Simon Joyner: Out Into the Snow

Daniel Ross

For those looking to the future of Simon Joyner’s craft, see the lengthy, winding, and totally satisfying numbers here.

Simon Joyner

Out Into the Snow

Label: Team Love
US Release Date: 2009-09-15
UK Release Date: 2009-09-28

Across the light opening lumber of Out Into the Snow, a nine-minute epic entitled "The Drunken Boat", the perennially weather-beaten Simon Joyner reveals more poise and care than has been displayed over much of his career. Though not really waking until it hits the two-thirds mark and some choppy strings transform the song’s character, it is still a quietly devastating work. It’s as if the first five or six minutes really needed to be monotonous, because without them, the glorious climax is, ultimately, nothing more than beautiful non-meanings. With the build-up, it is magnificent.

Musical templates that take in some graft before they reveal their secrets make up a lot of this odyssey-structured melting pot. Joyner’s various tales of various longing characters and self-analysis are ably illuminated, even revived, by some truly exceptional instrumental augmentations. The lugubrious trombone lines in "Sunday Morning for Sara" delicately tweak the seventh and fall into place after just the right amount of time – impeccably woven in amongst the careworn lyrical constructs. It’s perhaps telling that the weakest track here, the vague and overlong "Last Evening on Earth", has comparatively very little in the way of instrumentation outside the trad-rock oeuvre, an altogether less charming experience.

When Joyner uses his tools to his utmost advantage, the results can be spellbinding. Even when those tools are, on the delightfully drippy "Peace in My Time", little more than some pure vocal harmonies and lightly tapped keys, he is able of constructing solidity from seemingly freeform acoustic bases. It’s remarkable how little sound is actually present on the track, and even more commendable that it is wrestled into something pretty and affecting. When the strings finally arrive at the three-minute mark, we see again that Joyner’s grasp on the mechanics of slow songwriting is tight – we are directed effortlessly to feel exactly how he does.

Sparseness and well-placed instrumentation continually play off one another to charming effect, but interesting clarities appear too in Joyner’s voice itself. It is at its most tuneful and reigned-in throughout Out Into the Snow, rather than the sometime-ragged, inflected and faltering warble of previous recordings. You might even describe it as conversational at points, particularly on the meandering title track wherein a train journey is casually described and ornamented with plonks of piano.

The danger is that with all this building of tension, it is a constant and distracting worry that a false move might derail the process and break the spell. This happens occasionally, with the more traditionally wranglin’ tunes feeling slightly too easy and knockabout. For those looking to the future of Simon Joyner’s craft, see the lengthy, winding, and totally satisfying numbers here. Songs this assured are rare to hear with such consistency on one album, and it is a shame that there are one or two less-impressive examples that cloud the reception. In the main, though, this is remarkably well-conceived and lovable, a fine continuation.





The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.


ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.


Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.


Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.


Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.


'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.


10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.


'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.


The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.