It’s been ten years since Samantha Urbani split from the buzzy five-piece Friends, and three since she last released a single. She spent the intervening years turning her hand to teaching, DJing, and working in A&R, but personal tragedy – the loss of her friend and collaborator Sam Mehran in 2018 – put the emergency brakes on her writing. It wasn’t until Nick Weiss (Nightfeelings) encouraged her to pick up the pen again that her debut LP took shape. Finally making it to release, ‘Showing Up’ is testament to a decade of struggle, experimentation and perseverance.
Opening with the title track, Urbani is quick to summarise the emotional toil of the last few years, which saw her pour energy into personal and professional relationships that ended in a clear lack of power on her end. “Sometimes I wish I had more of a taste for vengeance / sometimes I wish I’d been born more of a capitalist”, she laments against the groovy, Prince-inflected track beneath. Everywhere the album is shaped by Urbani’s influences – pulling from the gleam of the 80s, the R&B of the 90s, and the best parts of current pop. The latter particularly informed the record’s first single, ‘More Than A Feeling’, released in June and awash with atmospheric synths.
‘Fine Lines’ is sharper, the swaggering melody perforated by drums and keys. ‘Time Keeps Slipping Away’ departs in a more funk-pop direction, as Urbani recounts the “raging” of her early days in music. ‘Isolation’ is back on the synths, though, taking note from the 80s to produce a hazy dance beat. The breadth of the album reflects both the time and many reconfigurations behind it: ‘One Day At A Time’ and ‘Evidence’ were first pencilled in for a surprise Friends reunion, and the whole project was put back on ice during the pandemic.
By the time she gets to the airy dream-pop of closing track ‘c u clear’, Urbani has achieved what she set out to do. ‘Showing Up’ is a mission statement – delivered through occasionally gritted teeth – that reintroduces Urbani to the world of dance floor pop. It’s well referenced, seamlessly strung together, and charmingly delivered.
Words: Caitlin Chatterton