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Sam Nitsch turns to polished pop grandeur on ‘NEOWISE’ 

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As someone who grew up with The Beatles on one hand and classical music on the other, Sam Nitsch is equally adept at catchy melodies and structured compositions. In his best moments, he brings both of those worlds together. On Nitsch’s latest release, “NEOWISE,” he plays most of the parts himself, offering proof of his growth as a performer on a grander scale.

The Rochester native is a multi-instrumentalist, but his songs typically center around the ukulele. Along with a contemporary vocal style, his overall sensibility plants him firmly in pop territory. As a solo performer, Nitsch connects with audiences by utilizing live loops to layer his backing tracks while keeping such instruments as the violin at the front. It’s a talent that not only requires a great deal of precision but also suggests he has a knack for dazzling arrangements.

Recorded at the Power Station New England, “NEOWISE” represents a leap forward in Nitsch’s sonic exploration. The singer-songwriter occasionally mixed it up with unique orchestration on previous tunes he wrote while attending the Berklee College of Music. The professional studio environment also extended him an opportunity to play an even larger collection of real instruments, which give this album a warm, natural feel.


For the most part, the songs are delicious. Dreamy vocals, lovely background harmonies, melodies that dance along the edges, and sublime production — what’s not to like?

When Nitsch checks off all of these boxes on such tunes as “Gotta Way,” the results are magical. Similarly, “Pioneer Radio” charms your ears with a happy vibe reminiscent of bands such as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. On the string-heavy waltz “Pictures in Wallets,” the last song written for this album, Nitsch displays the capacity to mine the depths of his imagination and pan for gold.


The single “Growing Pains” highlights his vision. It starts with an accordion swell that falls into an angular groove; the music unfolds and eventually takes flight with a boost in tempo. Additional elements follow such as a light-hearted, airy pre-verse that is supported by Nitsch’s charismatic singing, which hits the high notes. It’s a nod toward an expansive style that sounds colorful, hopeful, and alive.

“Neowise” is more polished than anything Sam Nitsch has ever done. His vocal talent — along with the ability to turn complex ideas into an appealing collection of songs — makes this album a major achievement.

Roman Divezur is a freelance writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to dkushner@rochester-citynews.com.
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