Saman Shahi’s “Another Coffee” (SINGLE)

“Another Coffee” is one of the key performances from Saman Shahi’s song cycle Orbit. The latter is one of three such cycles featured on Shahi’s debut recording Breathing in the Shadows and packs a heavy dramatic effect for listeners. It is rare to stumble across songs from larger quasi-conceptual pieces that carry the same gravitas divorced from their intended framework. Only a few acts, popular music or otherwise, have achieved such balance. Shahi does because he has the necessary writing chops to pull it off and works with an outstanding cast of musical collaborators invested in realizing his vision. “Another Coffee” will not be playing on your radio. This is music you must seek out as it works on a higher level of aural creativity well outside modern pop’s purview.

It’s obvious from the start. Piano and vocals alone carry “Another Coffee” from the first note to last and the track’s opening serves notice that this isn’t an especially joyful tune. Tara Scott’s piano passages are full of melody, but it’s far from joyful. The song moves and works in a minor key mode without ever dragging listeners down into the same mood. Much of this is due to its melodic grace. The piano lines soar and plunge within the mood and achieve coherence that listeners can follow throughout the song. Their recording, as well, gives them a physical immediacy that deepens their impact on listeners.

The vocal melody doesn’t ape its instrumental counterpart. Vocalist Fabian Arciniegas juxtaposes his voice again the piano lines for maximum effect. His lower register vocal will command listener’s attention as it isn’t often such deep singing latches into a listener’s heart as it does here. Archiniegas’ phrasing is key. Lyricist Jelena Ciric gives him excellent writing to work with and he doesn’t disappoint as Arciniegas burrows beneath the text and “lives out” each twist in the song’s lyric. This is a superb interpreter working near or at the peak of his powers.

His classical training is clear as well. There are moments during the performance that suggest opera training as well, he uses his voice as well as such performers, but every line is accessible. “Another Coffee” skirts the line between classical piece and baroque pop with immense control. It always sounds natural despite that notable control. The production frames the performance, as well, in the best way. There isn’t a significant amount of sonic ground to cover during “Another Coffee” but the production and mixing alike strike a perfect balance between Tara Scott’s piano and Arciniegas’ singing.

The stylized nature of Saman Shahi’s composition doesn’t mean it’s a shallow or artificial experience. Far from it. The music provides a vibrant and full aural landscape for Ciric’s lyrics to take flight and Arciniegas to work his vocal magic for listeners. The song is nothing without the fully realized structure Shahi provides. “Another Coffee” will experience the success it deserves as a standalone piece and, when judged as part of a larger songwriting superstructure, it will stand out even more. 

Nicole Killian

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Nicole loves to go cross country skiing, swimming, reading and critiquing books, listening and critiquing music, some culinary arts, pottery, spending time with my daughter, cheesy horror films.

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