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MP3 Return of Simple - Saffron

Three classically trained musicians, all with glasses, who sing shimmering vocal harmonies on nearly every track. Skill without pretense, honesty above everything. (Ben Folds - musical theater) + (Radiohead - guitars and effects) + Brian Wilson + Steve

9 MP3 Songs
POP: Piano, ROCK: Progressive Rock

Rob Kovacs the soulful and concentrated tactician on piano, Gary Thobaben the bass-grooving, sarcastic jokester, and Joe Scale the smiling, beaming, behind-the-scenes backbone drummer of the group is just a cursory glance at what you might see at a Return of Simple show. The brilliance of the trio''s sound, however, far outstrips the nerdy delights of their onstage performances. What Return of Simple offers up to the ear is a familiar amalgam of different sounds and textures that is itself distinctively unfamiliar. Each song rises fully formed and finely crafted, tapping into an honesty that speaks as if every sound and feeling comes barreling deep out of memory, something remembered but free from the burdens of names and places. Influences abound, but their incorporation into the totality of the music is seamless. Constantly driving and rhythmically invigorating, this is music that sounds like you''ve heard it inside your own head without ever having listened to a single second of it before.

This distinctive quality rings throughout Return of Simple''s new EP Saffron. The nine track disc, released in the Autumn of 2006, features a selection of original songs that highlights the full range and enthusiastic honesty of their music. With the release of Saffron, Return of Simple has been performing more frequently than ever, playing not only at venues in the greater Cleveland area, but also in cities throughout the region.

The characteristic sound of the music of Return of Simple began as the brainchild of pianist and composer Rob Kovacs. Writing songs since before he was in high school, Rob understood he needed a fuller and more dynamic sound if his music was to get beyond his own living room. During his time at the Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music, Rob recruited drummer Joe Scale and bassist Tim Fisher to join him in making the idea of his piano-based trio a reality. The fledgling group started to strike into its signature sound, performing on a limited basis in the Cleveland area. Two years later, with the departure of Tim Fisher, Gary Thobaben stepped in to assume the bass mantle, rounding out the current and final three-man lineup for Return of Simple.

Listening to a Return of Simple song is a bit like looking at a section of a road map for the twenty-something mind. As always, there is a lot of talk of love, in its infancy and on its way out; paradises found and lost; the sadness and anxiety of change; the exhilaration of new things. But this is not the same old story; here, there is no cynical cleverness, no melodramatic whining, no immaturity. Rather, each song possesses a plain sense of honesty, a forthrightness all its own, like the awkward confessions of a love letter never sent. There is a kind of sincerity and beauty about every pain and joy, a small, almost imperceptible catharsis from beginning to end. And yet even as the lyrics belie a certain melancholy pensiveness, the music itself is full of passion, a fitting contrast of drive and flourish to the atmospheric poetry of the words.

If the analogy of the road map continues to be true, Return of Simple is not just tracing its finger over each red and blue highway of the emotional journey of their lyrics. Their music is music of response, provocative as much as it is evocative. The listener doesn''t just lie in bed waiting for something to happen; the sound, even at its most contemplative moments, is infectious, urging us to grab the keys and hop in the car, ready to go. It drives; it drives toward not just anywhere, but somewhere, and something. It is as much physical as mental, its energy as much kinetic as it is charged with potential. Simply put, more than anything, in all of its sophistication, it grooves, and as listeners, we find ourselves tapping our toes and bobbing our heads along with it. We want to dance because the music itself dances through every fiber and inch of the body. It stirs us, teases us, compels us to act, to get up and be a part of its rhythms. It makes us think-but first, it moves.

This is essentially the trademark of Return of Simple. Constantly innovative, but grounded in the soul of what makes music worth listening to, they are always expanding the horizons of their art, both for themselves and their audience. Their sound is rich in influences but highly unique; their songs are catchy without ever delving into the realm of repetitive fluff. Every cadence, every gesture, and every minute of every song seems keenly wrought, yet perfectly natural, comfortable and familiar. And still, audiences can always expect to see and hear the flawless results of fine artistry, nestled in the simplicity of three guys just doing what they do best.

- L.P. Coladangelo


"Long lives the piano on indie pop band Return of Simple''s latest effort "Saffron," which is referred to as an EP despite the fact its nine tracks clock in at 35 minutes. If Ben Folds and Brian Wilson were to jam, the output would be something similar to the melodic waves of aural bliss that dominate this mature album from the Baldwin-Wallace College trio. Give "Hover" a listen, and you''ll swear it''s a "Pet Sounds" outtake, with its precisely layered harmonics and genius pop structure. There''s a tender side to singer-songwriter-pianist Rob Kovacs'' pop approach that gives "Can You Hear Me Say Goodbye" a tearful reality. Despite a few shaky vocal parts, "Not Awake" contains an infectious early R.E.M. falsetto vibe on its chorus that will ring around your brain for weeks. Invariably, there''s nothing simple to be heard on "Saffron.""

- John Benson, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Return of Simple bandleader Rob Kovacs turns in one of the year''s best vocal performances on "Let It Stay Lost," a single that finds the BWC Conservatory of Music grad singing in a woozy Rufus Wainwright croon as he jabs his piano like Ben Folds. The crisply self-produced debut recalls the glory days of the ''70s, before piano rock was totally dainty. Kovacs shares tales of a twentysomething guy who''s bright, but can''t figure out the women around him. It''s not a unique flaw, but it''s the only one this disc brings to light."

- D.X. Ferris, Cleveland Scene

"Return of Simple, which revolves around the songs and trained piano skills of former Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory student Rob Kovacs, wears its Ben Folds influence on its sleeve but brings quite a bit of its own thing to the mix. It aptly calls its music "chamber pop," and this collection of nine dreamy, sparkling confections shows why. From the bouncy Beach Boys-like chords of the title tune which opens the nine-track CD to the prog-rock feel of the rapid-fire "Flying Blind" with its flashy piano outro, the trio (at the time of the recording; they''re now a quartet) shows off without burying the songs'' appealing melodies in virtuoso drek. Tunes like "Hover," which pours lush "ooh-ooh" vocals over shimmering piano arpeggios, and the fluttering but translucent "Can You Hear Me Say Goodbye" are accessible and technically impressive. At worst, a few songs are meandering and unfocused, but they''re so pretty, they''re like candy you can''t stop eating."

— Anastasia Pantsios, Free Times

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