Don’t let his relatively young age fool you – Jim Kroft is a true journeyman. Having grown up near Dundee, Kroft took the obligatory songwriter’s route through East London before finding refuge in a squatter’s den in downtown Berlin. He’s an artist who has little hesitation in throwing himself into the throngs of poverty for the sake of his craft. Further to this lifestyle, Kroft has been dealt an excessively cruel hand; he lost his mother to cancer during his early teens and has little contact with his father.
Such experience has culminated in Kroft’s sophomore effort, The Hermit And The Hedonist. Given the amount of heartache he has endured, you’d half expect the album to be drenched in minor key hopelessness and late night bar confession. Such perceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. While at times his lyrics preach of a world in disarray, Kroft proves a man of sincere resilience. His voice is smooth and the LP itself smacks with a sunny ’70s soft-rock accessibility.
Kroft has made a point of coupling his straight-forward sound with overdubbed orchestration. This influence lingers through the album’s duration, at times steering The Hermit And The Hedonist into chamber-pop territory. There are occasions when it works to the LP’s detriment (Modern Monk) but for the most part it provides a complimentary sense of warmth (Haiku and the cautiously paced Ulysses).
Kroft opens in style with Memoirs From The Afterlife, a sweeping anthemic track that gives more than a few nods to I Am The Walrus and even some of Electric Light Orchestra‘s softer moments. In contrast, the album’s other most commercially viable track, The Jailer, is a conventional thud and thump rocker that hints at Kroft’s underlying faith. Despite their differing styles, both are stand-out highlights.
The finest track, however, is buried deep in the end of the album. Similar to Memoirs From The Afterlife, Daylight is a full blown number that purposely places Kroft a half-step behind an army of furious violins. It concludes with a gorgeous time signature change that grinds to a faint psychedelic halt.
The only problem with the track is that it monsters those around it. To his credit, Kroft’s ambition means he is constantly trying to strike a balance between lush orchestration and conventional soft folk-rock style. When this approach doesn’t hit the mark – as evident during If I’m Born Too Late and the verses of Canary In A Coalmine – what remains is pleasant, yet repetitive sounding filler.
Although running slightly too long, The Hermit And The Hedonist is soothing sophomore return. Not only does it satisfy those with a fetish for a ’70s AOR sound, from an introspective view it also supplies Kroft with a therapeutic release from his past troubles.