Arts & Culture

Nemo’s melodic album channels Pearce’s ’14 melancholy spirit

With a mostly repaired singing voice, Pearce’s new album differs from his rap-based EP

Contributing Writer
Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sam Pearce’s ’14 new album, “Don’t Forget Me,” opens with a single voice reading a poem — no guitar riff or rhythmic drums or even synth chords. It’s a fitting way to begin the record, which he released under the name Nemo — a name Pearce said represents the “blizzard, captain, clownfish.” The earnest, delicate nature of his spoken word opening foreshadows the melancholy folk music that follows. The album is a light, sparse affair — almost every song is backed only by acoustic guitar with nothing but Sam’s clear voice flowing over the surface.

Pearce’s first EP, “If Not Now,” which he released over the summer, is decidedly different — having injured his voice, he experimented with rap to create a low-key album occupying a space somewhere between chill-out hip-hop and conscious rap with a few pretty hooks added throughout.

With his voice now mostly healed, Pearce can sing again, but he continues to rap in “Chocolat,” the first full track on “Dont Forget Me.” In a soft voice over a simple guitar and bongo beat, he speaks not English but French, lending the song a fluid, melodious feel, with each word sliding over the next. The first line of the song means “our language alone does not suffice to translate what I see when I look at you,” Pearce said, a lyric typical of his textured, emotional language.

Featuring the only drumming on the album, another standout track, “KPO,” sounds like a mix of Jeff Buckley and The National. Pearce named Buckley as one of his biggest musical influences, and the late artist’s signature falsetto clearly inspired Pearce to reach for similar high notes in many of the album’s songs.

The solemn, delicate “One More Rose” is another highlight. Featuring only acoustic guitar for the majority of the track, a mournful trumpet, also played by Pearce, comes in during the last minute for a beautiful finish.

Pearce, from Milton, Mass., said he remembers “starting to try to write songs when (he) was 12.” His albums come from a set of “songs that I need to make for the people I love,” he said, adding that they represent years of material.

“If my soul had a sound, it would probably be melodic,” he said, but he added, “It still hurts for me to sing … so it doesn’t come naturally, the way it used to.”

The soft folk on “Don’t Forget Me” is a welcome return for Pearce, with the genre nicely suited to his lyrical content.

While hip-hop can be an outlet for heavy themes, the chill-out rap of “If Not Now” is not quite the place for the emotion of his music. On the EP’s indie-rap, the introspective lyrics can seem slightly sappy, and a couple of the beats are too simple to hold the listener’s interest.

Pearce sidesteps these issues on the new album — the elegant tracks of “Don’t Forget Me” feel genuine and sincere, and the emotional and deeply personal lyrics resonate far more than on the EP.

Even if slightly homogenous, “Don’t Forget Me” boasts some beautiful moments and is worth a listen. The album debuts Nov. 23 at