Zero 7 - Simple Things (2xLP - 180 Gram Vinyl)
Forget the rampant labeling of Zero 7 as the "British Air," because Simple Things is a debut album that stands on its own as a chilled, subtle collection of organic songs. There are hints of Air, but there are equally relevant comparisons that might be made with Morcheeba, Rae & Christian, Nightmares on Wax, and early Massive Attack.
Indeed, after Morcheeba's overproduced Fragments of Freedomand Rae & Christian's sloppy Sleepwalking, Simple Things picks up the slack in a rewarding manner. Simple Things might just be a gentle Cinderella, a kind stepsister to Massive Attack's dark masterpiece, Mezzanine. It's rare that a post-trip-hop album is so interesting and engrossing, but the duo of Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker mix a number of musical elements, such as soul-influenced diva vocals, gurgling and ringing keyboards, and classical string arrangements, into a relaxing, potent wave of sounds. Though the album starts to meander in its closing tracks, the first 50 minutes are cohesive, vibrant, and calming.
Highlights are too numerous to call out, as the duo switches from instrumentals to songs featuring passionate, energized vocals from Mozez, Sia Furler, and Sophie Barker. All three vocalists mingle as perfect matches to the smart arrangements. Twinkling keyboards, barely-there basslines, and acoustic guitars create rolling melodies that never interfere with the task at hand, that of chiseling textured aural atmospheres. Simple Things is an accomplished slice of soulful genius that rewards frequent spins.