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"Zookeeper Becoming All Things (Belle City Pop)"

Chris Simpson (formerly Gloria Record, Mineral), has completed his first full-length under the moniker Zookeeper, and old pal Brian Malone has released it on his Belle City Pop record label. The album careens between honky tonk dissonance and dissolving harmony ("Trumpets" sounds like the closing tune in your favorite dive bar) against whimsical banjo, organ and horns. Simpson's voice plays well with the Wilco-ish (Being There era) tracks, while the slower paced tracks like "On Madison Way" pale a bit in comparison. Simpson's droning delivery coupled with its tendency to veer off pitch at times makes the down tempo more challenging, though faster tempos clear that issue up nicely: "Snow in Berlin" showcases all the best parts of Zookeeper, combining the every-instrument-all-the-time (and a chorus) mentality of the group with addictive, toe-tapping panache. All in all, fans of previous work will find themselves right at home in Becoming All Things. If you purchase your copy from Newbury Comics this week, you can get a signed one, so hop to it! - Austinist

"IT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT Zookeeper's Emo Heart Won't Break AUSTIN: Former Mineral and the Gloria Record frontman Chris Simpson creates an intimate atmosphere with a little help from his friends."

Zookeeper’s Chris Simpson and Co. laid into a set full of rambling indie rock stompers and sensitive soothers with a heart quaking howl and thick guitar layers to a scattered audience inside Stubb’s Wednesday night (Dec. 19). A small hometown crowd made up mostly of music critics and musicians stood stage front under the bright canopy of Christmas lights intimately watching, some with eyes closed mouthing along to the moody melodies. Simpson, who became a bit of an emo legend with his group Mineral and later built a formidable fan base with the Gloria Record, has retained much of the emotion of those earlier projects and injects it into songs that lie between Western indie rock with punchy guitars and a softer folkier sound.
Simpson and crew played tunes found on their latest LP, Becoming All Things -- like "Trumpets," with its ringing guitars circling an affective chorus -- as well as old fave "I Live In the Mess You Are." For Zookeeper's backing band, Simpson draws from a pool of local musicians that come and go collaborating now and then from groups like Zykos and Okkervil River. And even though some weren't playing with Simpson this particular night, musicians like Jeff Klein and Brian Hubbard from the Gloria Record were hovering in the crowd. New York's Rosewood Thieves offered their own super-sturdy vintage folk rock culminating in their performance of "Los Angeles." Frank Smith, a band which recently relocated to Austin from Boston, opened with some stellar pedal steel and banjo-fueled indie rock. - Spin


Becoming All Things is a collection of hearty, introspective rock and roll full of musings and meanderings on the baffling minutia of everyday life. Opener “Snow in Berlin” is by far this album’s most enjoyable listen if you are looking for a laid back, “Indie/Western Swing/Melodramatic Popular Song,” which is how Zookeeper describes their sound. Chris Simpson, Zookeeper’s vocalist, songwriter and general mastermind, delivers a style that is at the very least intriguing. Becoming All Things is filled with strange and surreal lyrical landscapes, weighty crescendos and a flair for the musically unique. At most, there is real depth in the lyrics, and a sort of musical interpretation of the world around us.

The album loses momentum considerably with “On Madison Way’s” slow tempo, safe drumbeats, discordant rhythm guitar and Simpson’s own long, drawn out vocals. The lyrics seem to be reveling in a feeling of listlessness: “As science soothes us with what’s already happening / How every dream deflated empties / These junkyard ships will never even touch that sea / Can’t you see?” Unfortunately, what follows is “Trumpets,” which had me comparing the sound to an actual “pop” song, what with its safe and almost adult contemporary feel. “Ballad of My Friends” tries to recapture some of the magic of “Snow in Berlin,” but there isn’t much originality to the Wilco-esque, solid Americana sound of it. There is a quiet moment of repose with “Boy and the Street Choir,” and I appreciate the quietly raining cymbals, soft drumbeats and vocals reminiscent of The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy.

We are ushered forward with “Al Kooper’s Party,” which is an instrumental, one-minute interlude of Ray Manzarek style keyboarding and sixties-esque grooving. Then its on to the charging “Everyone’s a DJ,” “On High,” and the title track, “Becoming All Things,” which I felt were all proof of the potential Zookeeper has on future albums. Of course, I like all these tracks for different reasons, but that’s because they all deliver at least a bit of polished musical adeptness and lyrical complexity. Of special note is the calming guitar and slow, bedtime, full moon lilt of “On High.” There is an oblique romantic charm to this song, with pretty horns and soulful piano that give it a softly sweet quality. The aptly named “Becoming All Things” follows, and could have been the better choice for a closer. It’s evidence of the skill with which Simpson, et al create complex and moving compositions, complete with an open ambiance, almost as though you should be listening to it outside. Instead, “Born with Things To Do” is the final offering, and a last shot at the chilled out country rock that got me going in the beginning. - Pause Culture


It wouldn't be too far off to call this classic rock done in the 21st Century, with the barnyard drums and Heartland chords… A promising restart for a gifted songwriter, definitely hints at great things to come. - Lollipop

"Quick Before It Melts"

…some of the jangliest, loose-limbed pop music of the year so far. In just one listen, you'll get a taste for his spirit and passion about music. - Quick Before It Melts

"Like a Rolling Thunder Revue for your living room"

Becoming All Things finds former Mineral/Gloria Record principal Chris Simpson moving forward by reaching back. As a rotating cast ensemble with Simpson as the only constant, Zookeeper invites structural comparisons to Bright Eyes, but a deeper musical touchstone might be found in Al Kooper's on-the-fly organ parts on "Like a Rolling Stone." Pitting Simpson's introspective songwriting against a rough-hewn, pots-and-pans atmosphere gives his songs room to breathe, the humanity of his unrestrained, rising/falling vocal style more pronounced in this context. Opener "Snow in Berlin" is a six-minute blast of a revival caravan, while "Trumpets" continues in that vein by commingling guitars, organ, and barroom piano into a shimmering wash of reaffirmation. Kooper gets name-checked on the transitional snippet "Al Kooper's Party Horn," but the album's second-half highlight is the elegiac "On High," a distant thematic cousin to Willie Nelson's "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground." It's like a Rolling Thunder Revue for your living room.
~ Greg Beets, The Austin Chronicle - Austin Chronicle


Zookeeper -- EP -- 2006
Becoming All Things -- LP -- 2007
(tbd -- upcoming release) -- LP -- 2010

Zookeeper music can be heard on myoldkentuckyblog, austintownhall.com, indierockreviews.com, theaustinsound.com, austinist.com, gothamist.com, daytrotter, and more.

(example: http://myoldkyhome.blogspot.com/2007/12/zookeeper-live-on-mokb-sirius-blog.html)



Zookeeper is primarily the indie pop vehicle of Chris Simpson, ex-frontman for the influential, short-lived 1990s emo band Mineral as well as shoegazers the Gloria Record. Other contributors to Zookeeper's expansive sound (replete with horns, tambourines, and honky tonk piano) include an assortment of musicians ranging from his previous bandmates to members of labelmates Sad Accordions and Alex Dupree & the Trapdoor Band, as well as members of other indie faves Cursive, Booher and the Turkeyz, Frank Smith, and Ovenbirds. After packing the lineup into an Austin studio to record a set of loose, exuberant songs, Simpson emerged with Zookeeper's debut material -- a self-titled EP, released in November 2006 on Belle City Pop! (operated by Gloria Record drummer Brian Malone). Zookeeper embarked on two stateside tours and one UK tour, and released the full-length Becoming All Things in late 2007. The band's highly anticipated second full-length is due spring 2010.