There’s just something about Dave Simonett’s voice, isn’t there? Whether he’s leading the charge in his breakneck string band, Trampled by Turtles, rocking the night away in his side project Dead Man Winter, or staking out some space to perform solo, Simonett has the ability to turn simple syllables into soliloquies and breathe so much sadness into lines like “I’m so grown up and alone” that they become downright devastating.
Simonett’s new solo EP, Razor Pony, capitalizes on that ability to be devastating. There are a few slightly upbeat songs—though they are more upbeat in a Neil Young “Down by the River” sense than anything resembling the punch of Trampled by Turtles—and then there are songs like “Criminal,” which rely on sparse accompaniments like a lone electric guitar to translate melancholy into music. The Trampled song “Midnight on the Interstate” is also reworked, with the band’s string arrangements removed and replaced with a textural pedal steel part that drones more than it sings.
The EP is also bookended by two atmospheric tracks that capture the sound of lake waves crashing up on the edge of a dock and grasshopper choruses filling the air. The final song, a 12-minute immersive opus called “Wyoming,” doesn’t even contain any vocals, and is the closest Simonett has come to channeling fellow Duluthians Low.
“I’m not making a big deal out of it,” Simonett told me in an email recently, saying that he intends to leave it streaming on SoundCloud and make a short run of physical copies on vinyl. While that kind of stoic humility is certainly endearing, I’ll go ahead and make a big deal out of it for him—Razor Pony is just the kind of heartfelt, meditative little release that keeps us tethered to one another on these wicked cold winter days and nights. It may not be as flashy as the next Trampled by Turtles release will surely be, but it takes a skilled songwriter to put together something this deceptively simple.
Razor Pony will be released next Tuesday, January 28, on Simonett’s own Minneapolis-based Gndwire Records. Listen to it for the first time right here: