Sam Phillips – Push Any Button

written by: August 11, 2013
Album-art-for-Push-Any-Button-by-Sam-Phillips Release Date: August 6, 2013


Sam Phillips’ musical career has followed an interesting path. She started as a Christian artist under her birth name, Leslie Ann Phillips, then after four albums, rebranded herself as Sam Phillips, the alternative rocker. Push Any Button is the tenth album since her reinvention.

Sonically, Push Any Button is a quirky album. The guitar strums make intricate little patterns and are paired with interesting, bumping rhythms from other instruments. The way the instruments engage with each other makes each song quite complicated, yet they seem simultaneously simple in style. The instrumentation has a vibe that is oddly soothing. 

Push Any Button is folk-tinged rock with notes of bluegrass, particularly on the track “You Know I Won’t.”

Phillips has a particularly unique voice, which contributes a great deal to the album’s pleasant sound. It has raspy qualities that suit her style well, and the pairing of the instrumentation with Phillips’ singing is a large part of Push Any Button’s appeal. Both elements have a certain rawness and depth the them. Occasionally, her voice has androgynous moments that make it even more intriguing; the less typically feminine vocals are refreshing to hear.

The second track, “All Over Me,” starts out with basic guitar strums, Phillips’ vocals, and occasional light cymbals and drums, until horns make a surprise entrance in the second verse. Their inclusion exemplifies how an otherwise straightforward song has a layer of complexity. The horns give the track a necessary punch and guide the melody through until the end.

Push Any Button opens with percussion reminiscent of a junkyard, juxtaposed with some light keys, on “Pretty Time Bomb.” That sound and feel also appears on “You Know I Won’t.” The metallic style of percussion makes both tracks more intriguing, almost as though the sounds came from found objects.  These little sonic highlights appear throughout the album.

Phillips’ songs are all quite short, for the most part. The length means that each track gets its moment, which is quickly over without lingering in a specific melody or set of chords for too long.

The length of each track is beneficial to Phillips’ songwriting. Her lyrics are simple and straightforward, yet poetic. While they occasionally feel elementary, it works because of the song length and the style of the instrumentation; it’s not meant to be overly fancy.

The final track, “Can’t See Straight,” has a line that leads into the repeated chorus, “And it zigs and it zags, zigs and it zags again/When life circles around and I just cant see straight.” The emphasis on the words “zig” and “zag” momentarily gives the chorus the feel of a Sesame Street song. Even though Phillips’ lyrics are too deep to be intended for children, the beat to many of her songs is similar to those found on a kids’ show.

Contrary to that whimsical feeling and sound, Phillips’ lyrics are a little out there, and clearly, there’s a lot of thought behind their construction.  In “Speaking of Pictures,” the repeated line, “Speaking of pictures/We don’t want to say too much/Clear our fever/We believed but you sure fooled us” is interesting, but then a reference to a “global octopus” comes out of the blue. One can get caught up in what reads as Phillips’ nonsensical psyche.

This tenth album from Sam Phillips is indeed an interesting addition to her repertoire. As paradoxical as it is, the album is worth a listen because each thing sounds strange and simple, yet complicated. Phillips’ unique, if not enigmatic, moments shine through on Push Any Button.

Sam Phillips – Push Any Button tracklist:

  1. “Pretty Time Bomb”
  2. “All Over Me”
  3. ‘When I’m Alone”
  4. “See You In Dreams”
  5. “Going”
  6. “Things I Shouldn’t Have Told You”
  7. “Speaking of Pictures”
  8. “You Know I Won’t”
  9. “No Time Like Now”
  10. “Can’t See Straight”