First impressions of Sims's newest: 'More Than Ever'

Sims
Sims - More Than Ever (Courtesy of Doomtree)

"The merch is behind the coffee bar, and you can buy it from your server." The bartender nods at me and I thank her, walking back to my seat by the window. I'm at Muddy Waters for Sims's More Than Ever listening party, and I have to stop to appreciate the situation. Where else can you buy merch from your server?

It's dark outside, but string lights ring Uptown's trees. I'd grabbed the last couple of spots in the restaurant just before 8 p.m. Between the full house and the $4 Jameson and Indeed specials, Muddy Waters is ready for a party.

A few minutes after 8:00, "A Bad Flying Bird" blurts onto the speakers, and as we run through More Than Ever's 13 tracks, not too much feels like a departure from Sims's Field Notes EP (2014). Icetep's twinkly, bass-so-crisp-it's-woozy beats (particularly "Brutal Dance" and "Voltaire") stand out, just like "They Don't Work For Us" did on Sims's last EP. There are also the slower, more heady tracks; I'd compare "Gosper Island" with "The Whale." The fans who've been liking Sims's newer music should stay right on course with him.

Here's my track-by-track rundown of first impressions:

1. A Bad Flying Bird

It's so good to hear Sims weaving in and out of beats again ("The whole idea was so neutered," he raps, "Commuter in a stupor suit / OK Computer, stupid future / Well, they're so removed"). I'll be coming back to this one.

2. Icarus

Sims describes this triumphant single best:

This song is about feeling unstoppable. The chorus came to me while I was driving in my car listening to this Paper Tiger beat. It was one of those perfect Fall days, where the air is crisp and the sun is bright. I was thinking about how awesome life is, just driving around feeling excited. It was one of those moments where you are like the living embodiment of love. I wanted to make a distillation of that feeling, cuz I feel like s-- a lot of the time. It's about rising above all of the pettiness, and being daring enough to take a chance; to risk being safe to do something amazing. I called it "Icarus" as a counterpoint to the cautionary tale. For everyone warning you to play safe, to not fly too high, I offer: We are all going to die. Might as well live boldly.

3. Brutal Dance

A total highlight. The music video had me fixated, and I think this might be my favorite song on the album.

4. OneHundred

The first music video Sims debuted from the project. Definitely the most familiar song on the project for me; it should be a lot of fun live.

5. Flash Paper

At first, I notice that this beat gives Sims's vocals much more room than past production has. A few songs later, I realize that most of the album is going that way. Sims raps almost at speaking volume, almost conversational as he rhymes. Intriguing.

6. Spinning Away

This will bump at Sims's Jan. 6 Mainroom show. The wubbiest of them all.

7. Oakland Ave Catalpas

Here, my notes are direct: "I like this."

8. What They Don't Know

Muddy Waters' screens switch from abstract, swirling visuals to slow-mo explosion shots. A watermelon; a blender; a water jug bite the dust. Unreleased music video?

9. Badlands

A slower one for me, although I do appreciate the United Crushers mention in the lyrics. Polica solidarity!

10. Buckets

Another early favorite. It's not winter yet, but I can already feel that "cold wind whipping up a tango." Is that "north north" lyric a "Norf Norf" nod?

11. Shaking In My Sheets

This one for realest song title. The chorus: "Who's that next to me/ Shaking in my sheets?"

12. Voltaire

I can't get over this Icetep beat. Another song I'll be sure to delve into after the album drop.

13. Gosper Island

I did need Google for this one. Not Zeno's arrow or Schrodinger's cat -- the Gosper curve is the latest puzzler to exemplify a Doomtree member's headspace. The Gosper island is the space that the curve (a fractal, or never-ending pattern) fills. The song itself isn't quite a pattern, but Sims does say he's "been around to see some cycles." The veteran MC is left in his own head wondering, "How to count the waves?"


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