Hearing Aide: Sam Kogon ‘Before You Knew Me’

Brooklyn based singer-songwriter Sam Kogon and his band mates, featuring Frank Hegyi (drums/percussion), Dan Powell (bass guitar/vocals), Finnegan Shanahan (violin) and Joe Jakubowski (keys/timpani/marimba/glockenspiel/vocals) released their debut album Before You Knew Me mid-September, and have been touring around N.Y. promoting the release. All songs on Before You Knew Me were written by Sam Kogon. It was recorded and produced by Andrew Nerviano at Ishlab Studio in Brooklyn, NY. Having honed in on a slightly whimsical, lazy surf rock sound, Kogon’s style is undeniably similar to Canadian fellow singer-songwriter Mac Demarco.

The album features a slew of love songs, some more overt than others, aside from “Odd,” the mischievous tale of a kid who experiences a violent encounter with a giant squid and is left wondering what would happen were they ever to cross paths again. Kogon’s cr
isp, anguished vocals are complemented by Jakubowski’s own echoed singing, which creates an airy feel to the track. Coupled with slightly haunting organ, the song exudes a rather ghoulish quality well suited for unfolding the account of an elusive sea creature.

The first track on the album, “Before,” describes a life gone to shambles and then redeemed. Kogon’s falsetto is mirrored by Powell’s backing vocals, and accompanied by simple guitar lines, and minimal drum beat and bass. Jakubowski comes in delicately with glockenspiel, and a looming intensity permeates the song, until Shanahan’s violin work kicks in right at the climax. The anticipation of the build releases in a swell of drums dancing with the billowing violin, which is very reminiscent of the erhu, or Chinese violin. Kogon’s vocals reemerge before violin once again swoops in with a quick crescendo, concluding the song in a climactic twizzle of strings and bow.

“I Could Never,” the first single off Before You Knew Me possesses a sauntering ’50s essence from the get go, with Kogon softly howling the lyrics, “I could never say goodbye to you/ and I could never tell a lie to you/ it’s love in your eyes it’s no disguise it’s true/ and I could never rectify hurting you.” Kogon’s crooning leads into a circus instrumental beat which surges forward, complete with glockenspiel, then slowing down for a brief, pensive, stoner rock moment before his crooning resumes for the chorus.

The cheery Beatles-esque track “Plans,” stands apart from the rest of the songs, maintaining a bouncy energy throughout with classic rock influenced guitar. Kogon sings of a love perhaps faded but not yet lost.“Baby Hear Me Out” is definitely the weakest song on the album. With a noticeably muddier quality, vocals and instrumentation seem to clash more than complement each other. Ironically, as the song composition begs for refinement, the lyrics beg a lover for forgiveness and to be taken back. Despite this blemish, the album functions much the same as a grandfather’s vintage suede fedora. Slightly dented but still a joy to wear and worth holding onto. Listen to and buy the album here.

Key tracks: Before, I Could Never, Odd