Johanna Samuels
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Johanna Samuels

Los Angeles, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Los Angeles, California, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Band Rock Pop




"Song Premiere: Johanna Samuels - "For You To Do""

Johanna Samuels’ forthcoming album Double Bind takes its title from a particular conflict of emotions: a meeting of emotional needs that still, somehow, leaves a person feeling trapped. Samuels says that this idea, first introduced to her by a friend, inspired many of the songs on Double Bind, which was recorded in Brooklyn at a studio in an old quilt factory. “For You To Do,” one of the more buoyant tracks on the album, is a great example of Samuels’ expression of dual emotions, not just in the lyrics but in the instrumentals.

“I always wanted to write a chorus based around the chromatic scale,” Samuels said. “There’s something really simple but cinematic about it. The song is about loving someone who can’t seem to help themselves, so that sort of escalating tone lent itself to those feelings.”

Listen to “For You To Do” in the player above. Double Bind is set for release on July 22. - PASTE Magazine

"Album Premiere: Johanna Samuels, “Double Bind”"

Johanna Samuels’ Double Bind was recorded in her Bed-Stuy apartment, but it sounds like it was recorded in the 1970s, under the gentle guiding hand of Carole King. Samuels’ (mostly) piano-driven songs proceed confidently and gracefully, letting her robust alto roll gently over the instrumentation and seep deep into the spaces between the notes. Where most debut full-lengths feel like tentative sketches — hints of where an artist will be in five or 10 years’ time — Double Bind is alarmingly fully-realized, its arrangements elegant and intricate. Lyrically, the album plays like a collection of short stories, Samuels sketching kitchen-sink dramas and quietly wrenching love stories with a sure hand and powerful voice.

[Double Bind will be released on July 22. Johanna Samuels plays the Brooklyn venue Glasslands on July 27] - Wondering Sound

"Johanna Samuels: Double Bind"

Stark and Terrifying

New York artist Johanna Samuels has a knack for the overtly domestic violent imagery on her debut album Double Bind. On song “Please Say Something Good”, she warbles, “I dreamed I had daughter / She asked me how the breaking’s done / And I said / Watch the brother hit the sister / Now watch the mother slap the son.” I can only wonder what such bleak imagery might come from the mouth of a male figure, but, as it stands, Double Bind is stark and terrifying. At times reminiscent of the ‘70s singer-songwriter songbook of Laura Nyro, Double Bind is an affecting listen, even at its poppiest (“For You to Do”) and even when there’s a bare rendition of the title track in almost a cappella format. Overall, though, Double Bind is a gratifying listen that harkens back to the best of the singer-songwriter format of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

Throughout the course of its 10 songs, clocking in at 35 minutes, Double Bind is harrowing and with a black disposition. Parts of it remind me of Phil Spector-influenced recordings (“Real Tragedies”) with a hint of Lady Lamb the Beekeeper sprinkled throughout the record. However, there’s also an overriding sense of the giddily infectiousness in songs such as “From Above You” and “Your Door”. There’s certainly a dark and brooding quality to this album beyond what opening single “For You to Do” might suggest. And that also means that there’s a certain depth and maturity to these songs that makes them such a stimulating listen. The songs here are top drawer, the album hangs together as a whole, and it makes you wonder what else this artist is capable of. Still, what we get with Double Bind is a pretty awesome account and makes you eager to hear what else Johanna Samuels might have up her sleeve.
Rating: ✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✰✩✩ - PopMatters

"First Date: Johanna Samuels"

To me the sound of vinyl has an imperfect warmth. You can hear intention and delicacy. It’s how an album is best heard. You can grip the cover but you can’t get your hands around the intricacy of its sound. You ​lay the needle down and hear the arc. The whole story.

I was raised in Los Angeles by two music lovers. They named me after a Dylan song and I thought I was going to marry Paul McCartney when I was seven. For some reason we had no vinyl lying around. My mother always talked about her records and she’d say that they must “be somewhere.” Somewhere was the garage and the garage was completely haunted (no joke).

By the time I ventured in, I was fifteen. The box was big. The records were damp but they played. She had what seemed like everything. All of the original English Apple pressings of the Beatles albums that I had previously bought in shrink-wrapped jewel cases at Tower Records (RIP). I finally understood the way Abbey Road was meant to be flipped over to side 2. I could really look at the album art. They kind of felt like long lost friends. She let me keep the ones I went crazy for.

That was when I started to ask for a lot of rides to Hollywood. I genuinely believe the reason I passed my driver’s test was so that I could get myself to Amoeba Records. It was the Disneyland of music to me, it still is. The space is giant and all of the walls are plastered with cover sleeves and rock posters.

