Sam Bambery defies the sophomore slump with new album ‘Rubricator’

From psychedelic surf-rock to bedroom pop balladry and classic indie-pop, Sam Bambery leaves no stone unturned on his sprawling sophomore album ‘Rubricator’. 

Sam Bambery has sketched new contours of his sound on his sophomore album ‘Rubricator’.

Encompassing ten diverse yet concise tracks, the project sees the Ōtautahi/Christchurch artist lean into subtle psychedelic with a twisted folk-rock lens, with the assist of producer De Stevens.

Sam Bambery album
Credit: Loren Jalyn Kett

The word ‘eclectic’ is sure to dance on your tongue during your first listed ‘Rubricator’, and while the alt-country that defined Bambery’s 2022 debut ‘Songs About Sailors’ persists, he’s equally concerned with pushing new limits. 

The album opens with lush piano work of ‘24.01’, a resplendent slice of indie-pop that brims with airy harmonies, whistle tunes and the raw delivery of Bambery’s vocals.

While there’s warm moments all throughout the opener — from twinkling keys to sunlit guitar melodies — Bambery brings a grittier edge with spaghetti western-like licks and trebled sound effects, showcasing his versatile sonic palate.

This spirit of diversity continues on ‘The Burnout’, a surf-rock cut that dips into both psychedelia and pop, and feels purpose-built for an afternoon bike ride.

Later, Bambery sings alongside kaleidoscopic keys and falls into an infectious talky delivery, with the beach-bound melodies instantly transporting listeners to the warm hues of the 60s. 

Guitar remains a throughline on the indie-rock revelry of ‘Life in Tandem’, a track that might feel at home on a Lime Cordiale record, while ‘Mountain and Me’ veers towards bedroom pop balladry with captivating vocals and glittery yet sinister xylophone keys.

On ‘Parasite’, Bambery invokes the 90s nostalgia of Pavement alongside lullaby-like pianos, before ‘Spring’ musters all the energy of its title with a stripped back and acoustic ditty seemingly pulled from a Maytime reverie.  

While the sonic tapestry of ‘Rubricator’ is rich enough to wash over you, Bambery is equally focussed on storytelling. Rustic strums and whirring synths soundtrack ‘Tricks of Light’, a track that reflects on the fake allure of toxic romances.

Meanwhile, on ‘Doctor’, Bambery likens a relationship to a surgical procedure that “clamped and cut at my seams,” before ‘Uncertain’ lays bare the “shadows in the doorway” and sense of aimlessness that haunts us all. 

Bambery’s efforts culminate on ‘Myself, Vindicated’, a worthy album closer carried by blissful guitar melodies, intimate vocals and spoken-word samples.

What all of it amounts to is a tracklist that’s as diverse as it is heartfelt, with its creator shining a new light not just to his artistry, but on himself.

It’s hard not to feel as though ‘Rubricator’ is the beginning of a breakout moment for Bambery, and we can’t wait to see where he goes. 

Listen to Sam Bambery’s new album ‘Rubricator’ below.