Tuesday, 10 April 2007 | by scotch
Simon Morel – Record #2
Straight away, track 1, “Tomorrow’s Maybe” makes me want to dance. Great throbbing groove dance beat with a bit of soul in the chorus. The general sound is very Brit-Pop/Rock influenced, probably down to the fact that Simon Morel, while Sydney based now, is originally out of the UK.
This is his sophomore effort, following on from the well received debut Songs From the City. Record #2 is a likeable, pleasing effort, with some happy sounding tunes that have some interestingly contrasting lyrics.
My first listen to this one, I just bopped around going with the rhythm and the beat. Some tracks have some strong drum pieces, without them ever overpowering the song. So it wasn’t until I put it on for a second time that I began to notice more than the hook lines in the lyrics. Possibly because some of those hooks are very catchy, perfect for throwing your hands in the air and singing along.
A second listen revealed a darker side, contrasting the pop sensibility with an accessible relevance to common experience. This isn’t an essentially happy album, but it doesn’t choke on its misery. The words are more a gentle exploration dealing with unhappiness without becoming mired in it. Actually, it’s kind of a good break up album, applicable to those times when you just need to reflect and get over it without driving yourself despair. There are some dark, sweeping images in “Give Me a Reason” that I love. At times it is soothing, such as “Into the Night,” with some sweet melody.
Simon’s voice is clear and strong, with a pleasant, subtle husk. If I had to make a comparison (and I feel I do, for descriptive purposes) he is slightly reminiscent of Bob Evans, but more throaty than nasal. I’m a little uncomfortable with some of the high notes, particularly in “As time Goes By”, although considering that is a song about uncomfortable feeling, perhaps it is appropriate. It definitely sounds like the feelings he is singing about. I would just like too hear him exploring the deeper reaches of his voice. He has this great restrained energy in his recordings that promises to be great live. Alas, I have yet to have the pleasure.
All in all, Record #2 is a well set out, thoughtfully done album, with an understated theme pulling the whole thing together, without the tracks bleeding into each other. It’s solid, there is a lot to like about, yet I can’t escape the feeling that the best is yet to come from this guy. Some real talent there has me enjoying this one, but looking forward to the next.
Simon Morel “Record#2”
Written on April 9, 2007 by powerpopaholic in Power Pop Review
From the opening track “Tomorrow’s Maybe” Simon Morel wastes no time with a great power pop guitar track. The Australian based Simon Morel has produced a real gem of an album. “As time goes by” is excellent song, and my favorite here – sounds like a a great lost Glen Tilbrook track. No filler is found here – and with a bit of backing from power pop fave Michael Carpenter, this is sure to be a repeat listener. However a few of the ballads, like “No comin’ round” and “Saving Grace” although well made – don’t have the hook power of the more energetic tracks like “Sadness is a small town” which have a bit of a Smithereens echo. The exception here is the pleasant country-sounding song “Place for us” which recalls the best of Toad The Wet Sprocket and The Jayhawks. I really would’ve liked Record#2 to have a tiny bit more grittiness, but this still a excellent album worthy of purchase.
Simon Morel: Record 2
Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Label: Wildcat Records
We weren’t the only ones who gushed over Australian-based Morel’s debut album from 2005, ‘Songs From The City’. It was an excellent collection of pop songs superbly produced as usual by power-pop King Michael Carpenter and although it has only been a couple of years it has been too long since we heard from Morel.
Apart from heart-stopping melodies Morel showed his worth as a lyricist on that debut. Maybe it’s been said too often now but I have to say it again, Morel’s lyrics were at least an equal match for those penned by Difford and Tilbrook way back in the glory days of Squeeze. Morel not only writes about what we all can relate to, matters of the heart and such, but he writes in a way we can all understand and with just the right amount of humour. One gets the impression that while Morel means every word he sings he can also see the lightness in certain situations. Which is a long-winded way of bringing me to the only negative thing anyone could possibly find with this album which is another collection of eleven perfectly formed pop songs. This time there are no lyrics printed in the inlay! It’s a very minor quibble and with Morel’s clear vocals it’s not so important maybe as each and every word can be heard the same as on the last album but there was a certain amount of satisfaction to be had when reading the lyrics of the last album even when the songs weren’t playing. “I’ve been there”, “Know exactly what he means” normally with a smile on the face. That’s what happened when looking at the lyrics from the first album. I’ve even checked out his web site but no luck with the lyrics for this album…not yet anyway! But while we are touching on the packaging of the record it should be noted that the CD is made to look like a vinyl album; a nice touch.
