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Album Review: Tamino – ‘Amir (Deluxe)’

An expanded edition that offers poetic drama from beginning to end.

Jasmine-Kay Johnson

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The beauty of the deluxe album doesn’t just lie within additions to the original, but within the artist’s ability to utilize those additions to elevate a work that is (hopefully) already strong. With Amir (Deluxe), Tamino-Amir Moharam Fouad, better known as Tamino, has achieved that and more, building on the original record, which was originally released in 2018.

Don’t expect to be eased into this album with a throwaway. The opener, “Habibi” — which roughly translates to “my dear” or “my love” — submerges listeners headfirst into the deep end. The piano and guitar in this track are not particularly boastful because they don’t need to be; Tamino’s rich, velvety voice is captivating enough, increasing in volume each time the chorus makes another round. 

It’s around the three-minute mark, though, that another layer of depth is added: The backing piano increases in speed and key and with every word, as Tamino stirs up a visceral reaction of longing. The song is heavy-heavy-heavy until, finally, he releases the weight by showing off his upper register.

The way his voice moves through the five-minute song makes it clear why he’s so often compared to the late Jeff Buckley. Despite the similarities between him and Buckley, it’s important to note that Tamino is in a league of his own. This is proven with each song progression. 

Following “Habibi” is “Sun May Shine.” This track depicts the duality of two characters: “a very apathetic, nihilistic character, and a very romantic, though vulnerable character” as Tamino revealed in a Facebook post in May.

Duality is a concept Tamino often finds himself exploring, both personally and musically. He starts with his notable vocalizing — a collection of ah-ah-ahs. The music mostly drops out in the pre-chorus, thus placing emphasis on his voice, before something that sounds similar to a cymbal floods the song as he sings the line soon our love will flow over the gloom in an airy falsetto. 

“Tummy” (track three) and “Verses” (track nine) are standouts in their ability to detour from the dark and angsty tones that the other songs adopt so well. “Tummy” comes off a bit more playful with its acoustic guitar and imagery of bugs, sex and a body sprawled across a yard. “Verses,” arguably the most easy going song on the album, transports listeners to a scene of intertwined lovers as the girl in question begs again and again: come babe, let love have this evening. 

Following the deluxe album’s release, Tamino shared the video for Amir’s sixth track, “Indigo Night.” In an Instagram post, the singer emphasized that the video is merely an addition to a song that stands strong on its own, and he’s right. “Indigo Night” is a narrative-driven recount of a story about a traveler’s son who meets a group of girls who make his night worthwhile.

From the beginning of the song, Tamino paints a vivid picture. The first verse goes like this: Imagine, the girls around town assemble/ the traveler’s son they come askin’/ where he came from/ ‘cause they’ve watched him/ washing his face near the pond/ a curious boy/ and they wonder/ where he came from.

The songs holds a steady, melancholic sound for the first two and a half minutes before Tamino raises his voice while singing the lines I don’t know why you girls are so kind/ for there are so many in line/ whose lives aren’t as lost as mine. The shift in volume mimics the uneasiness and uncertainty of the character’s musings. 

Where most of  the previous tracks are cool in their sound, “Crocodile” and “Every Pore,” two new additions to Amir, feel warmer. In both instances, his vocals are prioritized while the music again makes its descent into the background. 

Along with these, he’s also added demos for “Chambers” and “Tummy,” two songs with the Nagham Zikrayat Orchestra and three others from a live performance at La Cigale in Paris this year.

The live songs and demos make it abundantly clear that Tamino possesses the kind of musical talent others could only wish to have. Though stripped down and unpolished, they don’t venture far from the the studio versions. 

This 23-year-old Belgium native’s ability to seamlessly merge Western and Arabic musical traditions (he also has Egyptian and Lebanese ancestry) makes the album feel like something from another time — it’s wise beyond its years.

Whether you want to fall in love to the sound of Tamino’s voice or have him narrate all of your darkest moments, Amir encapsulates poetic drama from beginning to end in the best possible way. 

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Jasmine-Kay is a senior at the University of Missouri studying journalism with an emphasis in magazine publishing and management. She is an editor for the Genius Knowledge Project and posts her own music-related writing on her website (jasmine-kayjohnson.com). Her hope is to obtain a master's in music business from NYU after undergrad.

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