They really did have everything. Townes, Bowie, Young, Motown, Joni, Cobain, Orbison… It was at Amoeba that I realized how much I loved pop music. I got records that changed my little teenage brain. I bought Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 and Pet Sounds. I heard Mark Knopfler sing “Skateaway” at a listening station and pined over the faraway idea of turning eighteen and moving to New York City. I heard Eno’s “Cindy Tells Me” and the last verse of Tom Petty’s “Shadow of a Doubt” for the first time: And when she’s dreaming sometimes she sings in French. But in the morning she don’t remember it…

I was a goner. I wasn’t confident enough to write my own songs but these people seemed to say all the things I couldn’t say with their records. Memorizing the sounds and chords, change for change, and learning to harmonize with them gave me so much fulfillment. It made me feel less lonely. On vinyl voices feel human and close.

I owe the music I make to the voices on these records and to my favorite record stores. My collection is constantly growing. I remember where I was when I found them or who gave them to me. They’re treasures to me. I know these days we tend to stream, rip, and in moments of sheer desperation we head to the iTunes Music Store—but I urge you to go to a record store this weekend and to grab onto something. Let’s keep these places and ourselves open and alive. - The Vinyl District

"MOKB Video Premiere : Johanna Samuels : “Real Tragedies”"

Next week, Brooklyn-based musician Johanna Samuels will released her debut LP, Double Bind. The album, over two-years in the making, follows her promising six-track EP, Giant Fantasy Life from 2012. According to Samuels, it is named after the “dynamic wherein two emotional demands are met but consequently negate each other, leaving one person to feel trapped.”

The highlight thus far from new material is the heartfelt and raw “Real Tragedies”. It starts off as a somber rocker in a similar vein of a Sharon Van Etten slowly building on itself with subtle electronic elements mixed in. Director Sean Ryan Pierce says that he tried to “tried to build a story that floats between two worlds”, one depicting Samuels “isolated and unrequited journey” and the other an “alternate, possible future wherein people live even more vicariously through others.” Watch below. - My Old Kentucky Blog

"Johanna Samuels: Double Bind"

‘Double Bind’ is yet another great album that is here thanks to crowd-sourcing. The New York by way of LA piano singer Johanna Samuels turned to Kickstarter to fund her 10-song debut. The album is packed with the kind of beautifully-crafted classic pop songs that record labels should be stumbling over themselves to add to their catalogs.

With a strong indie vibe, Samuels sounds like a mix between Rufus Wainwright and Jenny Lewis, writing about heavy subjects that go down easy thanks to the strong melodies.

Produced by Fen Ikner (Calexico, Jumpers), there is a strong ’60s/’70s vibe with more than a passing resemblance to a Phil Spector record, thanks to the building and cascading waves of music (most notably on a track like “Real Tragedies”). Despite no affiliation to a specific label, this album is too good not to warrant more attention. - Innocent Words

"Mundo Musique: Johanna Samuels’ “Double Bind”"

In May, I wrote about 25 year old singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels from New York, and her single “For You To Do”. Today, I’m taking a look at her first full-length record Double Bind which was released July 22nd. I really loved the single, and Double Bind does not disappoint, and fits in quite nicely with some of our favorite albums of the year, like Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness or Tiny Ruins’ Brightly Painted One.

The first track is the piano-led pop single “For You to Do” which turns into a pretty awesome guitar solo by the end. It transitions seamlessly into a slow build rocker “Real Tragedies” which ends with another really awesome guitar solo and some distortion. Part of what is so striking about Double Bind is the diversity of styles Samuels hits on the record, the distortion from “Real Tragedies” lends way into a beautiful piano ballad “Please Say Some Good” which has some incredible harmonies, and some heavy lyrics. That’s followed up by the slick groove of “From Above You” which is a danceable number that’s got some great electronics and an infectious bass line. Lyrically, Samuels is a great storyteller, one standout lyrically is “This Place”, which tells the story of two store clerks who leave town.

In the middle of the LP, the title track, “Double Bind” starts up with Samuels singing through some effects, until she slowly begins getting drowned out by an organ, cleaning up the vocals, and the organ fades out, it’s a really cool effect, and it’s the perfect lead in to a southern-style rocker “Your Door”. Samuels really understands the space between tracks, between “Your Door” and “Almost”, there’s some dead space, but it builds up some tension before going into “Almost”. It’s executed perfectly, and it’s necessary on this album where Samuels goes from a southern rocker to an indie-pop track like “Almost”. “Give It Up” is the penultimate track on the record, it’s a great track with some more harmonies and piano, and a total change in direction about two-thirds of the way through. The record comes to close with “Chanson” which is another epic build, and a perfect way to close the record.

