“Simon Okely is lost in time” reads Slow Dancer’s bandcamp page, a description both evocative and appropriate. The singer-songwriter from Australia is steeped in the music of yesteryear, especially in the 60s and 70s pop music that he grew up listening to on family trips. Now 31, the singer has returned with another ode to to his music passions, an album called “In A Mood.” It’s a mix of folk and AM radio influence, with Okely crooning and crying over backbeats and acoustic picking, playing the role of the hopeless romantic in his undoubtedly nostalgic music.
It must be said first that “In A Mood” is one groovy album. It’s got the laid-back soul of Mac Demarco and the polished production of an album meant for nights spent drinking wine by the fireside. It’s easy listening music updated for an audience looking for more artistic style, and if anything Okely delivers just that. Whether tuning in or zoning out to “In A Mood,” it has a feeling all its own, drawing you in to its atmosphere of love and loss.
The song “I Would” seems to be an outlier on the album, hearkening back to Nick Drake and 60s folk more than the 70s soul of other tracks. Perhaps that’s why it’s my favorite. It’s atmosphere is magnetic, pulling me into a yearning, romantic world of Okely’s creation. I feel as if I can almost dip my hand into the longing of this song. His croon, though a little out of place at first above the fingerpicked guitar, falls nicely into place as he sings about an almost sacrificial devotion over a shuffling beat reminiscent of Van Morrison’s energetic folk from the late 60s:
“But you know I would
Honey you know I would
For you you know I would”
“Sticks and stones will break my bones
But your words they simply destroy me
But I’ll have to just rebuild myself
Like you know I would
Like you know I would”
Okely soon returns to the soulful groove that he utilizes over most of the album, sometimes in a way that can’t help but feel a little repetitive. A few songs seem to use the same formula – insert a warm guitar that riffs over laid-back drums between a few chords as Okely croons in his aching timbre. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s a style that the singer pulls off with effortless ease. But halfway through the record I find myself wanting him to mix things up a bit, perhaps injecting a little bit more of the folk sounds of “I Would” onto the record. It feels like a reservoir left untapped, maybe for upcoming albums.
But when Okely gets the groove just right, it’s something special. Tracks like “Bitter” and “It Goes On” are feel-good to the core, balancing bass and drums into a tight-knit package that the songwriter seems to have squeezed right out of 70s blue-eyed soul. Yet with tracks like “Heaven Knows” and “I Was Often” he could easily put us to sleep with the laid-back rhythm and smooth delivery. Perfect for sitting in a lounge in some out-of-the-way part of L.A., sifting through memories while downing martinis.
“I Was Thinking” ends the album and gives us just one more taste of Okely’s longing:
“I don’t deserve it
Neither do you
I’m feeling nervous, I wanna
Figure it out with you
I’ve been thinking about your love
How it’s all or none
I’ve been thinking about your love
Can’t get enough of it”
The song fades out in instrumentals from there, giving us no resolution to his story of romance. Perhaps Slow Dancer recognizes that love has no resolution, instead preferring to live inside the feeling itself, tossing in turning in the pool of emotions it brings up. Okely’s in no hurry. After all, he’s too busy living in the past.