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First Listen: Sam Phillips, 'Push Any Button'

NPR icon by Stephen Thompson

Sam Phillips has been prolific since the release of her last official album for a label, Don't Do Anything, back in 2008: Among other things, she's experimented with digital-only online distribution via a subscription service for which she cranked out a full-length album and five EPs in a span of less than two years. But listen to Phillips' new record, Push Any Button, and there's not a wasted second — she may write a lot of music, both for the Internet and for TV shows like Bunheads, but she still operates with maximum concision and grace.

Packing 10 songs into just 29 minutes, Push Any Button was inspired by the pop music of the late '60s — and, thematically speaking, by the idea of viewing the present through the prism of the past. So it's no surprise that the album showcases the wisdom of perspective: "When I'm Alone" may be an irresistibly breezy little song, but it also offers a clearheaded assessment of the factors separating solitude from loneliness.

Everything about Push Every Button is in the exact right place: It's warm and approachable without lapsing into sentimentality or excess. Given Phillips' long history — she's been releasing albums for 30 years now, with several marked shifts in style and persona along the way — it makes sense that she'd land in a spot where every song sounds just right. She's never seemed more comfortable, but Phillips still sounds vital, too.

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