Samantha Savage Smith's 'Fake Nice' Shows Real Growth

Samantha Savage Smith's 'Fake Nice' Shows Real Growth
8
On her third album, Calgary's Samantha Savage Smith digs into the liminal space between inner doubts and outer life. Wrapped up in swirling psychedelia and bubbling dream pop, Fake Nice questions, second-guesses and affirms itself across 10 songs, using a lush new palette to land its points and prod its thoughts.

If Smith's last album, 2015's Fine Lines, was a guitar-focused take on indie pop, Fake Nice is much more expansive in its approach. Produced by Smith and drummer-producer Chris Dadge in their home studio, her songwriting gets refracted into prismatic swaths of sound. It feels like Smith's exploring instrumentation in a way she hasn't done before, and the results make for a compelling, nuanced pop album.

Fake Nice opens with its most straightforward rocker: the title track, which lets Smith's innate knack for melody soar over jangling guitars and synths. Album highlight "In It to Win" finds her wrestling with a sense of place among newer emerging voices: "They're all looking forward and I'm still facing in," Smith sings, and while that could land like a simple lament, here among bursts of guitar and saxophone, it feels as determined as it is despairing.

The ranging instrumentation infuses songs like "Sunset Rip" and "Spun Out" with new depths: the former with a sense of tidy clip, the latter with a feeling of emotional magnitude. "Different" leans on a bassline as Smith assesses a shifting relationship ("I've been waiting for your reasons / Instead of just caving in"), while "Wholesomely Made" lets a synth lead its animating hook. The wordless "ESGGallin" anchors itself around a dub groove, reverberating its vibe without any lyrics at all.

To put it another way: Fake Nice is real good, an excellent album whose shimmering surface reveals deeper, refracting depths in questions of person and place. "Am I too late?" Smith asks mid-way through its runtime, seven years after her last album. Fake Nice proves that Smith's return couldn't be more welcome. (Saved by Vinyl)