If you've been on the lookout for a new favourite singer-songwriter since Mark Kozelek revealed himself to be slightly knuckleheadish, check out England's Will Samson. The young man has four LPs and three EPs under his belt, on which he bridges ambient electronics and experimental folk. Matched with a striking falsetto voice, Samson's ballads luxuriate in melancholy.
New album Welcome Oxygen is more straight-ahead singer-songwriter-ish than some of his previous work, but there's an ever-so-subtle warble on a few of the guitar tracks that adds an experimental sparkle. "Old Roots (Day One)" is a good example; what would otherwise be a fine if somewhat ordinary solo number takes on a freshly modern feel with guitar treatment, understated vocal distortion and quiet background ambient noise. It's beautifully rendered.
The album's first single is also its title track. "Welcome Oxygen" delivers more of the same gentle, downtempo pop, this time filled out with a well-placed violin solo. If this track doesn't end up behind the end credits of a smart Hollywood romance sometime soon, it'll be a crime.
Welcome Oxygen may be a tad more conservative than previous projects, but that in no way detracts from the end result. His songwriting continues to gather strength, and the production here is top shelf. For all his low-key, understated delivery, Samson has produced a dynamic, thrilling record, his best so far. (Talitres)