Simon Bookish is the nom de plume of one London-based composer Leo Chadburn, and Everything/Everything is his third album in as many years (although it's his first for Tomlab). He's done remixes for Franz Ferdinand and Grizzly Bear (among others) and has been a guest musician with Patrick Wolf, Saint Etienne, and Leafcutter John. Toss in a single titled "Terry Riley Disco" and his range of influences and collaborations paints a pretty varied picture.
While his previous releases were largely written for synths, this newest work is scored mainly for sax, brass, piano, organ, and a mixture of live and electronic drums. It's certainly pop music, but blends in bits of minimalism, disco, over-the-top cabaret, and a few other styles. Lyrically, it's adventurous, and like the last name of his pseudonym might suggest, a bit high-minded. Considering it's a concept album about the overwhelming amount of information that bombards us every day, it should come with no surprise that he sings about everything from chemistry to typography.
So, it will no doubt seem a bit pretentious to some (especially considering it's sung in a cool British croon), but I've always found literate pop music to be fairly entertaining provided it's not completely overdone. That's largely the case here, and the release opens with one of the best songs on the album in "The Flood," as choppy programmed beats and intertwining horns and piano race behind Chadburn and some female background vocalists. About halfway through, it flips the switch into a woodwinds and piano dance-pop piece that pulls in melodic cues from Steve Reich. "Portrait Of The Artist As A Fountain" is just as good, although it takes a different route with a robotic bass, another chugging beat, and some minimal melodies for the almost spoken-word first half before again launching into a delightful ending that again finds some amazing horn arpeggios dancing in line with the steady beat.
And really, that's when the album is at its best. In other places, it drops off to quiet chamber pop ("Il Trionfo Del Tempo... (Ridley Road)") and theatrical rock ("A New Sense Of Humour"), but neither seems to capture quite the same energy. On the other hand, "Alsatian Dog" is fleshed-out, ambitious mini-orchestral number that has the same vibrancy as Sufjan Stevens. Inconsistent, but charming in places and insanely catchy in others, Everything/Everything presents Simon Bookish as someone to keep an ear out for.