Sam Green and the Time Machine – Which Way Left?
Sam Green is a longtime mainstay of the Australian music scene and his releases backed by the Time Machine have secured him a place among the best in the nation’s indie scene. His appeal, however, is far broader. These are songs with an often strong national identity, but they deal with recognizable facets of life that would appeal to anyone from Cambria to Calcutta. His latest album Which Way Left? features fourteen tunes, but they aren’t tiresome epics or musically longwinded. Instead, they crackle with daring and an obvious command of fundamentals. This is a seasoned hand at work and the confidence is unmistakable. He isn’t shy about bringing the personal into the music, but it’s handled with an universal touch rather than becoming mired in obscurity and painfully uncomfortable confession. This is an album unafraid to mix artistry and entertainment.
Novices will find themselves immediately riveted by the opener “Dandeong Ranges”. Many of the songs on Which Way Left? are firmly grounded in the geography and experiences of a native Australian and this song is probably the best example of that on the release, but it is never so far removed from universal human experiences that, let’s say, a listener in rural Georgia wouldn’t find something to latch onto. The evocative musical backing never overreaches. It’s a delicate and well produced weave of guitar and violin with neither instrument ever overtly vying for instrumental superiority. “Eli” is removed from concerns of place and, instead, is personal in a much different fashion. It’s a song about fractured trust that might sound, lyrically, similar to many tracks of the same ilk, but Green’s rough hewn singing busts through the familiar and grabs onto something viscerally his own. The weariness of “Financial Year” has an intensely personal quality and, while the subject matter isn’t something everyone will relate to, it does speak with an accessibility that even those removed from the subject matter will connect with.
“Harry Ginagain” is one of the moments on Which Way Left? that is distinctively Green’s own. There’s quite a catchy quality to the vocal melody that Green’s voice handles with surprising deftness and the arrangement is carried quite nicely by the album’s typically stylish, yet bare bones, instrumentation. Despite an occasional playfulness coming across in some songs, the presiding spirit of Which Way Left? is a sort of poetic melancholy. It never succumbs to outright despair, but “Howdido” shows off the precarious balance Green and his cohorts maintain throughout the course of this release. The release is never a jovial affair, but Green, despite the struggles depicted in these songs, keeps up a genuine life affirming spirit and few moments embody it more than the chorus on this song. The track “Popcorn” might be the second to last song of a fourteen track release, but it is undoubtedly one of the album’s marquee numbers and delves into truths about relationships that we often would prefer to ignore. It’s a stunning number to come so late in the release and further illustrates the quality of Sam Green and the Time Machine’s value – value that transcends that arbitrary borders of the indie scene.