Will Samson: Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends

Recorded during the second half of 2010, Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends is the affecting, at times soul-stirring debut album from England-born, Australia-raised, and currently Berlin-based Will Samson. Backed by a mix of delicately pealing electric guitars and mandolin-like acoustic strums, Samson weaves his multi-tracked vocals—a lovely harmonic blend of falsetto and baritone pitches—into eight entrancing song settings.

There's a hushed and intimate, bedroom-styled ambiance about the recording, with tape hiss conspicuously present alongside the guitars, vocals, and basic percussion (maracas, music box tinkles). But aside from the songs themselves, what's most striking about Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends is Samson's vocalizing, which in its upper register exudes a choirboy-like character that nicely complements the serenading character of the songs. With his voice a near-whisper, “Find Me in the Ocean,” for instance, becomes a veritable lullaby about longing and regret, while the faded dimension of the song is reinforced by the presence of a waterlogged piano that sounds in need of tuning; not surprisingly, “Sleeping” is likewise lullaby-like in tone, but also hymnal in character too.

A song such as “Meet Me at Home” conveys a wistfulness and delicacy that calls to mind the soothing style that a band such as L'altra has managed to capture but few others. A few raw e-bow figures surface during “Great Plains” and a simple drum machine beat provides support to the gentle flux of guitar shadings and vocals that courses through “Violins and Polaroids,” but Samson's material otherwise falls more on the side of introspection than extroversion. And though it's modest in length at thirty-nine minutes, Hello Friends, Goodbye Friends nevertheless impresses as a haunting collection of songcraft best heard either in the early morning hours or the depths of night.

September 2011