Then I Held My Breath

by Sam Shinazzi

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about

Sam's third full length album, released in 2008

Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Label: Black Lodge Audio Records

It’s been four years since Sydney singer-songwriter Sam Shinazzi released ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’, a collection of twelve songs which sound as good today as when we first heard them. There wasn’t a dud song on that album and Shinazzi’s vulnerable, world-weary vocals and captivating melodies turned what could have been just another decent album into a classic.

After what must be thousands of plays the song ‘Out Of The Question’ has lost none of its appeal and with its heartbreaking last line, “Please remember I always meant to brighten up your day…even though it wasn’t always that way” and the driving beat and searing guitar that precedes those words it is a contender for the greatest pop song ever. With that one song Shinazzi has captured everything that is great about pop music. Thoughtful, touching lyrics, immaculate playing and production and a gorgeous melody all come together on this track and if you get a chance to listen to just one Sam Shinazzi song then make it ‘Out Of The Question’.

We all had an idea, of course, that with ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ Shinazzi would turn in at the very least an interesting collection of songs; the previous year he had blown most of the competition out of the water with his contribution to Jenny Queen’s ‘Girls Who Cry Need Cake’ album but I wonder how many really thought that his next album would be a classic despite his outstanding song on Queen’s album.

‘Then I Held My Breath’ has a lot to live up to then. It could be argued that Shinazzi hasn’t really moved on from the sound of ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’. The twelve original songs on this latest album could have been added to that album making it a double set and the join would not have been noticed. While some fans might have liked Shinazzi to take another direction and tried something different this time around, for those of us who felt that ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ is the perfect album then more of the same is just what we needed. It’s a winning formula, why mess with it?

Again mainly dealing with matters of the heart, Shinazzi has the perfect singing voice for this, his vocals sound bruised. Shinazzi always sounds like he is on the verge of cracking-up but for the most part there is just this small ray of light that gets through, if not in his lyrics then in, say, the sound of the guitars. Shinazzi and his band make their instruments talk; there are moments throughout this album where the instrumental passages, no matter how short, continue to convey the feelings that Shinazzi has displayed in his vocals and it is those occasions where one feels a sense of optimism.

That said one of the most affecting songs on this album, ‘Walking’, sees Shinazzi leaving his usual subject matter of loves lost and found and taking a late night stroll to shake off the demons following him around. Taken at a deathly pace and with a ghostly, stripped-bare sound again it’s a situation we can all relate to. But even then Shinazzi, to find some solace, thinks of “a beautiful face”.

I asked in a review of ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ just how many times Shinazzi has had his heart broken, so touching and real his lyrics were. I guess in some way he has answered as the song ‘Girls’ is a list of the female names who “make his world turn” when he is down. It’s another catchy Shinazzi melody which will set up home in your head from the first listen and stay there all day.

‘Queen Of The Supermarket’ was a highlight on Bruce Springsteen’s latest album, ‘Working on a Dream’, and Shinazzi writes a similar tale here with ‘My Very Own Mary-Ellen’ and matches the Boss both lyrically and musically.

At this present moment in time I can’t say that ‘Then I Held My Breath’ is, track for track, as strong as ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ but time will tell if these songs still hold up four years down the line, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that they will; as we were expecting greatness from Shinazzi, whatever he came up with would pale against that last album, but these songs are growers for sure and if any other artist presented us with twelve songs as strong and melodic as these then we would be shouting how brilliant he is. Shinazzi hasn’t failed in following up ‘Stories You Wouldn’t Believe’ with another collection of superb songs but somehow we expected that, didn’t we?

credits

released August 1, 2008

Recorded by Adam Wes Gregorace
Produced by Adam Wes Gregorace and Sam Shinazzi
Mixed by Wayne Connolly
Mastered by William Bowden

