A boy making his way in the world on hope alone. A message in a bottle. A stoic string melody. The textured vocal timbre of a tortured soul. What happens when you take all of these elements and combine them in a melting pot of melodicism is, essentially, “It’s Just Me,” the sizzling acoustic ballad and first single from a newly-solo Sami Chohfi, and it’s got critics from Seattle to New York abuzz right now (for good reason). “It’s Just Me” is a kaleidoscopic slow song from an artist that has been long associated with a much harder sound, and it’s one of the most touching and satisfying singles that I’ve heard out of a West Coast scene in a long while.
The music video makes the statements that are made in the lyrics all the more striking and affective. Try as they might, the instrumentation is never quite as spellbinding as the soft serenade of Chohfi, who croons like an old school folk troubadour without falling into the self-righteous ironies of today’s hipster singer/songwriters. His rocker persona is here, beneath the layers of undying emotion, and it doesn’t sound nearly as tamed down as I would have expected it to be.
Chohfi doesn’t hold anything back from us at the mic in this song, and I think that there’s an argument to be made that his liberal attitude towards the verses makes more use of his range than anything he has recorded thus far with Blue Helix. He attacks his lines with impunity here, and rejects the very notion of sonic smokescreens and mundane metaphors that would have only watered down the message that he’s trying to get across to us. It’s a little conceptual and wholeheartedly engaging, and if he finds a way to apply the same method with future tracks, his solo moniker could become even more respected than his band’s is.
As far as production quality goes, “It’s Just Me” is absolutely fabulous. The guitars and the vocal sound really intimate and warm, which is a nice change of pace in this era of cold, clinical pop plasticity and minimalist melodies that, admittedly, have left a lot to be desired on the FM dial in recent years. Chohfi doesn’t dabble in any postmodernity here; rather than following a fleeting trend that will disappear as quickly as it arrived, he gets back to basics, keeps things simple, and yields watershed results that, in my opinion, are going to open up a lot of new and lucrative options for his career as the 2020s approach.
“It’s Just Me” is a powerful, endearing ballad with a soulful centerpiece that will make anyone with an ear for acoustic rock harmonies hungry for more from this up and coming Seattle superstar. Sami Chohfi isn’t playing the typical pop games with us in this single; he’s exploring his style, honoring the roots of his sound and breaking down the barriers between artist and audience in a way that should make a fair share of his contemporaries and closest rivals more than a little bit jealous this season. He’s on a hot streak right now, and I’m excited to see where it takes him next.
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