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Music Review: Andy Yorke – Simple

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Andy Yorke, the younger brother of alternative rock icon Thom Yorke (of Radiohead), is finally stepping out on his own, having formerly fronted British atmospheric pop rockers Unbelievable Truth in the late 1990s. That group sold a respectable six figures of albums before Yorke left in 2000 to pursue other interests outside of music, including becoming an interpreter for Greenpeace in Russia.

In the ensuing years, Andy Yorke felt his musical days were behind him, never to return. But there were moments in his life, such as “broken relationships” and “personal demons” he had to battle, where he felt the only outlet for these feelings was through music. Consequently, Yorke started to write music again. It was “therapy” for him.

On Simple, Yorke’s debut solo CD on new label Chocolate Lab Records, the singer/songwriter doesn’t go for the weird or try to reinvent the wheel like his more famous brother and his band. Andy Yorke is perfectly content with using the old reliable acoustic guitar, cello, piano, strings and on a couple of occasions, sparse electric guitars to make some of the most cathartic music you’re going to hear this year. Simply put, Simple is a personable and passionate album of easy-to-swallow alternative rock, folk and pop music, the type you’d want to relax to any hour of any day.

The soothing title track gets Yorke off to a very pleasant start. It features a straightforward beat, what sounds like a colorful chorus-pedaled electric guitar, and romantic cello lines that mix well with Yorke and his fingerpicked acoustic guitar melodies.

The strings on “Twist of the Knife” lift the spirits up on what is clearly an anti-optimistic breakup song, with lyrics like, “I don’t want the world to change/It has to always be this way.” The accordion-aided “Let It Be True,” on the other hand, has a more positive, self-empowering message. “Diamant” features melancholic lyrics that might remind some listeners of Thom Yorke vocally, but musically is not Radiohead-ish in the slightest.

The lone electric guitar-propelled number “Lay Down” livens things up a bit, with its loud cymbal crashes and moderate pace, as does the piano-led single “Rise And Fall” and “One In A Million.”

The sleep-inducing and moody “Surrender,” the second-to-last track, has the younger Yorke featuring a falsetto that approaches but doesn’t quite sound like his brother’s voice. It’s a quiet, lonely acoustic-and-cello number with a beat – relegated to the background – that sounds like a heartbeat put through reverb. However, it’s not Yorke’s best composition and can be skipped over for what is without question the most powerful song on the album.

One of the keys to a good-to-great album is song placement. And though there isn’t a big problem in that department on Simple, IMO “Lay Down” would have been a better choice to set up album ender “Ode To A Friend,” instead of “Surrender”.

On “Ode,” Andy Yorke saved the absolute best and most gorgeous tune for last. A catchy rhythmic rim shot by drummer Nigel Powell and strummed acoustic parts by Yorke starts things out, along with his poetic singing in a low key. His lyrics don’t exactly spell out what exactly the song is about, but it could refer to the death or near death of a close friend, as lyrics like “Don’t let go/I don’t know if I am ready” show. Later, Yorke’s singing rises with emotion, as does the music. The big payoff comes near the end when, after Andy’s voice soars and stretches out every word in the song’s title, “Ode” reaches a heavy crescendo, complete with a rotary-speaker type of effect on the lower piano parts in the final minute. Powerful stuff, indeed.

In all, Andy Yorke’s Simple proves the younger Yorke is a near masterful songwriter in his own right, even after so many years away from the industry. It has a few dull moments, but the majority of the 12 tracks are emotionally resonating, one way or another. If you like the blissful lo-fi beauty of Heartbreaker-era Ryan Adams, Damien Rice, or even The Fray, you will like this record. A lot. It’s therapeutic, peaceful and inherently enjoyable, regardless of Andy’s relation to Thom Yorke and Radiohead – Jonny Greenwood and Andy Yorke were in a grammar school band together, FYI. Thus, get Simple now digitally on Amazon, or the CD itself when it hits stores November 18.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.