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Love, Simon (Rob Simonsen)

March 7, 2018

If you’ve read my review of Nerve, you’ll know that I liked it very, very much. Over the years I’ve become a fan of this composer’s work. His use of electronics is second to none; and I believe I’ve called him ‘king of cool’ before. So imagine my delight whilst listening to Rob Simonsen’s latest score for the coming-of-age dramady Love, Simon.

The overall sound is very similar to Nerve, so expect plenty of smooth synth sounds combined with a small string orchestra, piano and guitar. It’s every bit as cool as Nerve, but it is generally more upbeat.

Simonsen has me tapping my feet from the word ‘go’! “Simon and Blue” is an upbeat opening cue with the composer’s familiar sounds, crisp recording and catchy (if somewhat predictable) theme. Due to the feel-good nature of the music, I’m also reminded of Matthew Margeson’s Eddie the Eagle. Elsewhere, some of the sounds remind me specifically of Olafur Arnalds.

Synths and string are at the centre of the score; light percussion and acoustic guitar add drive to the music, whilst piano and vocals add some intimacy to the score. In a cue like “Love, Simon” the wordless vocals are quite poignant. Elsewhere there is plenty of piano-and-synthpads to convey a sense of drama. This is the new piano-and-strings; and whilst it’s a bit cliche, it’s also very effective especially coming from someone as capable as Simonsen. The film is a love story, a coming of age drama/comedy, and a coming out story for that matter. Reviews are widely positive calling the film charming, full of heart, funny and gently touching, endearing, and even a modern classic for today’s generation. I could bestow those accolades onto Simonsen’s score without hesitation.

Like Nerve, this score offers plenty of ideas, but ultimately revolves around a few central themes or motifs. The notes/chords you hear right from the start of the album are the ones you’ll be hearing throughout the album. There’s a lot of cool stuff happening in the music. Synth-fans like me will have a field day. But ‘cool’ doesn’t always evoke a strong emotional response; ‘cool’ alone doesn’t tell stories. Some of it does get a tiny bit repetitive, so at 37 minutes the album is just long enough without outstaying its welcome. However, there are plenty of tracks where Simonsen slows things down and allows melodies, harmonies and gentle sounds to make an emotional impression. I believe that the last few tracks especially have real emotional gravitas. You can hear longing and relief. This is where the live strings really come into their own and contribute this beautiful, heart-aching sound. Great stuff. [4/5].

Love, Simon, Rob Simenson,19 tracks, 37m, Lakeshore Records 2017.

Review by Pete Simons. (C) 2018 Synchrotones

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