Finally, after breaking onto the scene back in 2015, south London-raised Samm has blessed us with his long-awaited debut album ‘Untidy Soul’. Featuring singles ‘Still Broke’ and ‘Grow’, the 12-track run welcomes listeners with Samm’s unmistakably coarse yet honeyed vocals, which play over a lively soundscape of roomy jazz instrumentation and playful beats. Henshaw invokes the likes of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Etta James, infusing the tracklist with gospel-soul, his church-choir background bringing heart to the project.
Befitting its name, Henshaw has described ‘Untidy Soul’ as a reflection of his own “scatterbrain”: each song tells a different story, with Samm exploring love, longing, self-care and self-destruction – and even dabbling in social critique. One minute you’re bumping your head to the free and easy ‘Chickenwings’, a tune about a night of good food and looking after yourself at the end of a long week (or as he puts it: “Relax, rejuvenate and just eat snacks / Your week’s been long, so just ease back”), complete with churchy backing vocals and bouncing organ synths. And the next: getting reflective in the early hours with ‘East Detroit’, a moody R&B track featuring hypnotic snares and aching vocals as Henshaw agonises over a fractured relationship.
While he’s not content to tell just one story, in essence the project is all about growth, Samm having noted that “we are sort of messy” but that we can “get things cleaned up and change things if we choose to”, a sentiment reflected most in the album’s closing moments. In a spiritual sequel to his hit 2018 single ‘Broke’, which found Samm daydreaming about success while couch surfing, having lost his job and his girl, ‘Still Broke’ finds him no better off despite achieving those dreams.
He’s still suffering from the same “faults and flaws”, and the accompanying video see his alter-ego ‘Sonny’ reflecting on the vapid reality of “tryna find love inside a paycheck”, tears flowing as he stares out from his lavish mansion. The track ends with a hopeful nod towards change, the narrator realising that “these days can’t stay the same”. This pays off in the beautifully tender closeout track ‘Joy’, with Samm looking back on his past and learning instead to find love in the little things, finally taking in them “joy – sweet joy”.
Ultimately, whatever the subject matter, Henshaw always manages to create a warm and relaxed atmosphere, inviting listeners to get comfortable join him on a journey into the often offbeat, occasionally troubled and ultimately bittersweet reflections of an ‘Untidy Soul’.
Release date: September 28
Record label: Dorm Seven