The Sami Sisters – Happy Heartbreak! (PDG)

The Sami sisters are three high-achieving siblings comprised of Madeleine (an award-winning actress), Anji (who has a solo release, The El Dorado EP under her belt) and Priya (who’s responsible for cult single Mrs. Julian Casablancas). With their powers combined they may not have summoned Captain Planet, but in their Hawaiian folk moments they have conjured the ghost of Elvis, and in their synthy instants Synergy from Jem and the Holograms could be casting her mysterious shadow over the trio.

First track Take It Or Break It, by Madeleine, is a song with a toe-tapping melody and a guitar-strumming style that somehow evokes a sense of 1970s and 80s rural New Zealand. The song also features the sweet nostalgia-tinged vocal harmonies which are a real highlight of this album. Cry, penned and sung by Priya, introduces us to the youngest sister’s steamy voice. A modern soul song with dark western elements and a touch of Motown girl group, this song deserves to find a home on a movie soundtrack. Not In Love, by Anji, is a moreish number with the serious yet poppy sensibility of Camera Obscura or Belle and Sebastian. “I am not in love, I was never in love”, sings Anji with soft regret. Madeleine’s back on Blame It All On Me. Her voice is generally rougher and her lyrics tougher than her sisters’, and her stronger Kiwi accent works well over instrumentation that could have come straight off her nana’s old pop records.

On Oh Boy Prelude the influences fast-forward from the fifties to the teenies, and Oh Boy itself is a strange soft pop epic masterpiece that jumps from soul to modern farce to Johnny Cash to Britney to comedy in a way that shouldn’t work, but does. This song showcases Priya’s deft vocals, where even the highest trills are sung with a light touch. Anji makes the sounds of the 80s relevant on How Did We Fall Apart, taking a more Ladyhawke than Stevie Nicks approach. Priya’s next song Closer feels like the forgotten track of the album. A more folk pop and less synthy treatment would have served this song better. Madeleine’s vocals are softer on Upside Down, where she sounds as though she’s channeling her inner Sandy in Grease, sitting by the pool in a nightgown singing Hopelessly Devoted To You to John Travolta’s magical reflection. Same Ol’ Same Ol’ is the only song that’s credited with dual songwriters (Anji and Madeleine), and I’m pretty sure I know who the swearing can be attributed to. The album rounds off with the country-tinged On This Day. “Howdy stranger, how’s things. It’s been a long time between drinks,” sings Madeleine. “We weren’t to know how the rocky road would wind,” she continues, in a truly lovely song about loss and hope that has the potential to win a Gold Guitar.

With eleven songs about lovesickness coming at you from a lot of different angles, Happy Heartbreak! was overwhelming on the first listen. But chances are this album will keep calling you back. Like a time capsule with influences ranging from nana to Rihanna, this album is filled with exciting discoveries. In these three Onehunga-raised Irish/Indian sisters, we may just have found the real sound of New Zealand.

Kathryn van Beek

Click here to listen to Not In Love from Happy Heartbreak!