Every now and then, when you look around, you’ll see these moments: friends at a cafe table, or in a park, or just walking down the street. It’ll arise from a lull in a conversation, or even be prompted by something they say, but they’ll look at each other and realize just how lucky they are. Maybe they’ll just acknowledge it with a knowing look, or a wink, a ruffle of the other’s hair or a side hug. But they know right then just how very precious our love is, whether platonic or romantic. We won’t take this for granted, not for a long time, their eyes say. This past year has taught us this lesson in the most cruel ways, and now we cling to what’s left with all our might.
Samia’s new EP captures this feeling—overwhelming in its beauty and sadness—with the same clarity and fervor that made her debut record The Baby so stirring. Scout isn’t a pandemic piece, per se, but it’s the type of art that comes out of a year pondering one’s life, which is just what Samia did.
At the fore of these songs is Samia’s love for those in her life, whether her family or her friends, new or old. She mentions her new friends in Nashville on opener “As You Are,” hanging out at the Portland Brew coffee shop, and her old mates from Brooklyn, whom she met “when we were still in bands.” The love is strong in both cases, regardless of relationship length, and “As You Are” emphasizes just how important unconditional love is.
Bookended by fuzzy voice messages, the first track establishes a sound related to The Baby’s keen pop sensibilities. It feels delicate as Samia’s voice soars, but also firm and strongly rooted via piano the same way that love gives one a sense of stability. Unconditional love features throughout the song: Her friend insists that their sister “cleans her room and she takes a shower” even though “there are no stipulations you’re already on your way.” The funniest moment, which comes closest to the biting humor on The Baby, is Samia’s imagining upon a plane landing, “my mom with both hands / latched to the nose of the aircraft / in a ray of pink light and her sweatpants” (The image is even better when you realize her mom is Kathy Najimy, of Sister Act and Hocus Pocus fame. Samia’s so talented that her famous parentage—her dad is Dan Finnerty of The Dan Band—feels more like a fun fact than a disillusioning revelation).
“Show Up” best distills the feeling of holding your friends close. The track begins softly with piano, but quickly opens up with buzzy guitar, becoming just as impossibly expansive as your heart feels upon seeing a friend again. “Nothing could ever stop my ass from showing up to sing another song for the people I love,” Samia cries. Between the last year and her impassioned delivery, it’s easy to imagine someone getting that line tattooed on themselves.
“Elephant” proves darker and moodier in its melancholic shoegaze sound. Samia’s voice is crystal-clear as ever, floating above the reverb and twisted shocks of guitar. The song is a bit short and could use a bit more fleshing out, but the lyrics remain evocative: “Just place your fingers / on each side of their mouths / and pull towards heaven / until their teeth peak out” she sings, conjuring the image of Wybie’s stitched-up lips in Coraline.
Samia’s cover of When In Rome’s “The Promise,” performed with artist Jelani Aryeh, is the perfect way to end an ode to love in all its forms. Their version remains fairly faithful to the original, translating the song into a 21st-century interpretation of the ‘80s by swapping out the opening piano for synths. Samia’s voice reaches into the stratosphere, sincere and devoted, as she declares, “I gotta tell you,” over shaking, distorted guitars.
On Scout, Samia makes her own promise to stand by her loved ones, without the sentiment becoming sticky-sweet. The songs focus on the act of cherishing, but deserve to be cherished in their own right.
Clare Martin is a cemetery enthusiast, hibernophile and contributing writer for Paste’s music and comedy sections. She also exercises her love for reality TV at HelloGiggles every now and then. Go harass her on Twitter @theclaremartin.