Today’s Song: Sampha’s Heavenly Vocals Shimmer on the Blissful “Jonathan L. Seagull” Off Sophomore LP ‘Lahai’

Sampha © Jesse Crankson
Sampha © Jesse Crankson
Sampha’s beautiful songwriting in “Jonathan L. Seagull” – a tranquil, dreamy standout off his recently-released sophomore LP, ‘Lahai’ – transports listeners to a space of peace and relaxation.
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Stream: “Jonathan L. Seagull” – Sampha

In our age of overstimulating social media apps and music artists racking up streaming numbers, there is a sanctity in being disconnected from the noise.

The long anticipated sophomore effort from UK-born singer Sampha displays nearly six years of rumination on a life that is focused on interpersonal connections and self-care. Lahai (released October 20, 2023 through Young) is adorned with expressions of joy, contemplations on love, and visions of a weightless freedom. The title of the Grammy nominated “Spirit 2.0” speaks for itself as the artist proclaims, “I’m drifting into open sky and I don’t feel so scared, dreamin’ with these open eyes”: Sampha has grown and they are looking forward.

Lahai - Sampha
Lahai – Sampha
Even though we’ve been through same
Doesn’t always mean we feel the same
Doesn’t always mean we heal the same
You’re not me and that’s okay
Seasons come, seasons cry
Seasons grow and seasons die
How high can a bird ever fly-ever fly?

Gaining notoriety as a featured artist with A-list talent the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, and Solange Knowles, Sampha quickly made a name for himself in the music industry with a calming, effervescent style of singing. 2017’s Process quietly stands as one of the best alternative R&B projects from the last decade where Sampha delivered shimmering vocals over a wide scope of progressive, colorful instrumentals.

Sampha © Jesse Crankston
Sampha © Jesse Crankston

Somewhat of an eponymous album, Lahai is titled after the artist’s middle name – and true to his style, it’s a project laden with a dazzling blend of live instrumentation and electronics – trendy R&B-isms existing few and far between. Backdrops of skittering pianos meld into bright, intricate drum and bass-type beats which accompany Sampha at their most confessional. One meticulously crafted track after the other comes together to display a vivid soundscape of artistic and personal growth on a listen that gleams with joy.

Couldn’t stomach those blues you articulate
I’ve been
Acting like your actions are from outer space
But I understand that I’ve been out of place
Driving late night back home
through the London rain to you
I puzzle into your embrace
Now take me further away
I puzzle into your embrace
Now take me further away

Jonathan L. Seagull” is a reference to the 1970 novella “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach, a story about a seagull looking inward to learn to fly – a perfect allusion to Sampha’s . The track opens with soft, plucked string sounds which slowly louden in the mix.

A warm mix of piano and backup voices are added to the texture to create a sense of weightlessness, sounding like a fluffy white cloud floating through the sky. Sampha enters the mix with a vocal guest, emotionally discussing two companions drifting apart, but instead of sadness, there is a strong sense of acceptance from the singer.

Sampha © Jesse Crankson
Sampha © Jesse Crankson

Sampha’s stunning, evocative solo vocals enter the mix with the main melodic theme of the track.

The effortless, almost breathy delivery of the falsetto vocals match the allusions to flight and outer space. The faint vocal ad libs in the back of the mix add depth to the track, sounding like birds circling in and out of the clouds. Beneath the persistent plucking sounds are subtle harmony shifts, light string section counter melodies, and subtle electronic effects, adding incredible dimension to the instrumental.

Another pass at Sampha’s falsetto melody is completely transformed with the inclusion of a steady drum beat, making something much more jubilant and celebratory in nature. “How high can a bird ever fly,” the bittersweet final words of the track peacefully grounding the music before a dreamy finish.

Making life decisions based on what’s been laid
We’ve both dealt with loss and grief in separate ways
(Listen to your heartbeat-beat)
On the same track running at a different pace
Will I catch up, or will you just race away someday?
Sampha © Jesse Crankson
Sampha © Jesse Crankson

If you ever find yourself overwhelmed and in need of a break from the noise, give this track a listen.

Sampha’s beautiful and thematic songwriting absolutely transports the listener to a space of peace and relaxation. It’s rare to find an artist delivering music with this much creative intent and, even with a small catalog, Sampha has no doubt cemented themselves as a staple artist in the genre.

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:: stream/purchase Lahai here ::
:: connect with Sampha here ::
Stream: “Jonathan L. Seagull” – Sampha

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Lahai - Sampha

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? © Jesse Crankson

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