Duke Ellington once said that «The wise musicians are those who play what they can master.» That might be true, but sometimes artists – and especially debut artists – have to take risks. You don’t know what you master until you have tried, right? Samer Fanek’s debut album “Wishful Thinking” is such a release. It’s not 100 % perfect, but it’s ambitious, complex and truly inspired. It makes “Wishful Thinking” into one of this year’s finest debut recordings.
Samer Fanek was born in Amman, Jordan, and is now living in the United States. He has a computer science degree, and has worked for five years as a software developer. As a pianist he is self-taught. In 2015 he quit his job to become a full time musician. I’m not going to imply that you can hear that Fanek has a background as a software developer, but there’s something about his attention to details. The songs are running with mathematical precision, executing like well coded programs. In this image, the listeners are the CPU – decoding and receiving Fanek’s musical message. There are no bugs here as far as I can tell, no blue screens. Only beautiful music.
The Amazing Piano
The album starts with the title track. “Wishful Thinking” is a great introduction to Fanek’s style. The gentle piano has center stage, backed by carefully crafted orchestral arrangement. His inspirations are easy to pinpoint; Yanni and Hans Zimmer. Of more recent debuts he can be compared to Marc Enfroy and Nitish Kulkarni. Fans of these artists should definitely add Samer Fanek to their playlist.
“Wishful Thinking” is a track that instantly connects with the listener. The build-up is simply amazing, with a hint romance and drama. Yanni would have been proud if he had made this song. With a full orchestra and Karl Jenkins conducting, the song could have been used as a theme in a Hollywood movie. That’s not wishful thinking, that’s a fact.
“Universe” continues in the same style. The build-up is powerful, and there’s a surprisingly sharp electric guitar that turns up the intensity even more. It is impossible not to get touched – partly because it is loud, but mainly because of the strong melodic focus. The 3 minutes and 6 seconds are gone in an instant. If Fanek were a painter, he would have been using bright colors and broad pencils. It is as far from gray and boring as you can get.
“Freefall” has a lovely melody. It is yet another song where Yanni fans will feel right at home. The string section is wonderful and backs the piano at just the right places. In the middle there’s a nice sounding violin, and the crescendo in the end is both surprising and satisfying at the same time.
High-End Mixing & Mastering
The production qualities on “Wishful Thinking” are very impressive. The lay-out of the album is well balanced, and there’s nothing here to indicate that this is not a major label recording. Indeed, the mixing and mastering has a high-end feel.
That Fanek is a master storyteller can be heard on the tracks “Fairytale” and “Fantasy”. They have all the magic and mystery we can expect from such titles. I like the speed and wonderful acoustic atmosphere of “Fairytale”. It is like stepping into another world. But my favorite song is “Finding Closure”, which concludes the album in an elegant way. It is a brilliant neoclassical piece.
I’ll end where I started, with the Duke Ellington quote. Samer Fanek is a very wise artist indeed. Wishful Thinking is an extraordinary debut album. The only limitation is the lack of a live orchestra.
Hopefully these songs will be played live one day. With so great material, that somehow doesn’t feel like wishful thinking. It is bound to happen. It is written in the stars.
Scute: 91/100 – See how I rate music here
Check out SamerFanek.com for more information and sound clips.