Full of glossy guitar rakes, whirring synths, wobbly moog lines and pitch-perfect vocals, electro pop (think Kaci Battaglia, Saint Etienne, Marina & The Diamonds) is dominating the radio waves. For listeners seeking a less-synthy something, Goldsmiths graduate David Simon’s impressive 2010 debut ‘Collision’ is well worth a listen.
Drawing from a wide breadth of styles including jazz, classic radio pop, Latin and gospel blues tinged with singer-songwriting charm, the album is brimming with raw youthful energy. Using a rich vein of life experiences and turmoil as inspiration, Simon at times errs on the side of becoming another generic guy-with-a-piano (just listen to that made-for-radio ‘Shut Your Eyes’). But never gets to that point – probably because of his heart-felt lyrics and nectar-sweet vocals.
Simon, a Goldsmiths graduate who lives in Dulwich, says he tried to stay as true as he could to the recording process, and it shows. Despite the well-polished studio sheen, ‘Collision’ never feels overwhelmingly slick and over-produced. The energy is there, too – the launch party at Camden’s Jazz Café on the 16th was a sell-out success (supported by Lisbee Stainton’s lovely acoustic set), and the album manages to capture the explosive drive of his live performances.
‘Collision’ is made up of hard-hitting drums, fuzzy British overdrive-charged electric guitar, a horn section that includes trumpet and trombone, a clarinet and acoustic Latin guitars all held down by his sparkling piano melodies. Recorded in parts of London, Oxford and Essex (as seen on BBC ‘s Introducing Essex), a lot of what you hear is played by musicians he worked with in the past. While his pop-tastic tracks are catchy and a fun listen, where David shines the most and showcases his flexible songwriting skills is on ‘Transitions’. Much like the song title suggests, the song flows from a gentle ballad into a raw soulful breakdown, followed by an almost Latin-esque groove that peaks with an up-tempo rock ‘n roll jam before ending in a quiet husky whisper.
Simon’s saccharine vocals (fleshed out with female backing vocalists) cut through the mix, and they sound even better on-stage. All it takes is a few listens before you find yourself singing along – a fresh, honest alternative to manufactured commercial pop.