Editors' Notes “Sometimes I like making a record in 12 days, and whatever comes out in that time comes out,” Sam Roberts tells Apple Music. “But this didn't feel like that kind of record—and it didn't feel like the time in my life to make that kind of record, either.” Roberts’ seventh album, All of Us, arrives four years after 2016’s TerraForm, the longest gap he’s taken between releases to date. And from the get-go, you can sense the heightened degree of deliberation and experimentation that went into it: The opening “Wolf Tracks” gradually mutates from a minimalist synth-pop reverie into a densely textured, drum-bashing anthem, while “Spellbound” spins its folky acoustic melody into a swirl of psychedelic guitar solos and hypnotic grooves. But for Roberts, All of Us’ extended gestation period wasn’t just a product of trying to find the right sounds, but also figuring out what he wanted to say. Two decades into his career, the Montreal-based singer, songwriter, and guitarist enters the 2020s as a certified Canadian rock elder statesman, and he found himself both reflecting on his past and pondering his current reality as a family man in his mid-forties. “Sometimes you just have to take a step back and allow yourself to look a little bit more deeply at how you feel about things and where you're going in your life,” Roberts says. “I think a lot of the songs needed that extra time to get to the right place.” Here, Roberts offers a track-by-track guide on how he got there.

Wolf Tracks
“This started off about as minimalist as you can get, with this very repetitive synth line. And sometimes when you make music like that, it kind of forces a conscious direction on the song, especially lyrically. I think the line 'scattered by the wind' applies to a lot of things in our lives, where we head down a road and commit to a path or way of life and always assume that you can find your way back in case you run into any snags along the way. So this song to me became very much about that, and that's why it's the first song on the record: It's about stepping into the unknown and not knowing what you're going to find there, but embracing the challenge.”

War Chest
“Instead of weaponry or money, 'War Chest' is about stockpiling memories for when you need them the most. Certainly, I think the days that we're living in right now require as much of that reconnection with the good things in your lives as you can possibly muster. Memory is a hard medium to work with, because you can always so easily stray into the overly sentimental and rose-coloured nostalgia that isn't necessarily the useful kind of memory to me. This was more about seeing it all, in all the different shades.”

“This was one of the last songs that I wrote for the record, but it wasn't pandemic-related, necessarily. It was about how difficult the world already was—in January. All the conditions that, in my mind, required a song like 'Ascension' existed back then; we were already on the brink. And we have been existing on this precipice, collectively speaking, for, like, five years—a long time to be redlining as a species. You need a rallying cry from time to time, and I was trying to make this about two generations talking to each other, and ultimately realizing that you can't just cut yourselves off from one another. You have to lean on each other more than we do.”

“I've had a lot of friends that I've been friends with since I was two or three years old, and they're still my best friends today. So this is about the way your relationships sort of change from early childhood, where you go knock on each other's door and find out what kind of trouble you could get into, to the point where your lives kind of drift apart. But somehow you're still connected by this thread, and you're pulled back together. You've changed and the other person has changed, but somehow there's still that connection that runs deeper than that. And your friendship finds a way, no matter how much separation you put between yourselves at times.”

Take Me Away
“You can't shy away from simple songs that still make you feel good. A lot of my favourite bands—like The Beatles—have never been afraid to go off on a wild tangent, but then the next song will be just this very simple, relatable song, just to bring the whole thing back to earth. I find I need to ground myself when I'm writing songs and pull it in and remind myself that I still love straight-ahead rock 'n' roll songs. You adopt this very traditional framework, and then you see what you can do within it, to the limits of your imagination.”

I Like the Way You Talk About the Future
Collider [from 2011] was a very important record to myself and my bandmates in the sense that it opened up this whole other palette to draw from musically speaking, particularly rhythmically. A song like this wants to be an instrumental—it was really difficult to write words to it. Some songs just sort of repel lyrics—they're just like, ‘No, don't want it, no thank you, everything feels false and contrived.’ And this song was lyric-repellent, for sure. But I just sat there and really got into a state of mind where I wasn't trying to impose my will on it, and then this story of a journey came out of it. It's about walking out your front door and leaving all your material possessions behind and going on a journey into the mind.”

Ghost Town
“Some songs are elusive and force you to submit to their will, and other songs just sort of give themselves to you, and this is definitely one of them. I've only had a handful of songs that have given themselves to me in all the time I've been making records—there are literally like two or three that I didn't have to wrestle to the ground in some way. But this is one of those songs where what I was singing about, how I was singing it, the melody, the words, everything just sort of came flowing out. There's something about just going back to those chimey guitar lines that I grew up on—like The Stone Roses. It felt like a place I wanted to go back to, musically speaking.”

All of Us
“This was the last song that I wrote words to. The song underwent a lot of different permutations. Like, the main piano line used to be on a synth and had a very different sort of feel to it. It was called 'Death Eater,' because I had been reading Harry Potter to my kids out loud for six years, and I literally couldn't think of anything else. So it started off with all these different things, but then I just felt the need to write a hopeful response to this now-trembling world we live in. I'm sort of writing from the perspective that I can offer comfort to somebody, but I need it just as much too, and this song was a recognition of that.”

“This song is really hard for me to play live—I've only played it live a couple of times, but I get pretty emotional. It's not just about the nostalgia of thinking back on my own childhood, it's about realizing why it's important to enjoy that childhood, if you're fortunate enough to be able to do that, and to keep a special place in your heart and be able to revisit it if you're older. It's dangerously easy to lose sight of the beauty of childhood, and so much of our humanity resides in those feelings that we had in those days.”


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