New Music: Simple Man

I wanted to write an expansive piece on this new foursome hailing from New Jersey with a hybrid sound that pines for stages far and wide. I wanted to introduce you to Simple Man, review their songs one by one, and give you a sense of their multi-genre musical styles and the heartfelt lyrics laced with anecdotes and allusions.

But every time I strive for the words to capture their sound, their presence, their inventive creativity, I get lost in the music.

I just can’t stop listening to their eponymous EP. And when I switch it off to actually try and get something done, I’m drawn back to the earbuds and I turn up the volume. These songs demand your attention. And they keep you listening and coming back for more.

Ever since our friends Zusha dropped this “Hydroplane” video on Facebook a few weeks ago, Simple Man has been on an obsessively regular rotation.

So let’s start there:

With lyricism rooted in hip hop consciousness and spirituality, Yaakov Kafka’s words go from the mundane to the spiritual, from the personal to the universal. There are prayers of thanks and acknowledgment, as well as words of self-deprecation and slice-of-life, every day observations. Themes of faith, connection, depression, and anxiety weave through the songs as seamlessly as the varied styles the band puts together. You’ll hear flavors of Radiohead, Matisyahu, and Tribe Called Quest, among others. But the result is altogether unique.

The band — Tamir, Eli, Clayton, and Yaakov — came together organically: through happenstance, desire, passion, and need. And this shows up in their song-writing. All of them self-taught, they collaborate to create a sound that’s bigger than the sum of its parts. Strings and horns accompany acoustic guitars and a steady rhythm section that collude to create a unique listening experience that takes Jewish music to a whole ‘nother level.

This is music born of the times, but it is also visionary.

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Yaakov claims that the band enjoys the trouble they give critics trying to fit them into a box.

I have a solution for that.

If Simple Man is to be boxed, this must be a special box. Step inside and, like Newt Scamander’s suitcase, the dimensions change.

Their music is full of boundless surprises. From soulful singing to lyric spitting, from a song break that delves into where “beauty is buried deep in the belly of the ugly” to a jazzy disco singalong chorus, Simple Man will entertain you, get you thinking, and — most importantly — get you moving.

Give them a listen and look out for some tour dates in the summer.


Images thanks to Simple Man.