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Reviewed by Jemilah Ross-Hayes

Sam Cullen: Run EP

Reviewed by Jemilah Ross-Hayes

Sam Cullen: Run EP

Sam Cullen knows what you’re thinking and has put it into words alongside a classic boots’n’cats kick, snare drumbeat with his new EP ‘Run’. Cullen is a multi-instrumentalist, originally from Invercargill but currently based in Tāmaki Makaurau, and has been making a name for himself in the music scene ever since featuring in the 2018 Smokefree Rockquest.

‘Run’ really is the perfect BPM to run down a gently descending pathway to, with the only thing in focus being the steady pace of feet on the track alongside the rhythm of these songs. The four-track EP is pop-based, adopting a new genre flavour with each song.  Running smoothly over his words like a low growl, his vocals are reminiscent of David Bowie, engagingly variable, emotive and deliberately delivered.

The EP name presumably originates from the repeated appearance of the word ‘run’. Starting with a bang, opening track The Main Drag is a little more rock than the other three. A simple bass riff playfully fills the gaps between the steady drumbeat and driving guitars, whilst the lyrics paint a picture of driving at night, running red lights with all windows down. 

On The Corner, co-produced by Harry Charles, is a lot more pop but still contains hints of 80’s stadium rock. This song has a One Republic pop tinge, starting wide and spacey only to contract into a tight bouncy feel in the chorus. The song swaps wildly in rhythm and density, reflecting the whirlwind of different emotions present in the storyline.

I Know What You’re Thinking has the kind of funky bass riff that helps make one of those songs that only need to be heard once before it gets stuck in people’s heads. The lyrical catchphrase “picking up what you’re putting down, baby” is likely to be sung around the kitchen by anyone who hears it. Shared with fellow indie pop singer-songwriter Josie Moon, the track showcases two sides of a relationship clearly in a way that feels oddly familiar.

The final track to the EP, You Look Better, feels like something off the 1986 fantasy/musical Labyrinth, most likely in a scene featuring the goblin king (Bowie) dancing wildly with his goblin friends. The lyrics are fantastic, with harmonies softening the bitterness of the tale it tells. Overall, this EP expresses the different nuances of relationships presented in a putting it all out on the table kind of way. Cullen has convincingly incorporated a nostalgic rock sound into his modern synth-pop roots, creating something fresh yet familiar for 2022.