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about

Sam Shinazzi Sydney, Australia

Singer/songwriter from Sydney, AU, with five releases and also co-written with Jenny Queen. Supported Bonnie Prince Billy, Lou Barlow, Buffalo Tom, Mountain Goats, Evan Dando, Pernice Brothers, Jose Gonzalez, Josh Rouse, Crooked Fingers, Richmond Fontaine, Steve Poltz, Hayden, Holly Throsby, Josh Pyke, Peats Ridge Festival and the Great Escape Festival. Sam toured the USA in 2005, 2009 and 2012. ... more

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Track Name: Today We Lost a Great One
You’re all I ever knew
It will take some time to get used to
And it’s so hard to let go
Even when it’s the right thing to do
And it feels like nothing will ever be the same

They say … you win some, and you lose some
But I’m telling you …
Today we lost a great one
Today we lost a great one

When time is not on your side
Everything just multiplies
And you try so hard to breath
But it makes it worse, it just makes it worse
And it’s hard to believe this is the end

They say … you win some, and you lose some
But I’m telling you …
Today we lost a great one
Today we lost a great one

Miss you I will
Miss you I do
They say … you win some, and you lose some
But I’m telling you …
Today we lost a great one
Today we lost a great one
Track Name: Forge My Signature
I’m here at the station
I’m waiting and waiting
And nothing but trains are coming through

Weather is predictable
And life gets miserable
When you’re not here with me

I would forge my signature to have you nearer
I would break the emergency glass on the plane
To send it back from where you came

Sunrise from the west
Finds me far from my best
And far from where I need to be

Oceans are apart
And the part that breaks my heart
Is that you’re not here with me

I would forge my signature to have you nearer
I would break the emergency glass on the plane
To send it back from where you came

I would drain the ocean, I would hold you so near
I would drain the ocean, I would hold you so near

I would forge my signature to have you nearer
I would break the emergency glass on the plane
To send it back from where you came
Track Name: Blue-Belle
Don’t know when I fell
Underneath your spell
It’s hard to tell
It’s hard to say
But somewhere on King in some café

Your eyes are so blue
They’re so beautiful and blue
I hope they never feel blue
I hope they never feel blue
I hope they never feel blue

Don’t know when I fell
Underneath your spell
It’s hard to tell
It’s hard to say
But somewhere on King in some café

Your eyes are so blue
They’re so beautiful and blue
I hope they never feel blue
I hope they never feel blue
I hope they never feel blue
Track Name: Girls
A is for Alice
B is for Beck
C is for CC and
D is for Dee
E is for Elizabeth my dear
G is for G-Girl
F is for friend

When everything gets cloudy
When everything turns grey
These are the girls that make my world turn

H is for Holly
J is for Jen, and Jules and Janice
K is for Kate
L is for Leigh, and Laura and Leah and Lainie
M is for Melissah, and Mary-Ellen and Michelle and Millie-O
N is for Naoko … N A O K O

When everything gets cloudy
When everything turns grey
These are the girls that make my world turn

Q is for Queenie
R is for Rebecca
S is for Skye and
T is for Tanya, and Teri and Tessa and Tina
U is for you
Y is for you and me
Z is for Zooey and Zorby

When everything gets cloudy
When everything turns grey
These are the girls that make my world turn
Track Name: Walking
Every night without fail I go out walking
Every night without fail I go out walking
Hoping these demons won’t follow me

I’m six feet tall
But they’re taller
And they’re evil

And I do everything I can
I stare into space
I create a wall of noise
And I think of a beautiful face

I listen to the sounds when I’m out walking
I listen to the sounds when I’m out walking
Trying to replace these thoughts in my head

But they’re so loud
And they’re racing so fast
And they’re evil

And I do everything I can
I stare into space
I count aloud each breath
So it matches each step
And I run down streets
‘Til I feel my heart beat
Like it’s never beat before

Every night without fail I go out walking
Every night without fail I go out walking
Hoping these demons won’t follow me

