Album Review: V V Brown – Samson & Delilah
‘Belly flop into a swimming pool of sound’ Vanessa Brown sings on ‘Faith’ – it’s the perfect lyric to define her long-awaited second album ‘Samson & Delilah’. The approach to this record is the epitome of what makes any music, regardless of genre, exciting – V V has a newly acquired enthusiasm for making music and has found herself in a Disneyland of endless possibilities. How did she find herself at the opposite end of the rabbit hole? She took a crazy amount of risks and followed her gut, heart and passion. This is probably the bravest album you’re going to hear this year and, I can confidently state, one of the best. Let’s discuss.
‘Substitute For Love’ (no, not a Madonna cover) sets the atmosphere from the off. It’s the first risk, with V V choosing to open with one of the slowest tracks on the album. It works though – ‘Samson & Delilah’ isn’t about one song, it’s about the body of work and, just as a song builds into a glorious euphoria, so does this record. The operatic style of singing that V V has employed of late is given a perfect introduction here – it sounds set atop the drama of the soundscape enveloping it and gives an extra majesty to the stunning chorus that really will make your heart stop. ‘Nothing Really Matters’ (no, not a Madonna cover) follows and is a perfectly placed grower. After the initial spectacle, it gives you breathing space and offers a foray into the subtle on it’s refrain.
The hammer-to-the-face that is ‘Samson”s chorus erupts just as triumphantly as it did upon first listen – it really is a fantastic song, so following it with the album highlight is possibly the only way to go. That smash is the potential cross-over genius of ‘I Can Give You More’ which mixes a familiar dance style, not too unlike 90’s legend Robert Miles, with a modern autotuned robotic twist. If those two aren’t enough to take your breath away, ‘Samson”s chorus of the year accolade is given a run for it’s money by ‘Igneous’ and it’s feel-good-in-a-non-patronising-if-you-can-believe-that-in-this-musical-climate way message. It’s one of those songs that gets bigger and better – from the brilliant verses to a bridge that could easily have cut it as a glorious centrepiece, but that main hook is unbeatable and sits atop the euphoric crescendo of the song with pride, dripping with electro class.
‘Looking For Love’ drops the BPM to a little below mid-tempo which suits the apocalyptic arrangement; whilst it wouldn’t sound out of place in a 70’s sci-fi movie, being drizzled with recurring explosions of beeps and rings stops it sounding at all dated. That Grace Jones twang that is the easy go-to when it comes to new V V is ever-more present on the record and it doesn’t have a more underlined focus as during ‘Looking for Love’ and the immediate charm of ‘The Apple’. I have gushed all I can gush about this song in my previous review, but it really is splendid and a beautiful gateway into the record – most magical is it’s ability to sound fresh and invigorating after repeated listens. Believe me, I should know. The lighter side of the record emerges with ‘The Apple’ and reaches it’s peak on the aforementioned ‘Faith’. This song is the crux of the record in my humble opinion, at least lyrically. It is a heartfelt ode to her own bravery in making the album without support from a major label. You’ll be even happier to hear that it isn’t a soppy ballad – instead it’s the uplifting phoenix of ‘Samson & Delilah’.
‘Ghosts’, whilst sounding nothing like her previous material, is probably the closest you’re going to get. Beautiful choral backing vocals drift behind Vanessa’s soul-pop whilst the bubbling electro undertones and claps erupt into an almost instrumental refrain. ‘Knife’, as its name suggests, splits the record away from the bouncy pop with a simple piano intro. A touch of vocal editing places V V as a distant, rather spooky character in the verses before giving an impassioned delivery to the gorgeous hook. It is one of those songs that sounds weird and rather eclectic at first, but keeps you interested by never sacrificing the important role of an addictive chorus. Whilst that keeps you coming back, the kooky verses will grow ever more effective. Smart move, V V. Very smart, indeed.
The record draws to a close with ‘Beginning’ and as you’d expect from a closing track with that title, it’s a bit experimental. It definitely sees Vanessa at her creative best, shaping the song in an entirely different way to the rest of the record. It is a subtle grower, becoming ever more proud and melodic. Making her exit with breathy whispers and siren-like calls, V V leaves you with a record that doesn’t just need repeated listens, it commands them. There is not one weak track on this record; beautifully cohesive and engagingly varied, ‘Samson & Delilah’ has life running through it. It’s an injection of vigour back into music and, like no other album this year, has managed to send my spirit soaring. It’s one of those things that is hard to define or explain – I guess the closest word I can conjure up is ‘passion’. Vanessa’s music doesn’t exist because she wants it to, ‘Samson & Delilah’ exists because she needs it to. An outstanding piece of work and art.
Words: Simon McMurdo