Sometimes, taking a break can be a very good thing.
Chris Simpson, former songwriter and frontman for two influential late '90s bands, knows a few things about breaking up. After disbanding post-punk emo progenitor Mineral just after the band signed to a major, and taking an indefinite hiatus from shoegazer follow-up The Gloria Record midway through recording a fourth record, he virtually disappeared from the music scene for two years.
It is this quiet period of Simpson's career that has proven his most prolific to date. It allowed him time to step back, regroup, and remember what he loved about music in the first place - penning songs and performing acoustically, just as he had done as a teenager in his hometown of Denver. He bought and became enchanted with a piano. He dusted off record albums he hadn't listened to in a decade. He found himself, for the first time in years, brimming with ideas and melodies. Newly inspired, he resumed songwriting, laying the groundwork for a fresh sound that would grow organically out of an informal gathering of new and old friends making music they loved. Eventually the group packed into an Austin studio to record live: loose, impromptu songs replete with shaking tambourines, exuberant horns, honky-tonk keys, and, at alternating turns, lyrical depth and whimsy. They recorded, in part or whole, spanning several months and several studios, over 40 songs. Simpson had fallen in love with music again, simply by stepping away from it.
The new body of work - the recently released Zookeeper EP and this scintillating debut LP, Becoming All Things (Belle City Pop!) - boasts a supporting cast of musicians comprised of former Mineral and Gloria Record members and new collaborators (indie-folk artist Alex Dupree, Sad Accordions, and Zykos), and brings Simpson back to his roots. It is this self-possession gained from solitude, this tipping of the hat to where he's been while moving assuredly forward, that gives Simpson's latest offering its buoyant, timeless appeal. As Lollipop.com recently declared of Zookeeper, "It wouldn't be too far off to call this classic rock done in the 21st Century, with the barnyard drums and Heartland chords … A promising restart for a gifted songwriter, definitely hints at great things to come."
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