Review by Mr. Substitute
I distinctly remember at one point in my life answering the question “What kind of music do you like?” with “Anything with good lyrics, and ska.” Now I think that is so funny because they don’t have to be mutually exclusive! Exhibit A: Simple Minded Symphony. For me, if horns are involved, I’m automatically interested–almost to a fault. Simple Minded Symphony (SMS) has horns and then some. I could almost see myself in my car when I first played “Places” as the opening track started, my eyes getting big as I knew this album would be right up my alley.
Up my alley is an understatement. “Places” took a giant spray can and went “This part of the alley? This is mine now.”
Hailing from Seattle, Simple Minded Symphony is a (6)-piece band currently signed with Ska Punk International. As a band, they have this sound that feels so universal but always maintains some (and varies) tempo of upstrokes and finds a way to incorporate their very talented horn section; add to that lyrics that are heartfelt and poignant and a drummer that always keeps your toe tapping and you have this experience of a band in Simple Minded Symphony.
In a brief correspondence with Ska Punk International’s own, Cool Chris, he told me it was the ending of “Memory Card” that convinced him to sign SMS and it is entirely understandable; ending with a breakdown that is graceful, catchy and highlights a flute–what more could you ask for? “Places” caught Cool Chris’s attention and now Ska Punk International has a future album in the works to be released later this year. Join Ska Punk International’s mailing list for updates on that, I know I’ll be looking forward to that.
“Places” places (see what I did there?) SMS in the DIY Ska scene simply because it was mastered and recorded entirely in-house by the band’s saxophone player, Jason. This actually came to me as a big surprise since their sound is impeccably mastered, in my opinion. Appropriately named, “Places” (and again, SMS as a band) is an experience: every track transports me to a different cavern in my memory and I very easily get lost in the moment. For example, I’ve had to pause this album a few times in trying to write this review because I keep wanting to just listen. In the album, you hear beautifully arranged horn lines that feel equally familiar and fresh. And of course I can’t forget the lyrics! Encouraging, optimistic, and direct. This album just made me feel good.
Simple Minded Symphony got an apology message from me, personally, because I feel like I slept on them for too long. We all have tastes, we all have likes and dislikes, we all have things we enjoy. SMS checks all the boxes for me: beautifully melding ska rhythms with flawless hornlines AND branches out to other genres while maintaining that true SMS sound. “Places” is an absolute joy to listen to and can be found on Spotify, Bandcamp, and Youtube. For all of Simple Minded Symphony’s information, check out their Linktree!
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