Pop going retro is nothing new; sometimes music needs to take a turn back to go forward. It’s something singer-songwriter Dan Croll clearly has in mind on his latest album Grand Plan, in going back to the roots of mainstream popular music, namely The Beatles.
The Staffordshire-born singer began his career thanks to the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund, where he was awarded Songwriter of the Year. This happened while Croll was a student at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), where he had the golden opportunity to sit down with Paul McCartney. In a recent interview, Croll confessed that, upon meeting McCartney, he felt the need to ‘write an apology’ after he turned up to their meeting barefoot after a night bus journey from London to Liverpool.
Grand Plan is Croll’s third album, following on from his brilliant 2015 debut From Nowhere and 2017’s Emerging Adulthood, the latter of which established him as a bright spark. Grand Plan arrived in an unorthodox way, with 10 of the 12 tracks being paired up and released as singles in advance. This protracted schedule may ruin the element of surprise ahead of an album’s release, but it is interesting to see an artist do something out of the ordinary.
The structure of the album is beautifully crafted, with each of the tracks like pages of a calendar that detail Croll’s life, presenting a personal diary window of sorts into his world. The opening title, Yesterday, starts the journey of travel by writing the apology letter to McCartney that he didn’t get the chance to articulate when they met. The fact that McCartney is directly addressed in the first word of the song implies the earnest admiration that Croll has for him. Of course, this is a pastiche of McCartney’s Yesterday, with its melancholic chord progressions and melodic verses creating a moving aura not dissimilar to the 1965 original.
Further on, Stay In LA creates a dreamy atmosphere with its ballady vocals and mellow synths. The chord structure is again Beatles-influenced, this time following John Lennon’s Imagine in the track’s intro. This first pair of songs reassert the wider, double-sided nature of the album – some recall the impressionism of McCartney, others the expressionism of Lennon.
Actor With A Loaded Gun bleeds more nostalgia. It flourishes halfway through with an eruption that creates a storm amongst the clouds – a brilliant follow-up to the aptly named Rain. The album’s concept of ‘the double’ is rich in emotional detail, and tracks like this underline how Croll uses it to go on a beautiful journey, proving he can breathe new life into old forms.