In an interview last year with The Cut, author Raven Leilani speaks about earnestness and the precarious place it currently occupies in the culture, stating, “Earnestness is a vulnerable and overt way of interacting with the world. I feel like it is a way of being that is against self-protection.” In a social media landscape where irony and sardonicism have become de facto social currency, the case for reverting back to a more authentic mode of expression is stronger than ever.
In many ways, Scout, the latest EP from NYC-based singer-songwriter Samia Finnerty, makes a similar appeal for earnestness to have its moment again. With Finnerty’s characteristic witty lyricism and austere vocals, Scout shines in its simplicity and uninhibited tenderness.
Building on the wry, intimacy of her 2020 debut LP, The Baby, Scout sees Finnerty showcasing a more streamlined songwriting style that nevertheless retains its emotional potency. At a concise four tracks, no space is wasted and truly every lyric feels essential. The EP’s opener, “As You Are,” is reminiscent of artists such as Lucy Dacus’ or Phoebe Bridgers’ highly personal and specific lyrics. Finnerty sings, “Sawyer’s got a brand new job at the golf course/ Get to know your bathroom floor the hard way” on the opening verse, lending the track a masterfully articulated sense of youthful awkwardness.
The lead single off the EP, “Show Up,” is the musical highpoint of the record, with Finnerty’s undulating vocals, crashing drums and magnified production converging to create a sound that is a departure from the airier indie-rock tinge of The Baby. She displays a retrospective self-awareness on the track, singing, “It’s been a whole year/ I think that I grew up/ but I still cry every time my dad hangs up.” This brazen vulnerability about the complicated nature of growing up is a Samia staple. (The singles “Someone Tell the Boys” and “Django” from early on in her discography helped to carve out this niche.) Despite her veteran status as an artist writing about teen angst, Finnerty’s lyrics never feel contrived. The track culminates in a beat drop and ardently assured chorus: “Nothing could ever stop my ass from showing up/ To sing another song for the people I love.”
The track “Elephant” features some of Finnerty’s more experimental lyrics. Backed up by a shoegaze-inspired instrumental, the lyrics on the track lend the track an almost eerie quality that is a stark deviation from the more saccharine writing on the rest of the EP. In the same way the rest of the EP reflects on the importance of authenticity in relationships with others, The Elephant focuses on translating this authenticity onto yourself.
Finnerty enlists 17-year-old San Diego artist Jelani Aryeh on “The Promise,” the EP’s energetically synth-filled rendition of the original single by When In Rome. Speaking of his collaboration with Finnerty, Aryeh wrote in an Instagram caption: “i just recently moved to la and it’s easy to feel like you’re growing up too fast or losing parts of yourself. this record grounds me in ways i cant explain. it feels as if i’m going on a walk with the 10 year old me.” Aryeh is almost certainly not alone in his feelings about Scout: The record embodies a certain coziness that has largely been missing from people’s lives for the past year. Samia’s quiet, understated wisdom feels like your cool older sister giving you advice.
Though Finnerty’s lyrics are consistently poignant and fully realized throughout the EP, the record fails to fully deliver due to its short length of only three original tracks. The cover is a fitting closer, though it seems out of place amongst the other tracks that feature the idiosyncratic clarity that has made Finnerty such a compelling lyricist. Despite this odd juxtaposition, the track is an appropriately simple bookend to a record with a simple message.
On Scout, Finnerty presents a solution to the concern she expresses on The Baby that adolescence is irreconcilably kind of messy and embarrassing. Scout doesn’t negate this concern, but rather shifts focus onto what we can choose to control in these increasingly uncertain times: how we love.