Sam Singer 
Where the Rivers Do 

Self-released • 2024

Sam Singer’s Where the Rivers Do is ornately polished; a folk album that sounds exactly as a folk album should.

He stands there alone, cigarette pressed tightly between his lips. His face blurry in a photograph taken by a camera that used too long of an exposure. Behind him are the crumbling remains of a brick building, once cared for and loved, now existing in a ruin of trash, filth and dirt. The sign on the building, framed perfectly above his head, reads one word: ENTERTAINMENT. 

On Sam Singer’s sophomore LP, Where the Rivers Do, the Winnipeg folk artist probes his dilapidated tell-tale heart for songs of love lost, bygone days of gold, and the cries out to feel once more purity of optimism—the sounds of a struggling man on display for our entertainment. 

But, unlike the defective building behind Singer on the album cover, the sound of Where the Rivers Do is ornately polished. It’s a folk album that sounds exactly as a folk album should. A healthy swing is hidden behind the prominent lead guitar; the drums almost blend seamlessly into the horns, and, like the great Laurel Canyon 70s folk albums that clearly inspire Singer, a bass that refuses to quit. The radiant slide guitar “Traitor Birds,” or dreamy waltz-like “For a Second,” retain the similar ethereal and elemental qualities of Neil Young and the vocal cadence of “Midnight Horse” pairs with Planet Waves era Dylan.

Opener “The Deal” heralds the sound of Where the Rivers Do. Lustrous and sparkling, the song skips along the soft-sounding glory of folk, but the sinister implications of betrayal and doubt are hidden in Singer’s lyrics. “I lost the shine and that famous smile,” he mumbles before angrily stating, “I thought we made a deal.” It’s no surprise when, in the song’s dying moments, he screams as loud as a victim in a slasher film. 

The lyrics and sound of Where the Rivers Do initially feel antagonistic to one another but gradually reveal themselves to be locked together in a dance of melody and rhyme. This strange marriage works most clearly on the beautiful “Mirror In the Sunrise.”

The song’s warm introduction feels like watching the sunset shimmer in the purple water off a boat on the West Coast, pensively lulling you into golden comfort. It’s almost a minute before Singer begins to sing. He works his way through romantic platitudes, saying he’ll be there when needed and that “nights are longer when you go.” It’s almost a peaceful song with the charm of a through-and-through love song.

Ultimately, though, Singer breaks the dream. “All I really want to do is you/ But the thing is when I think of you/ I just think about myself,” sourly confesses Singer, dragging the word “myself” with the level of contempt reserved only for the most wickedly vile individuals. The subversion of the love song pitches you into Singer’s rather grim world where relationships begin and flutter but are always ultimately destined for an aphotic failure. 

Throughout Where the Rivers Do, Singer taunts us with entertainment. He doesn’t allow us to consume his pain easily. He suffered these experiences, and now we must also feel them. We are there with him, on the broken street, surrounded by falling brick buildings, staring at his blurry face on display, backed by a ramshackle heart—all for our entertainment.

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