But to the songs, for those lucky enough to have heard ‘Songs From The City’ then you don’t have to read anymore, just go out and buy this album. It’s more of the same but maybe, just maybe a little better. Yep, it’s that good. But it’s not like Morel is treading water. While the sound is not that dissimilar to ‘Songs From The City’, there is obviously 2 years more experience of performing and writing songs to add to his already long career. Morel is turning into a master at what he does. The signs were there on that debut and are confirmed by this follow-up.
Again Carpenter helps out on bass, drums, keyboards and vocals and Amanda Easton makes a welcome return on backing vocals too, practically stealing the show on ‘Into The Night’, a typical Morel ballad which is to say that it’s a gorgeous melody, all heartfelt vocals with Morel sounding more vulnerable than usual and when Easton comes in with her wordless contribution she makes a great song stunning. Pure class and it sounds like a choir of angels flying above us.
The album starts with a few crackles and pops as the imaginary stylus hits the vinyl taking the packaging to another level and leaves one in little doubt that here is an artist who is not afraid to admit he has one ear firmly in the classic pop of the past and the other planted securely in the here and now. Those crackles even make a short re-appearance before track 7, just like you had turned the album over on the old Dansette!
There’s a harder-edge to this album compared to ‘Songs From The City’ which was a surprise to begin with and the opening two songs, ‘Tomorrow’s Maybe’ and ‘As Time Goes By’ reflect this. While not losing his melodic touch there’s a gutsier feel to these songs. But by the time the chorus comes in on ‘As Time Goes By’ and Morel’s vocals take the lighter route we remember him for, it’s obvious that while small changes or progressions from that debut have been made, by the end of the CD we have fallen for this slightly grittier Morel which surfaces on a few songs here.
The third song, ‘No Coming ‘Round’ is Morel in classic ballad mode. As good as the faster songs are Morel really shines on heart-felt ballads like this. There’s a certain softness in Morel’s vocals on his ballads but it’s never over-sentimental, there’s still this edge to those sweet sounds which take Morel out of the ordinary.
There’s guitars jangling, sweet, heavenly harmonies, that power-pop fairy dust that Carpenter sprinkles in just the right amount on every album he produces, ballads that will touch even the hardest heart and lyrics detailing what we have all lived through at one time or another. And that’s without even mentioning the dreamy guitar solo on ‘Give Me A Reason’ which is worth the price of the CD alone. The song is simply one of the best Morel has ever written. It’s a ghost of a song with Morel sounding weary of everything in his life, pleading “Give me a reason to come home”. That guitar compliments the way Morel is feeling. Morel wrings more emotion out of his guitar in those 60 seconds than most artists manage throughout a whole album. And if that is Amanda Easton again adding those backing vocals it’s about time someone gave her the chance to make an album of her own. Listen to the heart-wrenching last line of the song “It’s 1 in the morning and I’m thinking of calling…” for confirmation that Morel, while firmly rooted in that power / classic pop sound, is a singer with more soul in his vocals that any other in that field.
For fans of superbly-crafted pop-songs who appreciate Jellyfish, Squeeze and The Posies this is the next album you should be adding to that shelf of special, classic pop albums. But the chances are there will be a gap where the album should be, it will spend more time in the CD player than on the shelf.
At eleven songs and 40 minutes Morel, once again, leaves us wanting for more.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
CD of the Day, 3/25/07: Simon Morel-Record #2
Last year, one of the first discs we featured on this blog was Simon Morel’s Songs From The City, and the Australian is back with his second disc, Record #2 (the time spent coming up with that album title must have been incalculable). #2 is a bit different than Songs From The City, feauturing a little more harder-edged pop sound than its predecessor courtesy of production from the legendary (in power pop circles) Michael Carpenter.
Carpenter’s production is apparent right off the bat with the power pop gem of an opener, “Tomorrow’s Maybe”, and the rock of “As Time Goes By” (not a remake of the Casablanca standard). Other uptempo standouts include “Don’t Give Your Love Away” and “Sadness In a Small Town”, possibly the catchiest track on the disc and featuring great harmonies on the chorus. Fans of Morel’s softer side won’t be disappointed either; “No Coming ‘Round”, “Saving Grace” (co-written with Carpenter), and the closing “Place For Us” are all high-quality ballads.
