Review Summary: Baby's first track-by-track
Face value, The Baby
is hard to sell. It’s an album that covers a lot of ground, though, in doing so, risks fragmenting its listeners’ interests. Opener ‘Pool’, for example—its ambient bumbling; its Arabic sample; its patient, slow-moving approach to songwriting—hints at a slowburner of an album (think late Bon Iver, but less textured). What’s built up on ‘Pool’, however, is upturned almost immediately on ‘Fit N Full’, an unabashed and, unlike its predecessor, hyper-confident satirization of self-image. A bop, in other words, or a pop song. It’s very good. There’s nudity, murderous birds, a guitar solo. ‘Big Wheel’ and ‘Limbo Bitch’ further cement Samia’s pop acumen, demonstrate her ability to craft peppy, heartfelt hooks.
Skip over, then, to ‘Stellate’, which marks the first of a trio of indie-folk songs. They’re all good, all memorable. ‘Does Not Heal’, the last of them, provides the most stark contrast to the rest of the album, Samia’s vocals adopting a very wavery, lilty, folky quality; it’s as good a demonstration of the songwriter’s range as any, appearing out of nowhere and disappearing into ‘Waverly’, a piano-driven indie-pop song. Thus ends The Baby
’s folk phase.
‘Waverly’ sees Samia leaning into the indie aesthetic. Ironically, it’s the album’s (best and) most distinct song: its short, easy-going aesthetic makes it prime Spotify playlist material; its production, however, is immaculate. Guitars and pianos pop in and out of the foreground, buried beneath a warm hazy something; there are insect sounds, a strange warbling; bouncy bass patterns give way to rumbly subbass at the song’s backend… An interesting contrast to ‘Winnebago’, which is Caroline Polachek-lite, and ‘Minnesota’, a further attempt at some kind of folk-pop hybrid.
You get the point, though. Closer ‘Something in the Movies’ returns to the hyper-sincerity of ‘Pool’ and, despite being the song that introduced me to Samia, is something of a perfect closer. That is, it pretends the rest of the album didn’t happen. Nothing more apt for an album that covers so much disparate ground. An album that is, maybe, a hard sell; that is, perhaps, less convincing than would be a cohesive narrative, a less disjointed whole. Are good songs not enough?