Chris Simpson has always done music that is nothing short of amazing. My first exposure to Chris was in 1999. A friend handed me a copy of "End Serenading", by the now-defunct Mineral. Within two songs, I was completely hooked. Never before (or at least not in quite a while) had I hear music with so much passion and emotion, which was so completely personal. Whatever emotion the band was conveying in a song was exactly the emotion the listener would feel, when listening to Mineral.
After Mineral's demise in 1999, Chris went on to form The Gloria Record, a similar outing that overall didn't have the impact Mineral did, but still struck a chord in many regards.
For the past few years, Chris has been laying low. Until now. Chris' latest project, Zookeeper, is an offering that many fans of his previous work will love. It is also a project that has the possibility of garnering him even more of the recognition from newer fans that he deserves. With this 5 song ep, released on former Gloria Record bandmate Brian Malone's Belle City Pop! label, Chris Simpson again challenges the listener with songs that evoke similar emotion, in spots, as both his former bands, all the while taking the listener in a completely different direction musically.
Chris reportedly wrote over 40 songs, heading into this release. It would be difficult, at best, to narrow that list down to just 5 songs that would find themselves worthy of making such a short ep, but I think he probably pegged it. Every song on this ep is nothing short of amazing. Recorded live in one room, in one take, with anywhere between 4 and 20 people, the Zookeeper ep captures everything that is right about indie music. Simple melodies, played in such a stripped-down manner, come across so full that they almost immediately suck the listener into the room with them. Few parts sound cluttered, even though they are incredibly layered, and there are glimpses here and there that do show the listener how a Gloria Record or Mineral song might have come across in a more laid back, non-'scene' setting, but those moments are few and far between.
A different direction is exactly what Chris Simpson needed with his newest project. Even though both Mineral and The Gloria Record have their place in the pages of indie rock, Zookeeper is an amazing departure from what every other band is doing out there today, and they do it better than almost every other band out there today. The only complaint about this offering is that it is far, FAR too short. One almost wishes Zookeeper would take a hint or two from indie-folk powerhouse Sufjan Stevens, and release more of those supposedly-40 written songs to give his fans a full length of 15 or more gems like these.