Hot4s Magazine Australia
“With a strong British influence, Simon’s songs are kind of ‘pub-pop’. That is, rockin’ tunes without the drunk idiot spitting a pint down your ear. Rather, your ear can expect to be gifted with some of the best hooks and melodies around”
’Record #2’ is sure to be appreciated by fans of jangle pop and smart indie-rock.”
CD of the Day, 2/18/06: Simon Morel-Songs From The City
Released last June, Australian Simon Morel’s debut album, Songs From The City, is a solid collection of singer-songwriter pop, from the Squeeze-ish opener “Sick and Tired” to the 80s-sounding standout “Gold Plated”, and the beautiful ballad “Stained”. Other highlights include the uptempo “Point of View” and the ruminative closer “Home Address”.
You can stream “Gold Plated”, “Stained” and “Point of View” at Simon’s myspace page, and “Sick and Tired” can be streamed here. And the rest can be sampled at the cdbaby page, where of course you can buy it if you like it.
Songs From The City
Simon Morel is British but now based in Australia. His music’s true to his roots, his influences include Teenage Fanclub and Squeeze. He stays true to them mostly.
He calls a song “Tea and Sympathy” and gets away with it by virtue of its strong melody. “Would You Let Me?” is a sensitive plea to a girl; the Squeeze influence rears its head here. “Point of View” is charmingly poppy and shows Morel’s a real talent. “Living Without You” is a simple effective song of troubled love. Morel’s forlorn singing and the simple guitar line work to get his point across well.
This is a pretty perfect debut for a good old-fashioned pop singer. He deserves to be heard by many and I’m sure he will be soon.
Copyright © 2006 Anna Maria Stjärnell
Simon Morel: Songs From The City
Reviewed By: Malcolm Carter
Label: Select Label
Simon Morel will be a new name to many, although he has in fact had a music career that goes back 15 years (so why does he look so young in the CD booklet then? Tell me your secret, Morel!) and has apparently been around the U.K. university circuit playing in various bands. He has also toured taking in Spain, Japan and France to name just a few of the countries he has played in. Maybe it’s just some other parts of Europe that have yet to discover the guitar based pop music that Morel, on the evidence of ‘Songs from the City’, which is his first album, is excellent at making.
Born in Britain but currently based in Australia, it’s no surprise then that Morel’s debut is produced by Australian pop King Michael Carpenter. And it will therefore be no further surprise that with Carpenter involved that this is a collection of eleven superbly produced and played pure pop gems.
As with the other Carpenter related release this month (Adam Power’s excellent ‘What Were Sundays For?’) Morel tackles the whole spectrum of pop/ rock and comes out on top. He handles the more upbeat songs like ‘Gold Plated’, just one of the songs which shows what a good lyricist Morel is with lines which haven’t been seen since Squeeze were at their best, (“I’m not always what she wants me to be, she’s got to realise this isn’t TV, It all started sometime in November and now it’s over – it’s only December”), as well as more subdued straight love songs like ‘Stained’ with ease. Switching from love struck to love lost and from rock to ballad is no problem for the talented Morel.
Vocally Morel has a clear voice. You never have to strain to hear what he is singing about, which is good when his lyrics are always so interesting. It’s pointless trying to come up with any comparisons vocally. Although not the kind of vocalist that makes you think “Who the hell is that?” Morel is a more than competent vocalist and has the type of voice that will appeal to many people of different age groups.
Although Michael Carpenter not only produces but plays his usual array of instruments including drums, bass, guitars and keyboards as well as supplying backing vocals and his presence is obvious it’s still very much Morel’s album. Morel’s melodies are strong and, as stated before, lyrically Morel really shines. By writing about everyday topics we can all relate too and by keeping things simple and direct with just a touch of humour here and there; “I’ve got a lot of words just waiting here to rhyme”, from ‘Tea & Sympathy’ is a good example, and in wrapping those words in memorable tunes Morel has sensibly chosen a producer who can make the best of those songs.
Morel isn’t going to change the world with this album but it’s a solid collection of songs, superbly produced and played. These songs are timeless. They’ll sound as good in 5 years as they do now, they don’t belong to any passing trend. They are strong pop songs which when looking back on what will hopefully be a long career Morel should be proud of, especially for a first album.