Those Chicago touchstones have made it overground on her debut Lights Out. The rather brief "Beneath" wraps a sleek organ riff around heavily manipulated percussion and a linear bassline unlike the writhing monsters that usually lurk beneath her tracks. It signals a move away from stuffy claustrophobia for Simko, a move that comes correct on early album highlights like first single "Mind On You"—one of Simko's most accessible tracks, all cool-blue chords—or especially "Flight Into BA." The latter is stunningly melodic, hearkening back to the stately majesty of 2006's "Strumm," taking all the elements of disco—ropey bass, horns, strings, falsetto vocals—and meticulously re-arranging them so they fit into the album's sparse, late-night feel.
Unfortunately, Simko isn't able to repeat that particular trick for the entire LP. The further down the spiral she tries to go with her new reductionist spirit, the more she ends up wallowing in the kind of mnml lassitude that her previous work so narrowly avoided. The stodgy "Mira Vos" hints at this, barely scraping by with its springy Pronsato-lite bristle, while "Bikini Atoll" just fails, awkwardly foisting a simplistic drum track onto dissonant see-sawing. That's not to say she can't find a happy medium: the percussion-heavy "Last Breath" manages to pound itself out of the near-fatal arrhythmia, like a spruced up m_nus jam. But when compared to something like "Mind On You," even these tracks feel frustratingly incomplete.
The album closes in promising fashion with "Had It All," arguably the perfect marriage of her minimal past and her new explicitly Chicago direction, as finger snaps, elegant drums and soft vocals swirl and churn in a closed-circuit push-pull flurry. It's an anti-climactic end to an up-and-down album, one that seems to hint as much at diminishing returns as it does unbridled potential. I'm tempted to just say "pick a side," because as Lights Out proves, being split down the middle isn't the best look for Simko.