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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Zookeeper
Zookeeper
Bellecitypop!

Rating: 7/10 ?


July 20, 2007
When people mention the word pop when describing music, they often draw a double-edged sword; to some, it evokes Britney Spears' slick candy store dance numbers, while to others it brings to mind the complex, catchy melodies of the Beatles. Chris Simpson, the mastermind of 1990s emo icons Mineral and The Gloria Record, was never headed in the direction of "Hit Me Baby One More Time," and he has shifted course even further with some very intelligent classic-sounding pop on his debut EP!

The sounds of Zookeeper are pervasively loose and textured, and this suits the upbeat numbers as well as the slower ones. The release's opener, "I Live in the Mess You Are," evokes a melodic playfulness that fits so well with the tune. The track begins and ends with those exact words of the title, and when Simpson is humming the downright snappy melody it seems destined to elicit people smiling and heads bobbing. While simplistic and a bit redundant lyrically, the tune provides a sample of Simpson's talent for melody.

The next number, "Tax Collector," is a bit more serious and feels less tossed-off. The layered arrangement demonstrates Simpson's ability to create a mood. The lyrics - "Tax collector's coming for your blood" - wire together a cross between the Beatles-pop ("Taxman") and the dark lyricism of Leonard Cohen's poppier moments (think Death of a Ladies Man). Yeah that's a weird mix, but Simpson can pull it off. The track retains a playful nature in the face of its sinister lyrics.

This mini-album isn't all bells and whistles, however; clocking in at 6 minutes and change, "Flood of Love" takes a literal and figurative while to get to its conclusion. The song never has a huge shift in dyamics (the drums come in and out for the chorus) or key, the lyrics meander, and the song never seems quite sure of where it is coming from or where it is going. Equally directionless is "Two-Part Invention," a dragging, lo-fi piano ballad that never gains momentum, stalled out on Simpson's perhaps too-jarring earnestness. When all of Zookeeper's custom built arrangements have disappeared, it seems a piano with rudimentary chords simply will not cut it.

Thankfully, the ending tune of "The Delivery Room" resumes the Zookeeper posture from the EP's early going, appealing with a catchy sing-a-long chorus and happy tambourine accents to the snare drum. Simpsons' voice sounds comfortable here and the lyrics, have again taken a back seat again to the song's atmosphere, feel much more settled. Refined this through the years spent with long-running and tight-knit bands, Simpson's toil at melody feels effortless in the closing track, a nice snapshot of a moment when it all falls together.

For his first foray as the Zookeeper, Simpson succeeds in showing his potential. Not all of the release's songs are successful, but when they do work they wear the hallmark of a catchy melody. Each song, with the exception of "Two-Part Invention," has a sense of crescendo, and while some songs feel a bit unfinished and a tad wobbly, they make it clear that the kind of catchiness Simpson needs to make them work does not grow on trees. If he can trim the fat and keep to the keepers, Zookeeper's finer points bode well for the proper full-length debut, Becoming All Things, scheduled for release in the fall. Missteps aside, Simpson's debut EP as the Zookeeper shows an impressive diversity and a polished pop sensibility. Missteps aside.

Reviewed by Jeff McMahon
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Jeff McMahon

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