Friday, May 20, 2011


This week, at a sunny, quiet juncture in my mind,

the thought:   “Wow! I love Sam Roberts’ new album, Collider!"

intersected with the question:      “I wonder what I should write about for this week’s blog post?”

The thought and the question got acquainted with each other, and the resulting post was created: a review of Sam Roberts Band’s new album, Collider and some things I wonder about Sam Roberts.

Collider is Quebec-born Sam Roberts’ fourth major label album. I officially became a fan of Sam Roberts when Chemical City (second album)’s single “Bridge to Nowhere” was released. Love at the End of the World (third album) was released in 2008, and I sang its first single, “Them Kids” at my wedding reception. Yes, I totally rocked out while Joel played his electric, with the rest of the awesome band Mosaik backing us. (It was so cool.)

Sam Roberts Band’s music has a “sound” all its own. This belief was confirmed yet again after listening to Collider for the first time. His songs are developed from true rock ’n’ roll roots. His attention to detail is proven in the variety of layered sound surprises and interesting guitar riffs of his tracks. At many points in many songs, many tones are meshed and softened into a bluesy blend. His sound is energetic. Whenever I listen to Sam Roberts, my mood jumps up a couple notches on the “happiness” scale, and I can’t help but start moving around. Sam Roberts’ voice is clear and light—he sings confidence without sounding pretentious. Not only is the music fun and enjoyable to listen to but also the lyrics are snappy and clever (such as those in “Sang Froid”: “We’ve been shining on the front lines burning in the sunshine/ We’ve been dancing in the headlights standing on a landmine”).

Joel and I have spent many summer nights out on our deck with friends, with reliable Sam Roberts keeping the mood light and easy in the background. As perfect as his tunes are for background music, though, they also deserve focused attention—a one-on-one active listen—to fully appreciate his musicality and lyrical intelligence.

When you come to appreciate a musician, his individual sound and the mood his music creates, anticipating the release of a new album is extremely exciting. When your patience is rewarded with a solid album of really awesome songs confirming your status as a fan, a very great feeling of satisfaction results. 

This is exactly what I felt when I heard Collider: a great feeling of satisfaction.

Right off the hop, I really liked the songs, “Without a Map,” “Twist the Knife” and “Tractor Beam Blues.”

As soon as “Without a Map” starts, the drum beat and bass line have you bobbing your head. Even Emmett bobbed his head to it. I love the lyrics of the chorus, too. They are succinct, they rhyme, so they were easy to remember and they efficiently tell the listener much.

“Twist the Knife” is a little more serious. I really connected with the opening bars. The guitar just strums a few simple chords, but they draw you in. Then he proceeds to tell you a story that tugs at your heart.

“Tractor Beam Blues” is the last song on the album. Almost always Joel and sometimes I really like the last song on an album. This leads me to believe that musicians deliberately put one of their best songs at the end. Anyway, “Tractor Beam Blues” has a fantastic call-and-response in the chorus, which I absolutely love.  (“Is love enough?”  “Yes, it is.” “Is hope enough?” “I hope it is!”) Why? I love to participate in a song. I love answering a question that a singer asks. OK, yes, he also wrote the answer, but I think when songwriters provide a call-and-response, they create unity within their audience by giving an opportunity for listeners to participate. 

Another quality I noticed in Collider (although as soon as I mentioned this to Joel, he told me that Sam Roberts has done this in all of his albums) is that Sam Roberts sings little (sometimes slightly sardonic) nuggets of wisdom in many of his songs. Delivered in the midst of catchy-yet-quality music, these nuggets pack a shiny punch. Here are a few of the many examples from Collider:

“No one is free ‘till all of us are free.”  (“The Band vs. The World”)

“Life will give you what you take.” (“Twist the Knife”)

“The only thing that tomorrow brings is that it will become today.” (“Longitude”)

Sam Roberts Band. Photo courtesy of

Now, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Sam Roberts or any of the other band members. (Please note that one of my dream jobs would be interviewing and writing articles or reviews about musicians, bands, artists, etc.). One day, if I ever do get the wonderful opportunity of meeting Sam Roberts, these are some of the questions I would ask him:

1.       When you were younger, did you expect to be where you are today? Was being an award-winning musician your dream when you were younger?

2.       Do you have certain life experiences, places or people that provide inspiration for your song writing?
3.       What advice can you give to aspiring musicians today in terms of gaining an audience and getting their music “out there”?

4.       What is the most challenging process or part of writing and recording a new album? Why?

I want to end this post with two questions for you:

1.       If you have heard Collider, will you please share your thoughts about the album? I’d love to discuss Collider further.

2.       If you haven’t heard Collider, will you please give it a listen? I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.


  1. Being a fan of yours, and a fan of lyrics with purpose...or as you put it "lyrical intelligence" I will take a listen! I read a review on Tracy Wispelwey. Never heard of them before, but the review was focused on the songs having lyrical intelligence. Check it out and let me know what you think!

  2. Good review of the album and tribute to the Sam Roberts Band. I have also fallen deeply in love with the new album and the feeling of anticipation that surrounds a new SRB album release. I have continued my tradition of purchasing multiple copies of the albums (1 autographed pre-order and a store bought purchase on the day of release - although for Collider, I also purchased it on iTunes for the bonus track).

    The Collider album is a good album in the chain of evolution in SRB's music. Chemical City I found brought them together more closely as musicians - where many of the songs flowed and progressed phenomenally between the guitar layers. Love at the End of the World I found to be more diverse in the song individuality. Collider caries the individual songs very well but has a more unified feel to me. Lyrically, Sam has again nailed the music-to-melody match and has provided an insightful and creative story that shines for every song.

    For me, the stand out tracks on the album are: The Band vs. the World (it's the chorus that seals the deal), Streets of Heaven (pure rock n' roll with a punch in the face delivery), Without a Map, Partition Blues, and Twist the Knife. That being said, there are again no weak songs on the album. Whether that be my bias or a testament to the band's song craft, I cannot say. I suspect the latter though.

    Perhaps one of the things I like the most about the SRB is the unity of art in every album - from the songs to the covers. I adore the new album images from the particle colliders, and not just because I'm a science geek (although it probably plays a factor).

    I have also, unfortunately, not met the full band, despite having seen them 6 times. I met Eric Fares outside of Call the Office in London several years back, but not Sam, Dave, James, or Josh (or Corey before Josh).

    I remember hearing in one of Sam Roberts' interviews that he would be a volcanologist if he didn't follow his current path. As a geologist, I find that cool. I don't know if that still stands. On the original Sam Roberts website (back when it was confused with the hand bag/purse store - not sure if that site still exists), there was a "fictional" biography that tied the stories of the band members together (including Sam's almost famous run at professional hockey). I don't know if it is still available anywhere online either, but it was rather funny. Many interviewers at the time asked him about his hockey career, which I found rather funny as well.

    Again, thanks for posting the review. I always love reading SRB-related musings on the internet.