Simon Spire | No Solid Ground
album review by Olaya Barr
Picture yourself in a commercial for a Sandals Resort hotel. You’re full of glee: swinging about with your partner, playfully kicking up ocean froth and sand before heading over to the jacuzzi, the private spa where you get a coconut aromatherapy treatment.
On second thought, maybe this is all a little mindless? The shiny facade perhaps a little too artificial? That’s what Simon Spire’s No Solid Ground EP can feel like. It is easy-listening and floaty pop. It’s nice, but you may find yourself stopping to look around, wondering all of a sudden if this is a little too surface-deep to truly enjoy. What the New Zealand-native Simon Spire has certainly mastered is a sweet and upbeat voice with uplifting and feel-good vibes. His tunes are catchy, and he knows just how powerful a good hook can be.
The opening track, “Knocking on an Open Door”, introduces the album with light-weight pop: tame acoustic riffs paired with synths, triumphant drum beats and techno bleeps that make you feel like you’re about to take off into paradise. It is sweet and youthful, celebratory, and steers clear from the winy, sugar-coated bubble gum pop that can often result from young solo pop artists.
By far the most successful track in the five song EP is “Liberate Your Love”. This tune could work both as a party anthem and as an introspective narrative. It is triumphant, optimistic, feel-good with an accessible hook and energy-releasing chorus. Frankly, it’s hard to resist grabbing singing along into a hairbrush while jumping on the bed: “So liberate your love/ Obliterate it all/ Open up your eyes and see/ Become who you were born to be.”
This track also exemplifies some of his best song writing: “I have seen the centuries of/ Glimmers soaked in frightened dreams/ Of stooping underneath the rooftops/ Hiding beneath the canopy.” No doubt poetic and conjures beautiful imagery, but unlike his contemporary songwriter influences, like John Mayer or Ben Kweller, he lacks the quick witty words or truly heart-wrenching lyricism. He does, however, make up for it by successfully emulating a cute sensitive boy style. In “The Blue Pill” he sings, “I’m too honest...maybe it’s about time I start telling some lies.” We could do with more introspective artists, ready for self-exposure, but we might need a bit more oomph!
The songs themselves are resonant of early 2000s pop, with a scattering of indie moments and funky synths that are similar to early OK Go and Hello Goodbye. The thing is Spire’s voice on this EP isn’t remarkable enough to work without the funky synths and layered edits, and he isn’t as innovative or playful as he can probably afford to be.
So here’s my call to suburban mothers and pubescent girls alike: Simon Spire is your man! But if you’re in need of a certain degree of transcendental depth, the No Solid Ground EP may do just that...leave you with no solid ground. On second thought... who doesn’t love some feel-good pop every now and then to sink into?
Bottom line: The New Zealander masters the enthusiastic and clean pop ballad but falls short of imagination.