on using Lisa as a primary vocalist. That said, Sam carries most of the vocal & guitar duties (while playing synth on select songs as well) so it’s kind of a treat to hear Lisa sing lead on various tracks throughout the record (I also recommend album closer “Oceans”). It’s like an “ace in the hole.” To be honest, any song that I’ve heard Lisa sing lead on has grown to be my favorite on their records (see “Maggie” of their 2016 record Comfort In Doubt.)

That said, Sam’s delivery paired with the textures the trio is capable of creating are emotive, even when there are no words at all. Drummer Chris Hermsen adheres it all together with well-placed fills. In fact, Hermsen’s drumming on this record is the most ambitious I’ve heard from him thus far. From the minimalist approach heard on “Secrets” to the off kilter percussion on “Down By One,” he proves time and time again that his drumming is the glue that holds some of the frenetic soundscapes together.

The band is truly exploring sonic textures throughout as well. While Say It carries some auditory themes heard on No Vengeance and Comfort In Doubt, the Portland trio show that they’re always willing to challenge the structure of conventional songs. We hear that throughout the record, but it is highlighted on the aforementioned “Down By One,” as well as “Western Love,” which, while a slow burner, has some curious ebbs and flows throughout the song.

Ultimately, while I haven’t pointed to every song on the new record, you really should listen to it from start to finish. Sam, Lisa, and Chris are great people who make great music. If they are playing live in your area, I encourage you to go to the show too. There is a sense of tension as they play – whether intentional or not, that is truly captivating.

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