With respect to William Fitzsimmons‘ obvious personal struggles, his own life sounds like it has come out of a television drama, some of his own songs being featured on the likes of Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill. Living with blind parents in an instrument filled house, he dealt with the break up of relationships very close to himself, one of them being with his own ex-wife. Like any singer/songwriter, he detailed these in his own albums, a collection of deeply intimate recollections that come across as a genuine account rather than artificial like aforementioned shows. These were recollections far from bitter and angry emotions that one with so much anguish would unsurprisingly lace their music with; instead Fitzsimmons created a canvas of honest and mellow tracks, an intimately warming account of all the hurt and failure that he felt without becoming too self indulgent in the process.
What immediately makes Fitzsimmons an attractive prospect is the naturalness that emits a warming glow, particularly from his modest vocals, never whispering yet never resonating in a powerful depth; it’s almost like a spoken lullaby. Like Elliot Smith, the dominant vocals and acoustic instruments are stripped down, always genuine despite the presence of other less earnest additions. Even with these other instruments, the talent of Fitzsimmons and his guitar, which often flutters around in an enchanting ambience, is never taken out of the pure spotlight. As Smith does, Fitzsimmons gives a beautifully close account to his own emotions but there’s never a dimension of malevolence, sombre or depreciation as is sometimes felt by Smith, instead it’s a more assured passion with Fitzsimmons inviting you in with arms wide open.
The main strength of Fitzsimmons arises from his ability to work seamlessly with others managing to keep his integrity, never sacrificing any part of his own sentiment in the process. ‘Let You Break’ for example sees William accompanied by Julia Stone’s own quaint and grainy vocal. Usually such a distinct vocal would distract and create an illusion of intrusion from any other voice but the contrasting tones of Stone and Fitzsimmons never overwhelm on top of each other, instead it’s a parallel that highlights the more assured tones of William alongside the underlying fragility of Stone. The same can be said for Fitzsimmons partnership with his instruments, ‘The Winter From Her Leaving’ bringing up a slight call and response as Fitzsimmons vocals and acoustic guitar overlap each other at the smallest of ends. Just as his affectionate vocals hit you, the introduction of the chirping guitars add a polyphony of dispersal, as if they’re echoing his tranquil vocals to a new landscape “Why do I always feel like I’m waiting to begin?”
But songs such as ‘Psychasthenia’ can often detract from the vibrant Jack Johnson-esque sunshine pop (‘Wounded Head’) to the Jose Gonzales like teardrops of guitars (‘Bird of Winter Prey’). ‘Psychasthenia’ with it’s ‘Babylon’ like electronic backing can sometimes feel like a bit of a long walk when compared to the rich tapestry of the latter two songs which, unlike Johnson or Gonzales whose effect derives from their sole instruments, add effect via the dramatic sweeping flood of orchestral strings, swanning into melancholy or keys that add a curious child like innocence to what are otherwise adult emotions: “How this feels like a fawning for the physical form you crave.”
Finally, we’re left with ‘What Hold,’ a freefall of weightless strings as Fitzsimmons voice sounds the most whole and confident here than anywhere else in the album. It’s only himself and his guitar, minus the addition of the backing vocals towards the end of the track, which creates a final reminder of how breathtakingly effective he can be with what little there can be, his words and guitar telling the entire story.
Release date: 21/03/2011