Sam Phillips

Push Any Button

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By the time of her 2013 album Push Any Button, Sam Phillips had been making marvelously idiosyncratic pop music for so long, it might have been easy to take her for granted or cast her aside in favor of someone newer and seemingly fresher. A quick listen to the record shows just what a big mistake either of those actions would be. With the help of a few musicians, she’s made another intimate gem that’s filled with her trademark heartfelt, heartsick, and brainy lyrics; not to mention the kind of sneaky melodies that one might find stuck deep in their memory after one spin through the album. As with much of her current work, the sound of the album is sparse and built around Phillips’ acoustic guitar and incredibly expressive voice, but there are lots of nice flourishes to fill out the sound. The horns that pop up merrily on the record’s second track, “All Over Me,” are the first instance, but many more come along over the course of the brief (28-minute) set. The record fluctuates between peppy, uptempo songs like the Buddy Holly-esque “When I’m Alone,” the country jangler “You Know I Won’t,” or the fiery rocker “Things I Shouldn’t Have Told You,” and more introspective fare that sounds like it was recorded in the wee small hours of a dark night. Phillips is able to do both moods equally well without ever getting too happy or falling too far into despair, and the album is a well-rounded sonic and emotional experience that hits hard and sticks around long after the last note has faded. In other words, Push Any Button is what Sam Phillips fans have come to rely on over her course of her career: a perfectly crafted album that overflows with melodic hooks, musical grace, lyrical insight, and emotional depth. Call it another tiny classic of adult pop music in a career full of them.

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