A double bind itself is defined as an emotional conflict in which two (or more) conflicting messages negate each other, and you can feel some of that frustration in Samuels’ music. Double Bind is an impressive debut. Johanna Samuels’ songwriting and storytelling on the record is impressive for a debut record. I guess it shouldn’t be too much a surprise, over the last couple of years, Samuels has put together a four piece band, and released a great EP Giant Fantasy Life. You can listen to and buy the record on her bandcamp here, she’s got vinyl, CD, and of course download, and some cool merch as well. - The Revue

"Johanna Samuels – Double Bind Review"

Break out your musical almanac and play "spot the influence". Expert edition.

When Johanna Samuels pitched Double Bind on Kickstarter, the second sentence out of her mouth is about how, since she was a kid, she’s had a crazy passion for music. That’s nice, I suppose, but who doesn’t like music? When I heard it, I didn’t think much of it. After listening to Double Bind for the first time, this statement’s importance become clear. It’s not just a throwaway line — it’s pivotal for appreciating the sound of Samuels’ debut album, Double Bind.

After releasing a few recordings, Brooklyn-based Johanna Samuels has been able to release her full-length debut to a wide audience with the help of Kickstarter. Samuels’ music is hard to describe: it’s pop, but it’s not. It’s a weird amalgamation of artists you know and love, but it doesn’t really sound like anyone in particular. There’s a bit of the baroque sensibilities of Julia Holter here, and a little bit of the bluesy, jazzy Fiona Apple from Tidal, but there’s also an unpredictability that recalls Regina Spektor as well. But Samuels isn’t as stuffy as Holter1, as self-loathing as Apple, or as whiz-bang scattershot as Spektor.

Okay: I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I just listed the only three female songwriters that primarily play piano that I know. What I’ll point out is how distinctly different these three artists are. Double Bind takes these sounds and wrangles them together in an immediate, approachable, and sincere way. The result is somewhat strange in a way because this record, and its composite songs, feel almost theatrical at times, but it also sounds completely personal. Samuels keeps the a mostly steady formula of piano and drums, but she throws in additional instruments to keep things interesting and volatile. Double Bind keeps an interesting combination of these things, and it’s… well… lovely.

But back to Samuels talking about her love of music from childhood — it’s important because you can hear it in this record. There’s a lot of old ideas, and a few songs sound like updated jazz standards, but there’s also some completely modern pop tunes that sound translated through an older filter. It’s as if someone had a book of musical ideas throughout the last century and picked and choose what to put into Double Bind. Unfortunately, this takes a toll on some of the album’s cohesion. “From Above You” and “For You To Do” don’t sound like they could have possibly been written by the same person, and even though they were, this means that Double Bind has a few jarring moments. There’s not a bad track on this thing, but these moments took me out of the album, and out of the experience. This feels like a set of 10 songs rather than a themed album. But hey, that’s what debuts are known for, right?

Coming away from this record, I got the sense that there’s probably not a record out there that Samuels doesn’t like. Music is music, and even if it’s not great, you can learn something from it. Samuels is a songwriter that’s going to be a lot of fun to track in the coming years.

Key Tracks:
“From Above You”
“Give It Up”
“Real Tragedies” - Earbuddy

"Johanna Samuels - Double Bind"

We were impressed with the debut EP from Johanna Samuels that we reviewed a while back. We're pleased to report that her first full-length release is just as rewarding and exceptional. Ms. Samuels writes smart keyboard-driven modern pop music with a heavy emphasis on lyrics, vocal melodies, and arrangements. To try and describe her sound...Johanna sounds something like a cross between Ben Folds and Amy Winehouse...without ever sounding too much like either one. Produced by Fen Ikner, Double Bind has a nice smooth sound that is never cluttered by technology. The central focus of these tunes is Samuels' groovy voice. This young lady has a vocal style that is familiar sounding yet no immediate comparisons come to mind. Or to be more direct, she's just got a great voice. The more we spin this album the more substance we hear in these tracks. Johanna is a bright rising star whose music has substance and style. Ten captivating cuts here including "For You To Do," "Please Say Some Good," "This Place," "Almost," and "Chanson." Recommended. TOP PICK. - Babysue

"Johanna Samuels: Double Bind"

4 stars out of 5

New York native Johanna Samuels is trying to elbow her way into a crowded singer/songwriter field, but the 25-year-old musician appears to be the real deal. Her “Double Bind” debut is a flat-out terrific collection of pop tunes that showcases Samuels’ strong vocals and the estimable songwriting chops that have made her a fixture on the Big Apple’s indie music scene.

Johanna Samuels CDPiano-driven melodies dominate the 10-track release, with Samuels particularly impressive on “Real Tragedies,” “Please Say Some Good,” “This Place,” “Your Door,” “Give It Up” and “Chanson.” There isn’t a misfire to be found on the 34-minute platter and I hope this up-and-coming young talent makes her way to Pittsburgh in the very near future. (Jeffrey Sisk) - Pittsburgh in Tune

"Johanna Samuels "Double Bind" - Outstanding debut from Brooklyn based Songstress"

This is the first album from 25 year old Brooklyn based Johanna Samuels who raised the funds to record release and distribute the CD. This entrepenuerial streak has certainly been worth it as this is an accomplished pop album of ten high quality self written tracks. There is a maturity and realism about the writing that belies her age combined with some beguiling melodies demonstrated no better than the superb "This Place" a song about searching with a beautiful vocal delivery.

