Simpl is a suitable name for this Portland band, whose indie-pop/art-pop stylings do feel rather simple. Led by Cameron Jones, who played with bands like Pinback, Thingy, and Physics, this band plays decent pop songs. The problem lies in the mixing and production, which causes the album to feel too lo-fi.
Something about the way that Jones’ vocals are mixed way in the foreground, dominating the instrumentation, bothers me. Jones’ voice is nice enough, but it almost lacks the edge or that pretty Death Cab-like sheen that would make such mixing suitable. Instead, I hear vocals, and I think simple pop. It takes multiple listens to get beyond that mixing and hear the talented band underneath.
Bonus points to the band for using the word “obfuscated” in “Obfuscated Gene,” a pretty catchy little song. The more I listen to this song – and primarily the music – the more I like it and hear bands like Minus the Bear or Pinback. I hear some nice edgy guitar behind the up-tempo “Six Foot Sloth,” if I listen hard enough, and “Foreign” has some nice Death Cab-esque pop chops. “From the Inside” is a pleasant enough acoustic song, quiet and thoughtful, although the vocals still feel too prominent. By contrast to these songs, “Excess Kill” is more than five minutes of boring pop moments and hints of creative edgy rock that don’t work together. And “Land of Opportunity” is nice enough, if a tad dull, until the edgy guitar kicks in for a few seconds. Again, hints of something special that are too little and too late.
Simpl is, perhaps, too simple. Maybe this mixing was intentional, but part of me things this band could be so much better if the focus wasn’t placed so squarely and emphatically on Jones’ vocals. The band is talented, and the songs are creative enough. It just takes too many listens to appreciate that, and there’s not enough to hold me for that many listens.