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-  Label: 'SUNDRIFT (www.simplecarnival.com)'
-  Genre: 'Pop' -  Release Date: '2008'

Our Rating:
Artists often leave hints and clues to the ways they view their work, but few are bold enough to suggest what their music sounds like in a nutshell. Jeff Boller – aka SIMPLE CARNIVAL – has no such hang-ups, though. In his press release, he tells us categorically that SC's music “doesn't rock – it pops!”

From the outset, it's clear Jeff wholeheartedly speaks the truth. From its' initial burst of heavenly, Beach Boys-style harmonies and quirked-out, piano-driven tunefulness, opener 'Really, Really Weird' sets the bar high. Yes, it's beamed in from the gentler, harmonic end of the scale and certainly modern contemporaries such as The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt come springing to mind. That's certainly not a problem and – when allied to some nice wry lyrical observations (“you pass out instead of make out/ and you never got her name”) - it's obvious Jeff's well-versed in the ways of creating quality, idiosyncratic pop.

Much of the album continues in a deceptively light and sunny way. I say 'deceptively' because while the synth-y pop of tunes like 'Misery' (our hero and heroine find infatuation while out jogging) and 'Keeping It Quiet' may seem light and frothy on the surface, they're positively seething with human frailty beneath the surface. The self-explanatory 'Flirt' also demonstrates Boller's in possession of a sense of fun and on 'Over Coffee And Tea' – a summer breeze Samba of a pop song if ever there was – his knack for the all-important minutiae of life (“while nobody's watching, our laughing sneakers touch under tables”) proves to be highly acute.

OK, some of Jeff's little excursions are rather throwaway ('Cocktails' even features a kazoo!), but even these moments are surprisingly engaging. Elsewhere, he treats us to the masterful, Brian Wilson-style crafting of the stunning, a cappella 'Nothing Will Ever Be As Good', gets all wistful and dreamy on 'Effortlessly' and is even cheeky enough to open the spangly 'Caitlin's On The Beach' with the lyric “surf's up! heads turn!” Oh well, you know what they say about talent borrowing and genius stealing.

Pittsburgh-based Boller is a self-confessed bedroom boy and he recorded and layered everything on this album in the confines of his home. When you consider the lo-fi excursions usually equating with such DIY enterprise, it's a remarkable and thoroughly-rounded achievement. It might not change the world, but 'Girls Aliens Food' (surely the important things in life, right?) is a lush, unashamedly poppy outing which can't fail to put a smile on even the stoniest of faces. More please, Jeff.

  author: Tim Peacock

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