I’m six feet tall
But they’re taller
And they’re evil
And I do everything I can
I stare into space
I create a wall of noise
And I think of a beautiful face

But they’re evil
Track Name: My Very Own Mary-Ellen
My Very Own Mary-Ellen

Hey supermarket girl, where are you going?
I’ve flown halfway ‘round the world and think I’ve already fallen
Those glasses suit you more than you could know
And sure your hair is short but it makes you glow and glow …

Why should I settle for second?
I want my very own Mary-Ellen
My very own Mary-Ellen

The girl from the west she doesn’t know I’m alive
And the girl from the north I think that she would survive without me
Some people say they’re intelligent when they’re not
But I look at you and I know you’re smart because you know just what you’ve got

Why should I settle for second?
I want my very own Mary-Ellen
My very own Mary-Ellen

If I could bottle what you’ve got I’d take a lifetime
I’d breath you in night after night
If I could bottle what you’ve got I’d take a lifetime
And die happy just knowing you were mine

You meet girls from all over in my line of work
And when you leave, some leave bruises and some they just hurt
But you’ll be forever in my heart and mind
No matter what the distance and no matter what the time

Why should I settle for second?
I want my very own Mary-Ellen
My very own Mary-Ellen
Track Name: Graduation Girl
It’s really raining here,
My suburb’s flooded, cars are floating
Guess I’ll be late, but I guess I’ll be the only one
You look like the queen of the bees
You are a queen to me

Graduation girl
Soon you’ll be heading for a brand new world
Please take me with you
Graduation Girl

I’ve never seen so many strangers in one place
I feel so helpless, but we’re not here to discuss me
You walk so graceful, you shine like a star
You are a star to me

Graduation girl
Soon you’ll be heading for a brand new world
Please take me with you
Graduation Girl

No one could love you more than I do
No one will miss you more than I will
No one could love you more than I do
No one will miss you more than I will

Graduation girl
Soon you’ll be heading for a brand new world
Please take me with you
Graduation Girl

No one could love you more than I do
No one will miss you more than I will
No one could love you more than I do
No one will miss you more than I will
Track Name: This Could Be Something
I spot you in the crowd and my heart just stopped, I swear it’s true
Then I held my breath and took a step closer to you
Standing on the hill in the autumn afternoon sunshine
Someone told me once : “The sweetest victory is the best”

I need a photograph
I want to make this last
I want to stay here with you until it’s dark, dark, dark

Your eyes have a way of talking
And it feels like they’re trying to say one thing
Like this could be something

I brace myself for bad news but it’s not coming soon
There is a beauty in the air this afternoon
There is a battle going on, but it’s ok I know which side we’re on
And together we could be the last ones standing

I need a photograph
I want to make this last
I want to stay here with you until it’s dark, dark, dark

Your eyes have a way of talking
And it feels like they’re trying to say one thing
Like this could be something

This could be something
This could be something
This could be something
This could be something
Track Name: Thinking
I’ve been thinking
While you were sleeping
It’s nothing I should wake you for
I don’t want to wake you anymore

I could tell you
Things I’ve been thinking
But I feel ashamed
I don’t feel so brave

I’ve been trying to tell you something
Walls are crumbling
And I’m shaking more than ever these days
And I don’t want to live my life this way anymore

Can’t you feel me breaking?
Can’t you see me shaking?
Like a tree in the wind
That doesn’t know where it’s been
I’m like tree in the wind
That doesn’t know where it’s been

I’ve been thinking
Of leaving
Somewhere brand new
Somewhere just me and you
Track Name: Something Great Must Come From This
Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this

It’s been years in the making
It’s been walls coming down and breaking

Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this

The day is getting long
I hope I don’t get this wrong

Something great must come from this

Where everything is golden
Where everything is golden
Hello … hello … I need this
Hello … hello … I need this
Hello … hello … I need this
Hello … hello … I need this

Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this
Something great must come from this