May 20, 2015

Jim O’Rourke – Simple Songs (2015)

O’Rourke is always clever and funny, but the driving force in his music is the art of the arrangement. Many of the greatest pleasures on Simple Songs come from how certain instruments are layered together, how the chords are voiced and the harmonic progressions unfold. The songs, played by O’Rourke and a cast of Tokyo-based musicians, are generally driven by guitar and piano, but strings, pedal steel, mandolin, horns, and woodwinds are all featured prominently. All of which is to say that Simple Songs is a subtle record that avoids extremes, which also makes it a record out of time.

It’s a record that asks you to come to it. If O’Rourke ever felt the need to keep up with every development in music, that time has passed. After moving to Tokyo in the last decade, O’Rourke has been a less central figure. He stays busy in music, art, and film, but much of his work doesn’t travel beyond Japan. He has his handful of obsessions, his rules, his limitations, and once in a while he returns and gives us a record like this, something that will be sounding good five or 10 or 15 years from now, or whenever the next solo record comes along.

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