Mike Recommends: Sam Means - 10 Songs

Sam Means – 10 Songs

Produced By: Steven McDonald (The Format - Dog Problems & Fun. - Aim and Ignite)

Label: Hello Records

Released: January 22, 2016

I’ve been a fan of Sam Means for some time now. Most people know Sam as “the guy from The Format who wasn’t Nate Ruess” – Nate Ruess, of course, went on to form the band Fun. with Jack Antinoff (Steel Train & Bleachers) and Andrew Dost (Anathallo), who skyrocketed into superstardom with their last album Some Nights (2012). Don’t get me wrong, I like Nate – Fun. is a decent band that embraces what Nate was always best at: epic choruses with dynamic, emotional vocal hooks, but I’ve been seriously missing The Format these past few years.

If you haven’t heard The Format’s final album, Dog Problems (2006), I recommend stopping everything and doing that immediately. It’s an ambitious, lushly orchestrated pop-rock masterpiece that is absolutely in my all-time favorite albums list – right up there with The Beatles & Springsteen. It has Nate’s hooks, but thrown into Sam’s much more grounded and timeless power pop sound. The album has aged VERY well, and every time I hear it I wonder what the next album might have been. Fun.’s first album, Aim & Ignite, apparently used multiple songs that were going to be on the next Format album. The big difference is that it lacked Sam’s ability to temper Nate’s wild tendencies.

10 Songs is the closest thing fans of The Format are going to get to a sequel to Dog Problems. One of the most important ingredients is that it keeps the gorgeous and unique multi-instrumental arrangements that made Dog Problems so rewarding to listen to over and over again.

The big difference between the two records is obviously the vocals. There’s no getting around it, Sam doesn’t have the grandeur or epic range that Nate brings to the table with his voice; however, he knows how to use what range he has. His vocals are more reserved and warm than Nate’s, and that fits well with the instrumental sound.

In the end, 10 Songs isn’t the masterpiece that Dog Problems was because it lacks the highest highs and lowest lows that gave Dog Problems such dynamic range, but it’s still pretty damn fantastic. Most importantly, it’s different. It’s an album that feels like a warm blanket – the perfect little record to throw on while making coffee and eggs on a quiet, sunny Sunday morning. Who doesn’t love that cozy feeling?

Give it a spin if you like a good, quiet indie-pop record.