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Sam Varga - Never Better (self-released)

27 March 2024

I love artists who draw lines between different, and perhaps disparate, sounds and scenes. After all, surely it is through such mixing, matching, melding, and merging that new and, indeed, more interesting forms of music are birthed. Sam Varga is the perfect example of this idea.

“Never Better,” his latest, echoes with both the punk angst and energy of his earlier days but also with the emotive blues vibes of Austin, Texas. When you relocate this sound to Nashville, as he has done, and percolate it via two years of writing and performing, it will pick up a slightly countrified edge. Not the country sound of the Grand Ole Opry with its rhinestones and tasselled jackets. More the alt-country of the East Nashville bars, the outsider, troubadour and honest, singing-for-his-supper type player and perhaps even, if we want to take this full circle, reminiscent of the cosmic country scene of Austin way back when.

It blends the dark confessional lyrics of the punk/emo sound but quickly heads off into the realms of the sing-along chorus, ebbing and flowing between the two sonic states before ending in pure anthemics. But it is the fine attention to sonic detail and the musical motifs that Varga weaves through this soundscape that make this an absolute joy. Haunting strands of slide guitar, unfussy yet brilliantly functional beats, punctuating and pulsing bass lines and that world-weary yet wonderfully poetic-meets-real world vocal.

Not to mention that lyrical hook at the end of the chorus, which you just know the whole crowd will be singing along to, fist-in-the-air, by even the second time it comes around.

Marvellous stuff!