Simon Joyner's singing style is conversational and flat in a way that evokes Townes Van Zandt. But his arrangements are more dynamic, building to multi-instrumental crescendos that work against the damaged intimacy of his voice. He's still damaged; he's a singer-songwriter. It's just the damage is a little more structured, a little more pleasing on first listen.
Don't be fooled, though: Simon Joyner is investment music. His lyrics are allusive and dense, as when he describes a spider that wraps a cicada in a ball and wonders if, by "drinking summer's voice," it will bring on fall. That's a songwriter building a corpus, right there. You don't see a lot of spiders eating cicadas, though, and Joyner is walking an interesting line between candid diary and something more mannered and weird.
"Drunken Boat" is a fine example, beginning in a more or less confessional form but rising to the associative delirium of Lou Reed's "Street Hassle." Joyner is a lending library of influences, and you can hear his vocal turnarounds in late-period Bright Eyes songs, just as you can hear Dylan's flourishes in Joyner's. He is a craftsman operating in a long tradition, and it's satisfying to hear him work.
Simon Joyner plays the ZACC Wed., May 14, at 8 PM with Wooden Wand as part of the Living Room concert series put on by Undertow Music Collective. $20 online at undertowtickets.com.