As melodic as it is textured and full of honest emotion, Sam Levin’s “Bookmark” is almost certain to give you chills this spring. The latest single from this credible critics’ favorite is easily his most guitar-oriented material to date, but it’s far from a string-centric instrumental. Featuring his trademark vocal timbre, which brightens up even the darkest of minor keys, “Bookmark” symbolizes the enormous growth that Levin has experienced as a musician and as a songwriter in the last year, and in my opinion, it confirms his place in the pop music pecking order coming into what is being considered one of the biggest years for indie pop in recent memory.
Sam Levin has shown off some very superb skills in the past, both in the studio and on stage, but he sounds more relaxed and in his element in this song than he ever has before. He attacks the verse conservatively, leaving all of the limelight to the delicately arranged guitar and percussion, which together fuse into a single entity that wisps through the speakers like a cool breeze. He’s maturing a lot as a composer, and most importantly, learning how to balance out his hooks with really stirring rhythm.
There’s nothing rushed in “Bookmark;” in fact, quite the contrary. Everything that we come in contact on the instrumental side of the spectrum is artfully arranged and given a lot of room to breathe in the big picture. Though the vocals glisten with a poppy polish, they’re not overwhelmingly melodic beside the fleeting string sway. Some of the most successful songs that we’ve listened to so far this year have been steeped in a similarly minimalistic construction, but there’s something special about what Levin has done with this single. It’s postmodern and spacey, yet incredibly focused and tightly produced.
Tonality is clearly of upmost importance to this young man, and he utilizes it as an agent of evocative depth as much as he does the lyrics in this song. Sam Levin knows one thing that all great songwriters knew from the very onset of their professional lives; if you’re going to engage your audience, you’ve got to capture emotion not only through the words that you sing, but through the musical might of the instrumentation surrounding them. He’s mastering this crucial skill perfectly in “Bookmark,” and I can only wonder what a full-length album full of songs as strong as this one could do for his career, and moreover, the scene that he represents.
There’s no need for debate, folks; when it comes to truly profound contemporary singer/songwriters, Sam Levin is the genuine article, and his brand is getting far too big for the underground to contain any longer. “Bookmark” stylizes Levin as the urbane voice of a generation that isn’t satisfied by slender songcraft studded with traditional hooks, relentless rhymes and danceable beats alone. His sound is developing into a beast, and with the release of this single, he proves that his talent isn’t a passing teenage phase – I, for one, am more than positive that he and his amazing music are here to stay.