William Fitzsimmons: Lions
3 stars out of 5 stars
It’s difficult to listen to William Fitzsimmons and not conjure up visions of Nick Drake. There’s that hushed, vulnerable, velvety voice of course, but the stripped down musical backing and painfully introspective songs, many referencing loneliness, loss and longing also invoke Drake’s similar MO.
None of this is a revelation to existing fans of Fitzsimmons’ five album catalog, much of which plows similar soil. To his credit, there are hints of pushing his established boundaries if you listen hard enough to these dozen tunes. Light but insistent drums provide propulsion on songs such as “Took” and “From You,” with the latter adding subtle electric guitar, backing vocals and even basic organ to its waltz time approach. It only takes a few tracks such as the relatively lively “Fortune” to help alter the somewhat oppressively moody vibe that is by now standard issue Fitzsimmons. Kudos to Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla who produced for adding heft to songs that could easily float away on their repeated acoustic guitar figures and good intentions, and in some cases still do. Unlike early period Donovan, whose voice and approach Fitzsimmons also summons, there are no lighter pop moments to offset the melancholy groove. By the time we get around to the echoed piano closing “Speak,” just over 40 minutes after the album started, it feels we have spent a lifetime with the somewhat tortured, or at least emotionally scarred, singer/songwriter.
This is a consistently lovely, reflective if occasionally morose album that, like previous releases, makes no attempt to attract a wider audience but should be enthusiastically embraced by Fitzsimmons’ core cult.