LA based singer songwriter Simone White’s previous three albums have been well-received yet slightly underwhelming offerings finding success through the medium of advertising rather than through overwhelming sales. The Beep Beep Song, from 2007’s I Am The Man, was a regular fixture on TV screens as part of an Audi car commercial, and Bunny In A Bunnysuit, from 2009’s Yakimo, was featured heavily in an advert for Omega watches.
The success of those two tracks have rather unfortunately seen White pigeonholed as someone who makes pleasant but inessential acoustic folk that is perfect for backgrounding but lacking depth. Silver Silver is her fourth album for Damon Albarn‘s Honest Jons label and it sees White making a genuine attempt to progress her sound. It is a far more ambitious and appealing album as a result.
The hallmarks of White’s sound are still very much present. The vocals are incredibly lush, as her whispered voice floats gently over the music. While the atmosphere is mostly sedate, there is a significant change in the arrangements which are, for the most part, far more complex and textured than anything White has created before. Opening track Flowers In May is an ambient soundscape which is utterly mesmeric as White’s hushed vocals counteract a fluttering guitar figure. It is a track representative of the rest of an album that, at times, resembles a slightly more pastoral and organic The xx.
White has said of the album that she wanted to focus more on the music than the words, and you can definitely hear that in Silver Silver’s impeccable dynamics and beguiling ability to use silence and space to shape the songs. The traditional folk-based songs are interspersed with textural instrumental pieces of ambient sound that offer a welcome counterpoint, allowing immersion in the sound. The supremely delicate Frogs and the lush drone of Bonnie Brae are particular standouts.
When White does sparingly focus on the words on Silver Silver, she does it with an engaging vulnerability that makes it her most personal and, in turn, affecting album. The record deals with those big, overpowering emotions of relationships, love and death. The lyrics are simple, direct, and crushingly effective. The sparse acoustic ballad Never Be That Tough sees White pleading with someone to “Don’t turn your back on love, because you can never be that tough” It is a truly lovely moment on a record that frequently hits an emotional pulse.
There are more oblique moments of invention that mark this out as White’s most interesting album sonically. What The Devil Brings is possessed with a bewitching jittery melody, and the seven-minute long title track is a shape-shifting piece of ornate folk that evolves into a frenetic jazzy crescendo.
The album has been produced by Fol Chen‘s Samuel Bing and features guest appearances from Andrew Bird and Victoria Williams, and it may be that these outside influences have spurred White into producing something that bit more inventive. Either way, the lush sound of the album and its forays into electronica and RnB is compelling throughout.
There is always a danger, when an artist’s work is used prominently in an advert, that they will be forever connected to that in the public’s consciousness. Simone White has gone a long way to negating that with an album that is a subtle but impressive evolution of her sound that should find a whole new audience for her.