As charming as they are vibrant, reflective and brooding, the guitar-driven melodies that adorn the whole of Sam Levin’s “Dairy Queen Queen” are saturated in emotion, but they deliver only one-half of the magic in this latest single from the acclaimed singer/songwriter. “Dairy Queen Queen” features some of the most sophisticated string play we’ve heard from Levin to date, but beyond the glowing sonic backdrop that this track sports with pride, we find a lyricism that has matured exceptionally well in the last three years. This is unquestionably Sam Levin’s most stunning single so far, and a song that I would rank among the Top 10 to debut since 2019 started.

The vocal here is as warm with a natural tonality as the instrumentation is, and it complements the rustic essence of the guitar parts better than anything else possibly could have. There’s an iconic, almost classic folk/rock-style vibe to the construction of the hook in this track, and yet nothing in “Dairy Queen Queen” sounds even remotely recycled or watered-down. He’s acknowledging his influences whilst striving to create something all his own, which is more than I can say for a lot of the mainstream acts he’s competing with right now.

Sam Levin has a commanding presence in most everything that he records, but there’s something really special about his performance in this single. There’s no hesitation, no uncertainty in his voice or his fretwork; the passion in his vocal lends context to the words he’s so artfully crooning to us, while the harmonies he forms with the guitar express elements of his story that would otherwise go untranslated in this setting. It’s a layered composition that demands a reaction out of anyone listening, but it stops short of repelling more casual audiences with overcomplicated facets where there needn’t be any.

BANDCAMP: https://samlevin.bandcamp.com/track/dairy-queen-queen

“Dairy Queen Queen” boasts a production quality that is just as rich a component as the actual material is, but I think that it’s worth pointing out just how steeped in minimalist it is. There’s no filler in this track, and though Levin could just as easily have inserted a more flamboyant finish or a couple of rock-inspired bells and whistles on the lead-in to the chorus, he didn’t out of respect for the integrity of the content. He’s got no time for pomp and plasticity in this song, and that in itself is refreshing to find in any strain of pop music nowadays.

I’ve had the pleasure of following this young man’s journey through the release of his last three singles, and “Dairy Queen Queen” is by far my favorite of the trio. Sam Levin chases after a poignant harmony with everything he’s got in this song, and though he’s never disappointed me with his decadent vocal stylings in the past, he raises the bar for himself here (along with the level of respect that I have for his skillset). If you’ve never heard his music before now, I would highly recommend giving this latest track a spin as soon as you can.

Sebastian Cole