Though electronic music and programmed sounds can have every bit as much humanity as live instrumentation, there may always remain that pervasive belief that real instruments manipulated by human hands say something that little else can.
Thumbs catching briefly on guitar strings, the unheard downward motion of an arm through air as it beats the drum — these are the sounds, or unsounds, of human music.
Regardless of whether it’s true, every once in a while there comes an album that is made what it is by the knowledge that there is human movement behind the notes.
Sam Singer’s Don’t Mistake Me for a Lovebird is one of these deeply mortal records, crafted by a large team of collaborators that lends a lived-in warmth to its sound.
Drums stumble slowly across the floor, with the spacious arrangements playing catch-up.
Twinkling and tumbling in unhurried figures, guitars entwine and unspool while weathered strings sweep across the room, lending an emotional weight matched only by Singer’s communicative, keening vocals.
Singer’s voice is hoarse and expressive, each croak and inelegant phrase conjuring unsaid emotional minutiae, a rough wool of indistinguishable colour.
His songs of heartbreak and loss are believable for their weariness and their understated, shambling grace.
This understated mode also makes the album feel heavy-footed at times, with most songs moving at a patient waltz.
The back halves of “Golden” and “Between Us,” with the latter’s billowing horn revelry, are noted exceptions, both picking up the pace noticeably and shaking the dust that had begun to settle on the otherwise languid arrangements.
While these songs aren’t particularly intriguing nor quite varied enough in pace, they are often overwhelmingly lovely in their simple warmth.
The beautiful “so, i dreamt,” sung by Giuliana Gold, feels out of space and time, a disquieting, lo-fi piano ballad that spirals upward into the night — though its second half suffers slightly from the introduction of unnecessary drums that drags the song back down to earth.
There’s a delicate ache to the sounds across the record, there in the way the horns curl on the piano-led “Parody of You,” or how the strings shiver and creak on rambling opener “Chair.”
This is a record of great passion played with great feeling.
It’s a testament, whether intentional or not, to the power of the human touch.