Sam Weber, a Canadian-born, newly minted Angeleno, follows in a long line of SoCal folk-rockers. Echoes from Laurel Canyon resonate in his music: the sound of transplants from across the continent, like Neil Young and Joni Mitchell, or the consummately pro singer-songwriters of the ’70s, like Warren Zevon and Randy Newman. But as Weber says in “Survival,” he’s “not looking for some ’70s revival.”
His bio proudly lists his inclusion on a compilation that features like-minded L.A. residents such as Tim Heidecker, Blake Mills and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes. The more modern L.A. folk-rock sound is all over Weber’s album Get Free with clear influence from Mills and an appearance from Dawes’s Griffin Goldsmith. Inspiration was taken from his move to the Golden State, too, which possibly inspired the title of the record: living in the land of the free.
Despite this clear sense of musical community, the record was largely recorded at home with his partner, Mallory Hauser. You can hear that shagginess and comfort — the songs come out loose and dusty, with deeply comfortable grooves and some inventive guitar and production work, obviously the result of long hours spent tinkering.
Ballads, like the opener “Truth Or Lie,” have that deep, rubber-bridge guitar sound that is so popular now, and some compelling synth work. “Truth Or Lie” shudders with these building pads, the piano-led “Here’s To The Future” features a very tasteful saxophone solo and “Nowhere Bound” sparkles with twinkly little bits of keys.
“Get Out Of The Game,” a standout track about touring, is appropriately shambling, with Weber tossing off one-liners and wryly summing up his surroundings. He maintains the classic, early Bob Dylan snark in his lyrics throughout the record, and it’s refreshing to get a bit of humour. The spacy bridge is also a welcome, unexpected turn, as the track essentially falls apart before returning with a renewed bite and vigour.
Most of the tracks follow a similar formula of a shuffling mid-tempo groove with aggressively tasteful and subtle touches of guitar, synth and percussion. The whole Dessner brothers meets Phoebe Bridgers plucky guitar, twinkly synth, third-wave coffee shop soundtrack thing is a little played out, but this employs it quite well. The songwriting is tight and clever, the instrumentals — though occasionally drab — are well-executed and Weber has a certain charm to his lyrics and guitar playing.
Sam Weber’s latest album, Get Free, will be available Feb. 4.