Sasami Ashworth already had a busy musical career before launching SASAMI. She's a classically trained french horn player, has done string arrangements, played session dates, taught music to elementary school kids, and was a member of Cherry Glazerr for a few years. While doing the latter, she started writing songs detailing a recent break up, and with the help of her brother Joo Joo (who's in the band Froth), she started recording them. SASAMI is the result and it's a beautifully played, sung, and constructed debut album that folds together shoegaze, dream pop, classic singer/songwriter, and indie pop into a beguiling mixture. Working with her brother and drummer Cameron Allen (also of Froth) as the core band, Ashworth crafts songs that sound arresting on first listen, then sink in over repeated plays as the depth of the arrangements and the subtle power of her sometimes buried vocals start to take effect. The album doesn't stick to any one kind of song: she proves equally able to hit celestial heights on slabs of shimmering shoegaze pop ("Not at All"), drift through the slipstream of gentle dream pop ballads ("At Hollywood"), and call to mind classic avant indie bands like Broadcast ("Morning Comes") and '90s weirdos like the Breeders ("Pacify My Heart"), all while taking creative leaps that stick a successful landing every time (most notably on the oddball "Jealousy," which thrillingly melds chillwave and Siouxsie and the Banshees-style post-punk). Fittingly for someone who has lots of connections in the indie rock world, there are a few guests who drop by to contribute. Devendra Banhart sings a duet with Ashworth on the tender ballad "Free," Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils adds vocals on "I Was a Window" -- which sounds intriguingly like Aimee Mann with Robert Fripp on guitar -- and an all-star grouping (Hand Habits' Meg Duffy on guitar, French singer Soko, Alvvays drummer Sheridan Riley, and jazz bassist Anna Butters) helps out on "Adult Contemporary," the album's most fragile and arranged song. Despite the help, SASAMI is really Ashworth's show and she proves more than up to the challenge, in the process making an album that while displaying clear influences adds enough of her own idiosyncratic skills and insights to make the record stand out from the crowd. Plus, it's full of great songs -- the kind that hit the poppy, hooky buttons hard while still getting in deep and touching the heart, too. It's a brilliant debut and immediately vaults Ashworth and SASAMI to the head of the class of 2019.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra