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Washington Post Review

Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers
— Bill Friskics-Warren

It’s tempting, on first listen, to lump Samantha Crain in with the freak-folk movement that’s made all things fey and whimsical fashionable again. Ultimately, though, the backbeat on the Oklahoma native’s full-length debut is too firm, her reedlike warble too earthy and her evocative lyrics too grounded in experience to be relegated to such ephemeral margins. “I will give in to the dark clouds, and I will sing with the fog in my throat,” Crain, a Choctaw Indian, declares, her voice a mix of vulnerability and resolve, to the cantering rhythms of “Rising Sun,” the gorgeous folk-rock number that opens the album. The title track offers more of the same, except with more muscular guitars and a surging chorus.

These fairly ebullient moments notwithstanding — and as her band’s name suggests — the prevailing mood here is nocturnal, or at least penumbral. Even would-be psychedelia like “Bananafish Revolution,” where Crain asserts, “The trees were my audience applauding/That chair, I swear it was a cat for my company,” turns sober. “That piano,” she goes on to reveal, echoed by some eerie plinking, “it’s the angels/Calling me home.”

Harmonically, some of the tracks recall rootsy Neil Young (“Long Division”) or Bob Dylan (“You Never Know”), while more headlong numbers like “Bullfight” and “Get the Fever Out” could have been made only in the frenetic wake of ’90s girl-punk. Galvanizing every performance, regardless of arrangement, is Crain’s sirenlike voice — a keening instrument that, in terms of timbre and phrasing, is utterly narcotic.

  • Posted on April 28