Seasoned producer, director, composer and DJ puts out catchy but generic batch of tracks
At the age of 40, Sam Spiegel is continuing to get his feet wet. The journeyman artist has built up an impressive resume over the years, including working with the likes of Kanye West, Lizzo, Sia and others, building an award winning commercial music studio and directing short films and commercials alongside his brother Spike Jonze. And that’s not to mention his solo work. Just this year, Spiegel changed his stage name to Sam I. On his debut release under the name Sam I, Random Shit From the Internet Era, Spiegel brings his accessible and energetic electronic style to the table, but while there are certainly moments of toe-tapping goodness packed into the project, many of its offerings feel generic or repetitive.
Spiegel is no stranger to the world of electronic music, but while the simplistic, familiar sounds on Random Shit From the Internet Era might lend themselves well to one of his commercial earworms, they detract from the novelty and excitement of the album. That’s not to say that Random Shit isn’t worth a listen. On occasion, Spiegel meshes dance, hip-hop and funk influences cohesively to create some compelling mixes. But on the whole, the album suffers from its genericness and repetitiveness.
For example, the track “Perfect” has a clubby feel to it, with its hornlike synthesizers and heavy kicks and claps but its barebones verses and sparse choruses leave much to be desired. The sounds on here aren’t particularly novel and the mix doesn’t have enough excitement to feel so minimalist. “One Last Time” suffers from a similar issue. The track feels like a Flume impersonation, with glitchy, wonky synthesizers, but Spiegel’s mix is not nearly as smooth or full-bodied as the Aussie DJ’s.
Or take the song “Don’t Give Up.” Spiegel swings for the fences with his features, enlisting Busta Rhymes, Vic Mensa and Sia, but they don’t do much to improve on the track’s generic clubby beat. “Champagne” and “Crew” are also plagued by this problem; the two tracks are comparable, built around interesting percussion and muted synths, but both feel familiar and repetitive.
That being said, Random Shit From the Internet Era has some sweet highs. For instance, opening track “Goin’ Home” is a bombastic, maximalist techno cut, as Spiegel uses a variety of synthesizers to fill out the mix; glowing, coarse, ringing and video game-like synths can be heard. Combine those with booming percussion, pretty vocal harmonies and instrumental breakdowns, and the result is a memorable album opener.
“Used to Be My Homie” is another highlight, as Freddie Gibbs and BJ the Chicago Kid feature over a smooth beat made up of glowing bells, synthesizers and a glitched out string riff that adds some intrigue to the arrangement. “To WhomIt May Concern,” although it sounds like a sultry take on bubblegum pop, also has enough novelty to grab the attention. Spiegel adds a touch of funk to the track, while Alex Ebert, Theophilus London and Cee-Lo Green form a makeshift chorus on the hook. Speaking of featured artists, Anderson .Paak and Doja Cat lend a hand on the song “20 Below,” fitting nicely into the track’s washed out aesthetic. Dreamy, woozy synthesizers and airy vocals carry the mix on Random Shit’s most laid back offering.
But more often than not, Spiegel struggles to push musical boundaries, and the listener often winds up with tracks like album closer “Ride.” While he achieves a big sound here, it feels messy and a little abrasive. This sounds like Spiegel’s attempt at an epic resolution to the project, but he ultimately falls a bit short, delivering an occasionally emphatic, occasionally clunky song.
There’s no denying Spiegel’s immense and diverse artistic talent, but Random Shit From the Internet Era is largely hit or miss. The tracklist for the project is accessible to a fault and Spiegel doesn’t take many risks, preferring to stick to his guns and focus primarily on catchiness. And while he succeeds on that front, Spiegel doesn’t offer much in the way of ingenuity. There are certainly some memorable moments on the project, but not much that will stick with listeners in the long run.