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HE WISHES WE WOULDN'T STAY WITH HIM

"I'm touched that my new music made you emotional," says Capitol superstar Sam Smith to a coterie of HITS weasels after a listening session at the Tower, "but I'd appreciate it if you'd stop wiping your noses on my T-shirt. It's hella gross." Seen keeping it together are (l-r) Todd Hensley, Samantha Hissong, Smith, Michelle Santosuosso, Simon Glickman and Michael Dominguez.

We're not really supposed to get specific, but we think we can say that you'll hear some things on Sam Smith's new record, which a few of us checked out at Capitol Studios last week, that you haven't heard before.

One of them is tape hiss. The new set, at a tight 37 minutes, was captured on analog tape, with the singer largely surrounded by live musicians. There is a strong nod to classic soul, notably Muscle Shoals and Memphis. There are gospel choirs and big, soaring strings; there are no fancy features but there is a duet with a guest whose identity you are unlikely to guess. But it's certainly and indubitably a Sam Smith record. The man's voice sounds stronger, richer and grittier than before, and themes of love, loss and faith abound. Those who've been listening to its tracks around the Capitol Congress point to moments of real genius.

Word is the set will be hitting this fall. Everyone at Capitol is very excited to finally have us out of the building.

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