Published Oct 17, 2018Tamino's debut EP, Habibi, sparked some attention earlier this year; at just 21, the Belgian-Egyptian artist displayed considerable ambition, and a stunning voice, over four haunting tracks. However, his new 12-track LP, Amir, spreads his talents too thin to maintain momentum during the album's deeper cuts.
The album's sound is certainly unique. Tamino's songs are inflected with Middle Eastern-inspired instrumental melodies and rhythms that undergird his Jeff Buckley-esque vocals. Nowhere is this more evident than on the track "So it Goes." Tamino's lyrics, reflecting on captivity, exploration and oppression, are propelled by the rhythms of the Firka Orchestra – consisting mostly of musicians who have fled, predominantly from Syria and Iraq.
Despite the album's idiosyncratic sound, Tamino's songwriting takes somewhat of a nosedive beyond the tracks that have appeared as singles or on his EP. During the second song, "Sun May Shine," it feels as if Tamino supplements captivating melodies with his vocal prowess. The impressive falsetto on the choruses of this track fails to replicate the immediacy of the previous track, "Habibi."
By contrast, songs like "Tummy" and "Persephone," which serve as singles, display Tamino's ability to write catchy, artful pop. "Tummy" displays the young songwriter at his best, melding dream-pop guitar lines with abstract lyricism.
Amir is a competent debut that makes Tamino an artist to watch. However, its reliance on older material and singles means that the album struggles to be compelling in its entirety. (Arts & Crafts)