Columbus alternative-pop artist Sam Craighead expertly balances reality and sardonic wit on his new EP, Self-Portrait w/Fries, released March 22 on Head2Wall Records. His sound may be lighthearted and upbeat, but Craighead utilizes lyrics that are both humorous and reflective to create a jarring contrast, covering content from eating at a fast-food restaurant to masculinity.
The musical content on Self Portrait w/Fries presents a stark contrast to its lyrics: soft, mellow, airy synth provides a colorful background as Craighead croons with a voice richer than deep mahogany, and it is all very soothing and beautiful until you realize that he’s singing about eating and dying in fast-food restaurants. On “Summer Buns”, Craighead sings, “Tragic shooting at McDonald’s/How I’ll finally expire/In the middle of the ball pit.”
But not everything is comprised of cheek and wit; on “Kevin’s World”, Craighead highlights some of the more violent aspects of masculinity (“I’m gonna kill you all/And wait for you to respawn/And take you down one more time”) as his music continues with its upbeat, sunny vibe. The contrast is jarring, but not unpleasantly so – instead, it’s just enough of a polarity to get listeners to pay attention to what they’re hearing.
To conclude on a solemn note, the EP closes with a cover of “Skeletons” by Rickie Lee Jones; its pretty piano melodies layer over echoing, flutey synth and Craighead’s smooth vocals to create a gorgeously solemn track about a father-to-be who gets killed at a stop sign. It’s a sharp shift from the rest of the album, but Craighead utilizes cascades of sound to communicate heartbreak.
Satirical music is difficult to master, let alone compiling humor and wit with more serious topics on the same five-track EP. But Craighead employs a consistent sound with smooth, fluid music to unite themes that may otherwise feel dissonant, and, oddly enough, it works.
With the dreary seriousness of winter (hopefully) coming to an end and spring’s warmth bringing light to the world, Sam Craighead’s Self Portrait w/Fries effortlessly captures the levity needed to aid that transition. Check out the EP below.