(Photo Credit - Angela Ricciardi)
Following The Wombat’s Fix Yourself, Not The World; Spoon’s Lucifer on the Sofa, and Methyl Ethyl’s Are You Haunted?, I needed an album I did not have to think about. Something that said, “F*** your ‘A’ Game comment.” Maybe a punk band that does not care about nor wants a good review. Then, I listened to the first minute and a half of “Skin A Rat” from SASAMI’s upcoming album Squeeze, and I felt great relief. Heavy Metal that’s on the verge of Death Metal. A band like that definitely doesn’t give a sh*t about a music blog writer’s opinion. However, I then made a huge mistake.
Doing a quick google search is not atypical for me. Although I feel like I listen to a lot of music, I am offered the opportunity to preview albums from many bands that I have never heard of. If I want to sound at least a little bit intelligent in my review, I need to learn the basics about the band. When I did a search on SASAMI, this came up:
In The New York Times article, SASAMI states Metal “is such a cis white male space…There is room for someone like me to come in and make a mess in it.” I did a little more research and learned SASAMI is a 31-year-old woman from Los Angeles who graduated from the Eastman School of Music. If I ever needed an example of a musician bringing their “A” Game, it would be a music school grad with “a Caucasian baby boomer” father and a “Zainichi, ethnic Koreans who came or were taken to Japan during the colonial occupation,” mother challenging herself on her sophomore album to stand and make some noise musically within the male-dominated Metal genre. So before fully listening to the album, my research added interesting and seemingly random layers to how I had to listen to it. There goes my simple review.
As I stated earlier, “Skin A Rat” is very aggressive and Metal. My wife walked into our office from the other side of the house and said, “What are you listening to?” I laughed, but the fact that she came in here to ask says something. Yet, the first song is misleading. It wants to drive the weak away, which was why I said this should have been an easy review. However, the rest of the album is not nearly as abrasive. (For those into “Skin A Rat,” SASAMI offers “Say It,” which I might lean more toward calling Industrial, and “Sorry Entertainer,” which is Metal but toned down from the album opener.)
The greatest strength of this album is not that SASAMI reaches her goal because I do not believe she does. There is too much going on in Squeeze to simply call it a Metal album. She is an Eastman School of Music grad and explores subgenres within Rock and Alt Rock. For example, “The Greatest” is more Garage Band. “Tried To Understand” is Sheryl Crow-esque Pop Classic Rock. “Make It Right” is Post-Punk. And “Squeeze Ft. No Home”…well, check it out.
Yet there is so much more. “Call Me Home” is special. It showcases the “pretty music” that Michelle Zauner, author and musician of Japanese Breakfast” worried SASAMI would lose “going down a weird path.” It is an album standout. Full of feeling and emotion, and perfect.
And then there are the last two songs on Squeeze. If they do not show that SASAMI went to music school, I don’t know what will.
Final Thought: Swayed by a bit of research, I needed it to find my way into the review. However, the more I listened to this album, the more I heard the intelligence of an extremely talented and brave musician. Hopefully, SASAMI continues to push and break down boundaries because there is no telling what she will bring further along in her career.
Favorite Songs: “Say It,” “Call Me Home,” and my favorite favorite, “Need It To Work.”
Rating - 5/5 (No apologies.)