Album Reviews

William Fitzsimmons – Gold In The Shadow

(Nettwerk) UK release date: 18 April 2011

There’s always a worry that something will be lost when a previously brilliantly bleak singer songwriter starts to cheer up. Yet it’s heartening to hear Pennsylvanian songwriter William Fitzsimmons shifting to a more optimistic worldview than the one which consumed his divorce-themed 2008 release The Sparrow And The Crow.

Comparisons to Iron & Wine and Sufjan Stevens are still in the right ballpark, yet he possesses an Eels-like knack of wrapping intimate confessional lyrics in bright and sparkly textured arrangements, something which has no doubt helped him to get songs placed in Gray’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill.

Born to two blind parents who used music as a way of connecting with their fully sighted child, its intriguing how Fitzsimmons creates an almost multisensory feel in these layered tapestries of folk instruments blended with subtle electronic touches. His hushed vocals and golden melodies bring to mind Simon & Garfunkel, particularly when married to lavish unfurling strings on Bird Of Winter Prey. While the upbeat skipping guitars and shuffling drums of The Winter From Her Leaving and melancholic sway of opener The Tide Pulls From The Moon are further highlights.

The only track that seems a little undersold and lightweight is Let You Break, an admittedly charming and very sweet duet with Sixpence None The Richer singer Leigh Nash. Elsewhere the balance between his former pessimist and this new demon free Fitzsimmons seems pitch perfect. Introspective lyrics such as “cut me open please”, repeated over and over between the glitchy rhythms of Psychasthenia, are not surprising from a man who worked for several years as a therapist.

Overall however there’s a feeling of escape from the heaviness of depression, a lifting of the dark clouds, particularly as the light lullaby-tinged plucked acoustics of closing track What Hold drift away to the refrain “you will see sunrise again”. A lovely and timely album to accompany these first days of Spring.

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William Fitzsimmons – Gold In The Shadow