Saturday, October 09, 2021

Sam Fender Stuns With New Album ‘Seventeen Going Under’

Sam Fender has released his new highly anticipated album and it absolutely lives up to the hype. Combining masterful lyricism, unparalleled hooks and singular composition, ‘Seventeen Going Under’ is just another forward step in Fender’s trajectory.

Fender gave listeners high hopes as he released single after single of this album, giving all the painful realism and beauty of growing up in the working class north. Intrinsically an observer, his first album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ was one that painted a picture of others. This album however is entirely different. 

Faced with the oh-so-prevalent lockdown and isolation, Fender found himself lacking external sources to draw upon and so found himself looking inward.

Turns out going on, what he termed as, a downward spiral was exactly what was needed to produce the sixteen track journey that is ‘Seventeen Going Under’. In it he deals with topics of love, his relationship with his father, his relationship with where he grew up, his teen years, suicide and depression. It really is a very cathartic experience for the listener, as it must’ve been for Fender himself writing it.

The album starts off with the upbeat title track ‘Seventeen Going Under’ which incidentally was also the first single released to tease the album. Fender doesn’t mess around; this song is upbeat but brutally self-reflective and tells the tale of his younger self, at odds with the world and himself. 

In this same vein is ‘Getting Started’ which is a beautiful song about the desperation of being eighteen and wanting to help his mother escape how they were living. One gets a glimpse into Fender’s life, not to mention the chorus being incredibly relatable to literally anyone that’s ever felt like giving up. ‘Better Of Me’ is a beautiful song about a painful adolescent relationship and the complex feelings that accompany simply not getting over it. Brooke Bentham sang harmonies on this which only heightens the feeling of an unspoken dialogue between two people.

Aye’ has cadences of some of his earlier more politicking songs, with criticism and disillusionment rife and his anger towards the greed of the few particularly relevant nowadays. This song feels like a sucker punch in the best way. ‘The Leveller’ has the same feel to it, probably to do with the musical arrangement, making it sound like a classic indie rock song but with hints of Fender’s own sound (namely, strings). ‘Get You Down’ is one of the first personal songs Fender wrote for this album. The saxophone that is ever present throughout his music is particularly welcome in this song, not to mention the inclusion of a string section. The arrangement is fantastic. Songs like ‘Long Way Off’ are the unspoken heroes of this album; the vocal layering and harmonies serve to punch lines through and build the tune beautifully.

Last To Make It Home’ is a slower song, a ballad if there ever was one. The melody of this one is beautiful and really shows off Fender’s range, not to mention his new-found piano-playing skills. In this vein as well is ‘The Dying Light’: a beautiful ballad about staying strong through even the darkest depths of loneliness. This song builds fantastically and leaves the listener breathless.

Good Company’ is a tale of contradictions, speaking to those that find themselves caught at opposite ends of a spectrum at all times. Meanwhile ‘Mantra’ is slightly more arranged but Fender's vocals and lyrics shine throughout and the little accenting instruments really make this a coherently beautiful piece.

Paradigms’ and ‘Angel in Lothian’ have fuller feels to them. Social commentary comes to the forefront again in ‘Paradigms’. It’s frankly impressive how Fender manages to capture the feeling of how unfair societal patterns are in less than four minutes but he does. ‘Angel in Lothian’ has a Police or early Cranberries feel to the arrangement and the lyrics are something any songwriter would aspire to. Heart-wrenching, nostalgic and never anything other than brutally honest, he paints a real picture for his listeners here. Similarly, ‘Pretending That You’re Dead’ brings one back to house parties, standing there hoping desperately that an ex isn’t sleeping with the person they came with. Relatable. This is going to be a fan favourite of many for years to come.

Poltergeists’ is breath-taking and the perfect song to close out this album. The piano provides echoing chords that match Fender’s vocals for their rawness and beauty. Description and review doesn’t do this song justice. And ultimately that is true of this album - words simply will not do it justice, it needs to be experienced.


Chloe Boehm


Image: ‘Seventeen Going Under’ Official Album Artwork

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