In Darkened Rooms is the debut album from Welsh songwriter, following on from his 2012 EP A Marker & A Map. It's an album of songs that have been nurtured and honed over many years, and while it naturally has a polished feel to it because of this, it's never at the expense of Airey's unique voice. There's a wide variety of influences at play here, taking in folk, indie-folk, and Americana, creating a richer sound overall, and an album of impressive quality.
The opening is exceptionally strong, with Camera Lens and Epitaph sounding like Arcade Fire tracks (which is a big compliment). The lyrics for Camera Lens are taken from a poem written by Airey when he was in his teens, so when he says this album has been gestating for a long time, he really means it. The latter is the second single from the album, with a fantastic beat running throughout, that demands a lot of foot tapping.
On its release in 2011, The Blackout was named as BBC Radio Wales' track of the year. To call that honour deserved is an understatement; it's a beautiful track with the strongest instrumental and vocals on the record. It's almost matched immediately however by Lacuna, which is a wonderfully spartan track but no less gorgeous for it, and was partially inspired by the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (one of the greatest films made this century).
Returning to the ruggedly beautiful coastlines of North Wales, with the looming peaks of Snowdonia close by (and captured for the cover art by Sam Bond), that landscape clearly permeates through the songs. The introspective nature of the music is shaped by the concept of hiraeth, a Welsh language word which has no direct translation in English, but which the University of Wales liken to, "homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed".
The album plays out with Nantucket, which features a magnificent gradual build up to an intense finale. It's the perfect end to the album, and it hints at so much more to come as well. It may have taken quite a while to find the perfect time to release his debut album, but I've no doubt that we'll be hearing the name of Sam Airey a lot more over the coming weeks and months.
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