KUMD Album Review: Elysian EP

Nov 22, 2019

Credit Samsaruh

Melbourne indie rocker Samsaruh spent her early teens busking with her guitar and released her first EP at 16 under her birth name. Now she’s accumulating a loyal fanbase throughout Australia and beyond. After releasing nine singles over the course of two years, and lending her voice and songwriting to other artists, Samsaruh dropped the EP Elysian in August. Written in Los Angeles during the first half of 2019, Elysian features a variety of tones, from pop rock bops to cinematic ballads. There’s a sound for every listener.

The EP opens with the single “Crash Boom Pow!” Samsaruh’s airy backing vocals and a distant beat introduce this straight-forward self-empowerment track. Pulsing keyboards and loud bass drive this song, accentuating the simple (but effective) hook without drowning it out. It’s not Samsaruh’s most complex track, but the mix of synthetic and rock-and-roll textures sets the tone for the rest of the EP.

The next song “Powerlines,” another single, provides a welcome jolt of electricity. Samsaruh’s voice stays in midtone where it is often strongest. When she sings “You love control and I love the powerlines,” the contrast between her breathy upper register during the middle-eights is astounding; when she kicks it into high gear, her pipes don’t quit. Some of her tone and delivery sounds similar to other powerhouse vocalists Florence Welch and Kimbra. 

More of Samsaruh’s swagger, heard in doses on the previous two tracks, comes out in full bloom on the self-assured “Glory Days.” The charisma and confidence seen in her live performances shines brightest on this track; capturing that kind of energy in studio is a challenge for more seasoned artists, but Samsaruh succeeds here. It’s a delicious, catchy highlight bridging the emotional halves of this EP together.

The EP takes a turn for the tender on the last two tracks. “I Guess That Makes Two” makes the most use of Samsaruh’s upper register. She sounds fragile and vulnerable on these choruses, singing so gently her sweet vibrato and husky high notes come through to moving effect. It transitions well into the closing track “Million Years,” a cinematic ballad built on buzzing synths and understated echoing backing vocals. She writes about a lover’s “vicious words” and lies on this track, but sounds more determined than defeated by them. Her songs exist to build her and others back up after being torn down, not to continue the demolition in someone else’s stead.

Samsaruh’s unique mixture of pop and rock sound presents an opportunity: to lean into the genres she’s experimenting with, either for the rawer or more polished. With her keen ear for hooks, percussion, and powerful vocals, whatever direction this rising star chooses will suit her fine.