The Terms & Conditions to Unconditional Love is the debut full-length album, and an intensely personal project, from Simon “Sitorimon” Smith.
I’ve known Smith, the blogger behind Higher Plain Music, for quite some time. We have similar tastes in music. We both love VGM, Celtic/World music, Tori Amos, Derek Webb and many others.
So when Smith told me he had his own album coming out, completely about and inspired by his former significant others, I was psyched.
I want to tell you what I think about this album. So join me after the jump for the Bandcamp embed and my thoughts on this 15-track vocal album from a fellow lover of … well … *good* music.
Alright, before we dive deep, let me get two things out of the way. First of all, this album is somewhat … lo-fi. The recording quality is mixed across the different instruments. The drums often sound a little too sharp, which is a big contrast to the reverb-heavy piano and synths.
Second, Simon is definitely not interested in using autotune, not even a little bit. The vocals are raw, which means the melodic lines can come off sharp, flat, and otherwise dissonant against the rest of the band (which is essentially a one-man layered recording). This is especially noticeable in the opener “Backslap,” as well as “U-Turn” and the album’s title track.
Then again, when Simon does stick to a purely tonal sound, the result is stunning. My personal favorite track on the album, “Freefalling,” has Simon shining on his vocals.
Now, to the good stuff.
First of all, the lyrics. They are smart, *and* they smart. Get it? Smith’s sharp writing reflects his own wounds but also leaves puncture wounds in the ghosts that haunt him: memories of ex-lovers. Some of the more poignant segments from the album’s lyrics are used in the 19-page digital booklet included as image files with the album. I really enjoy these lyrics from track 7, “Not Quite Enough” …
And I feel that the rope that you give
Is just not quite enough to go far
And I feel that the thread it’s made with
Will not bend nor will coil, just scar
And that’s one of the softer songs: just Smith singing and a piano and ambient sounds behind him. Some of the louder songs come with vicious attacks. The kind I can nod my head to!
The instrumentation across this album is definitely “experimental.” I mean … you have piano, synth orchestra, traditional rock instruments, and absolutely weird electronic stuff that I cannot describe. It all comes together in this big messy jumble, and at times it’s a turn-off, but other times it’s a real boon for the album. The orchestral stuff on the title track is great. And the simple common-time rock beat in “Scrambled” is fun and danceable, but then it gets all blurred and crazy during the chorus.
Okay, but seriously, “Freefalling.” Great song. It’s the longest track on the album, over 6 minutes long. When Sitorimon finishes singing the song, the instrumental outro really is the best part of the whole album. This section of the song was one of the earliest previews of the album, and it’s still one of the coolest things I’ve heard. I’d love to hear more instrumental stuff like this. Like a keyboard-based music box with some simple warbly synths coming at the end of each four-measure phrase.
There’s something wonderfully homemade about this album. A cynic might call it “amateur” — the album’s front cover would certainly suggest that. But behind that is this wonderful sense of abandonment that you won’t experience unless you really listen closely. Especially to “artsy” creepy tracks like “Spiricom.”
If you want to buy the album, it’ll cost you six British Pounds. You can also stream the whole thing for free at Bandcamp.Tags: Bandcamp, Experimental, Higher Plain Music, Reviews, Simon Smith, sitorimon, Terms & Conditions, Unconditional Love, Vocal