Gonna Get It Wrong Before I Get It Right
While snarkiness seems to be the rule of the day in modern popular music, there are still musicians out there willing to write bright-eyed pop songs. Sam Ashworth is one of these, a songsmith who allows his work to simmer as it progresses, never veering into irony or acrimony. Along those lines, Ashworth shows a clear reverence for modern indie pop gods The Shins, whose modest prodigiousness he tries to recreate on his debut Gonna Get It Wrong Before I Get It Right. Ashworth’s background in Nashville’s burdgeoning indie scene aids him immensely here, as that city’s down-home pride permeates every song on this enjoyable album.
Nevertheless, Ashworth is by no means the most talented songwriter and tends to mine only the surface of his issues, usually focusing mostly on creating a pleasing melody. These tend towards simplicity, usually consisting of a twangy guitar and Ashworth’s lilting whisper. Naturally, with these techniques, Ashworth is at his best when he is at his most poignant, especially in “Children’s Leap,” the album’s highlight and a peerless example of subtle sentimentality.
That’s not to say Ashworth can’t engage in a little bit of raucousness now and again. “Look Back” is a number so charged it could almost be a power pop song. For him, though, this rambunctiousness is understated and rough-hewn; he never strays too far from his southern gentleman roots. Even “Look Back” has its soft points and vulnerabilities; Ashworth’s voice never matches the force of the music and the lyrics are decidedly self-conscious.
What befalls Ashworth, as it does many other pop artists, is his tendency to take himself too seriously. Unlike his idols, he never allows a bon mot to slip in underneath the poignancy in order to offset the inherent pathos in his songs.
As such, the album can tend to slacken. At points it even tends to revel in its languidness, revealing Ashworth as a songwriter who, stripped of his neuroses, is actually quite sure of himself. A dichotomy like this does not hurt Ashworth, but rather makes the album that much more layered, enjoyable and, dare we say it, snarky.