Album Reviews

Simone White – Yakiimo

(Honest Jons) UK release date: 22 June 2009

Simone White - Yakiimo “Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait / for the time it takes a heart to mend a break / how many moons are reflected in the lake / opposite directions / synchronised feet / can you wait forever if time is all it takes?” Ring a bell? Anyone with a selective memory will be able to report that these lyrics, and the song from which they came, were an integral part of Audi’s campaign for their new flagship sports car, the R8.

It’s a shame then that anyone that shares this kind of selective memory affliction will have a major problem remembering considerably more important aspects of day-to-day life, such as names, birthdays, appointments and household bills. Ring a bell? Oh. Well, let’s press on anyway.

The rather delicate song in question is called The Beep Beep Song and was written by Simone White. So bewitching is it that it made curious folk want to know a little more about the Hawaiian-born singer-songwriter. But White’s previous album, I Am The Man was something of a disappointment.

The simply crafted 90 seconds of The Beep Beep Song stand out, luminously, on a lengthy album that spends far too much time in a state of aphotic self-pity. Occasionally, White’s pared-down torch songs, which harken back to the Great American Songbook classics, would hit their mark. Too often, however, the album would overstay its welcome and ask a great deal of anyone’s patience and compassion. Had the album been shorter, the overall impression may have been more positive.

Happily, the UK version of Yakiimo is one track shorter than the previous record, although it somehow still feels like a trudge. Frustratingly, many of the components of a good record are in place here. Simone White’s woozy vocal delivery is pleasant enough. The folk-come-jazz-come-bluegrass arrangements accompany White’s velvety laments beautifully. Sonically at least, White bears comparison to modern traditionalists such as Melody Gardot, Jane Monheit and even Norah Jones.

But White’s similarity to more mainstream luminaries ends there. Aside from the occasional moment of distinction, such as album standout Bunny In A Bunny Suit, Yakiimo meanders like a slightly incoherent collection of throwaway daydreams. At virtually every juncture, the listener is faced with the same soporific melodies, which repeatedly go the way of musical dead ends and not the way of pleasing verses and choruses. White just seems incapable of snapping out of a predetermined Sunday morning languor. By its conclusion the album’s ceaseless sobriety is enough to leave anyone punch-drunk. Lyrically, Yakiimo even lacks the previous album’s more eventful, occasionally political, subject matter.

Simone White is, ultimately, an acquired taste. It is hard to be critical of an album that is so lovingly crafted. Yakiimo’s mawkish whimsy isn’t unpalatable, but its incessant listlessness will test the patience of any listener over its 12, largely indistinguishable, tracks. The bones of something are here; Simone White just needs to remember that she is more than capable of penning distinctive, memorable songs.

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Simone White – Silver Silver
Simone White – Yakiimo
Simone White – I Am The Man