The title track is a short almost acapella affair that provides an effective juxtaposition to the majority of the tracks which mainly have a full band backing including the following track "Your Door" a straight ahead pop anthem. "Almost" provides a fantastic critique of the star system with the refrain "I'm almost sorry for you".

The ten tracks close with two fine songs "Give It Up" having some intriguing chord and key changes and "Chanson" the closer being a sensitive love song. This is a cracking album, just the right length and with a summer feel to boot. - Americana UK

"Johanna Samuels, "Double Bind""

Twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter Johanna Samuels makes pop music, but not the kind of generic, easily disposable junk that clogs mainstream radio waves and the CD racks at your local department store. Samuels uses her inimitable voice and a variety of instrumentation to subvert our expectations of what we're going to hear—especially considering the stigma that really good pop music often carries with it. Pop music succeeds on grand gestures and the details that hold them together, and Samuels has found a perfect balance between the two—her sprightly piano bounces, electric guitar sways and the accompanying percussion set the chugging pace at which everything falls in line.

Double bind, a term best described by Samuels as "a dynamic wherein two emotional demands are met but consequently negate each other, leaving one person feeling trapped," became the album's guiding musical expression and gave it its all-too-appropriate title. There's a frank honesty and earnestness on "Double Bind" that keep you invested in these songs when most artists would simply have led you down this pop path and expected you to stick around because you've got nothing better to do. But Samuels' music is something entirely different, something that sticks in your mind and refuses to let go—which is exactly what great pop music should do. - Nooga

"PREMIERE: Johanna Samuels – “Real Tragedies”"

Fall in love with those albums by Wye Oak, Sharon Van Etten, and Sylvan Esso this year? If that’s the case, then you’ll want to introduce yourself to 25-year-old Johanna Samuels, a singer/songwriter who strikes a similar chord with her emotionally involving songs. On July 22nd, she’ll release her debut album, Double Bind. Today, Earbuddy is pleased to share the album single, “Real Tragedies”.

The songs on Double Bind were written in Johanna’s apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and all share a sentiment of necessary separation or as Samuels puts it “…attempting to own myself and stand on my two feet.” She explains, “While recording the album, a good friend had described the term Double Bind: a dynamic wherein two emotional demands are met but consequently negate each other, leaving one person to feel trapped. For some reason that struck a deep chord in me. It is from that place that many of these songs grew.” - Earbuddy


Talk about a mixmaster. Samuels is a contemporary singer/songwriter that has some vaudeville in her sound and vibe. A nu chick with a tough but tender edge, Samuels zeroes in on the trials and tribulations of today's generation and gives voice to those looking for voice. Wild stuff that takes you through so many levels the trip is sure to make you dizzy but feeling sonically fulfilled. Check it out. - Midwest Record


"Double Bind" July 22nd, 2014

"Giant Fantasy Life" February - 2010 



Indie-songstress Johanna Samuels is a breath of fresh air. She revives the singer-songwriter genre with carefully crafted lyrics and earnest pop-laden choruses. The native New Yorker grew up in Los Angeles, before returning to NY at the age of 18. She spent her time in school singing in school choirs, learning to play the songs of her musical heroes by ear. Naturally, Samuels began writing music of her own in her bedroom. At a time where the burgeoning music scene in Brooklyn was bustling DIY venues merging shows that showcased both well-known indie acts with dozens of undiscovered artists, Samuels was inspired to take her songs to the stage. Soon she was playing sold out shows at Glasslands and Union Pool.

In 2012 she recorded and self-released a six-track EP, Giant Fantasy Life and assembled a 4-piece backing band. Her sincere performances drew audiences in, making her one of the most promising acts to rise out of the New York indie scene. 

In early spring of 2013 she recorded her first full-length album, titled "Double Bind". After recording basic tracks with the band at a quilt factory-turned-studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Samuels and drummer Fen Ikner worked on the tracks whenever the had a chance.The songs on "Double Bind" were written in Johanna’s apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and all share a sentiment of necessary separation or as Samuels puts it “…attempting to own myself and stand on my two feet.” 

Samuels moved back to LA late last year, a sound that is reflected in her latest EP produced by Sean O'Brien "Home and Dry: Told a Lie". The songs on the EP melt thoughtful narratives with sunny arrangements. Samuels enters the latest chapter in her artistry, while earnestly pouring out her heart, soul and creativity in the form of ear candy for us all. The best is yet to come.

Johanna is currently recording her next record.

Band Members