Nirvana - EP
By the time this debut EP was released, Sam Smith was already a sensation. The British singer-songwriter previously sang on two smash hits (Disclosure’s “Latch” and Naughty Boy’s “La La La”) and won some impressive UK awards including a BRIT Critics’ Choice award and a BBC Sound of 2014 poll. If the burden of expectations was weighing on Smith, it’s hard to tell from this excellent effort. The singer sounds sophisticated and assured, as if Smith feels there’s nothing the project needs to prove. It’s an approach that works. Nirvana features mostly slow, synth-driven grooves like “Safe with Me,” “Together,” and the title track, which highlights Smith's remarkable falsetto and subtle phrasing. There’s also a stripped-down version of “Latch” that reveals an entirely different side to the song. Still, it’s the midtempo “Money on My Mind” that emerges as the catchiest track here, and it shows Smith is more than just an evocative balladeer. Based on the promise of Nirvana, there’s much more to come from this promising young talent.