Melding urgent, melodic indie rock with the heart of a singer/songwriter and socially conscious lyrics, Newcastle native Sam Fender rose to British acclaim in late 2017 when he appeared on the coveted BBC Sound of 2018 list and was subsequently signed to Polydor Records. His first album, Hypersonic Missiles, arrived in 2019. Born and raised in North Shields, just outside of Newcastle, Fender came from a musical family. After gigging locally, he was discovered by Ben Howard's manager, who helped pave the road for Fender's debut single, "Play God." Moody in tone and socially conscious, it was followed by two more singles, "Greasy Spoon" and "Millennial," before the BBC named Fender along with acts like Sigrid and Lewis Capaldi for their Sound of 2018 list. Tours with Hozier and Catfish and the Bottlemen followed, as did 2018 singles like "Leave Fast" and "That Sound," both of which later appeared on his EP Dead Boys, released by Polydor in November of that year. At the beginning of 2019, Fender entered his own studio in his hometown of North Shields to record his debut album with friend and producer Bramwell Bronte. He won the Brit Awards' Critics' Choice honor and made his U.S. television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! before Interscope/Polydor issued the resulting Hypersonic Missiles in September of 2019. He followed with a second album, 2021's Seventeen Going Under, in short order, this time reflecting on his upbringing and coming of age in North Shields.
© Timothy Monger & Marcy Donelson /TiVo
© Timothy Monger & Marcy Donelson /TiVo
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Pop - Released September 13, 2019 | Polydor Records
In the two-and-a-half years between his first single, the urgent and atmospheric "Play God," and the release of his full-length debut in 2019, much was made of U.K. singer and songwriter Sam Fender's relatively young age -- 23 by the arrival of the latter. After all, he was drawing frequent comparisons to influence Bruce Springsteen, both for the sound of his early singles and for the working-class compassion on display in his lyrics, and he won the Critics' Choice Brit Award in late 2018, an honor previously bestowed upon, among others, Adele and Sam Smith. He opened for Bob Dylan and Neil Young in Hyde Park in July of 2019, two months before the arrival of Hypersonic Missiles. Recorded in his own studio in his hometown outside of Newcastle, and produced by his longtime friend, engineer Bramwell Bronte, its 13 songs include "Play God" as well as selections from his 2018 EP, Dead Boys. Fender's sticky melodies, assertive tone, and gritty guitar hooks are evident from the opening moments of the title track, a song that offers lines like "Dutch kids huff balloons in the parking lot/The golden arches illuminate the business park/I eat myself to death, feed the corporate machine." Its rousing chorus asks, "When the bombs drop, darling/Can you say that you've lived your life?" Later, the striking "White Privilege" is a voluble entry along the lines of a more-ruminative "It's the End of the World as We Know It" or "We Didn't Start the Fire." It goes on record with: "The patriarchy is real; the proof is here in my song." Hypersonic Missiles isn't all political; romantic interests and the healing powers of music are also topics at hand. In fact, as the album unfolds and traverses sociopolitical angst, romantic infatuation ("Call Me Lover"), and the urge to let loose (the infectious "Saturday"), it reveals itself to be a fitting soundtrack to the weekend, addressing hopes and frustrations with a persistent intensity and rousing melodies that fall in line with the catharsis at hand. The album ends with an impressive live performance (the piano ballad "Use"), which demonstrates that Fender's soaring vocals are just as authentic as his sentiments. Taken altogether, Hypersonic Missiles is smart, passionate, and loaded with rock-solid anthems that surpass the "promising" designation. © Marcy Donelson /TiVo