Analogue Music | Sam Cohen - The Future's Still Ringing In My Ears
The Future's Still Ringing In My Ears

The Future's Still Ringing In My Ears

Artist: Sam Cohen · Written by Matt Conner

Date Released

17 May, 2019


30th Century

"Something's got a hold of me right now / It will not let me go."

If you are producer-slash-composer-slash-solo-artist-slash-hired gun Sam Cohen, the "something" has to do with the state of the world. An ever-divisive culture, widening wealth gaps, chaotic climate changes, corrupt governments—these headlines describing our world-as-is are impossible to shake. Cohen isn't the only one having trouble sleeping at night. Something's got a hold of a lot of us these days.

Formerly the front man for Apollo Sunshine and Yellowbirds, Cohen has partnered with Danger Mouse, produced for Rhett Miller and Benjamin Booker, composed for Sharon Van Etten and White Denim, and played guitar and other instruments for Cee Lo Green, Joseph Arthur, and Kevin Morby—all in the last few years. From time to time, he carves enough space to record his own music as well, and Cohen's new record, The Future's Still Ringing in My Ears, is his first solo release since 2015's Cool It.

"The only way to go on is to laugh at it a little, because the weight of it and the profundity of the problems can destroy you," says Cohen via an accompanying press release. "What I want for this music is to connect with people struggling with these same thoughts and feelings. I want people to hear this and say, yes, this is all really heavy, and I also feel helpless, and we don't have any good answers...but we have each other. And this music sounds really good! It's all I can offer."

Cohen's new album, from beginning to end, is intoxicating and inventive.

Cohen's offering is, fortunately, a satisfying psychedelic salve for these trying times. In fact, the aforementioned lyric would work well from the listener's perspective: "Something's got a hold of me right now / It will not let me go."

It's the blistering guitar working its way through a round of vocal "oohs," a funky bass line, and vintage sounding synth work on "Spinning Love," as if Michael Kiwanuka went psych rock for a second in the best possible way. It's the generational-spanning groove of "I Can't Lose," moving from head-bobbing pocket to Cohen's inventive guitar/synth interplay. It's the psych swagger on "Man on Fire," and the interstellar ending of "Something's Got a Hold on Me." Cohen's new album, from beginning to end, is intoxicating and inventive.

If the album has an overarching thesis, it's found on the closing track "Future". "The future never looked bleaker / Excuse me if I blow your speakers," sings Cohen to open the simple, somber refrain. Atop a solo piano, Cohen sticks to the script, confessing his own privilege in what is an otherwise fucked up society. He sings, "Believe me, it drives me out of my mind. Believe me, I know I never seen the worst of the crime. Believe me, I know that I'm white. And oh, what a wonderful life." Later on, he confesses his own fears with just a dose of levity. "But America's a funny problem, a land that overflows with fear. I don't predict we'll kill the world with kindness. I hope we don't kill the world right here."

The Future's Still Ringing in My Ears is a dark album, whether dealing with cultural criticisms or Cohen's own willingness to bleed a bit, and there's no way around it. Cohen dots the canvas with bright spots, and plenty more imaginative moments appear with repeated listens, but it's never enough to buoy the album to the point where the album is not affecting. In that way, however, Cohen accomplishes exactly what he set out to do. There's no way around the world we're in. We can only go through it. Even with his head down, Cohen is excellent company for the journey and this is a fine, fine album.