Chris Simpson of emo group Mineral has had the down home sound in his back pocket for a while. From his post-Mineral group Gloria Record to his first solo project Zookeeper, Simpson has found a way to keep fans happy with tones that feel familiar and earnest. Under his latest solo offering Mountain Time, he’s polished that sound to a shimmer while offering plenty of music that feels like it’s nothing if not honest. With his debut album Music for Looking Animals, he shows off how he’s perfected the balance between catchy songwriting and lush arrangements to cater to any listener who wants an album that’s as lovable as a child’s smile.
The album opens with the folksy sound of “Rosemary, Etc.” Between acoustic strumming and twangy noodling, Simpson sings earnestly from a space that comes off am comforting. Often hitting a falsetto, there’s a presence here that comes off as Simpson hitting his stride. Followed by the piano lead “Death Pause,” the drums and the guitar blend together to give the vocals the perfect space to exist. In some ways the track has these mixes of Paul Simon and Brian Wilson graces while still inhabiting its own space. However when the horn comes in, the brass really balances out the sound to hone in on something special and enjoyable. The album is full of such moments where Simpson throws your ears for a loop, taking songs away from what you’re used to. However you relish his inventive takes, steering away from the norm and delivering tones that are rich and warm as well as organic.
The slower pace of “Becoming All Things” plays like a lullaby, the meandering ring of “Empty Graves” has these moments that place you in the room and “Modern Living” is the piano track that Simpson was born to perform. But as engaging as all of these songs are, there’s just such familiarity that you can’t place a finger on here. The backing vocals sound like two lovers singing for the kids, the keys have the timbre of heart and the arrangements all nod to the past without feeling like antiquities. The best example of how Simpson is writing from all times and places comes on the favored track, “Foretold in G.” The finger picking where you can hear the changes on the fret board that intersect with the almost echoed vocals are perfect for the strings that eventually meet them. The emotional weight in the vocals, the way that the guitar is warm from being played on and how the drums come in like a rush of water into the house all prove that Chris Simpson has found a way to shy away from his emo past. We’re just lucky that he put it all on record.
Music for Looking Animals is available for physical purchase directly from Spartan Records. It’s also ready to purchase in all digital music store fronts or to stream on all streaming sites.
Image Credits: Photo by Daniel Cavazos.