William Fitzsimmons' 'Lions' doesn’t bite
Singer-songwriter experience less than ferocious
“It’s good music — but the kind of good you listen to when you’re studying, not when you’re looking to be inspired. The LP is worth a listen if you’re looking for new singer-songwriter material to add to your library, but hardly deserving of any praise.”
Fans of William Fitzsimmons tend to be fans of the classic singer-songwriter stereotype. They keep coming back for soft melodies and intimate lyrics — two things Fitzsimmons delivers every time. It’s obvious he felt no need to change his recipe on his newest LP, “Lions.” If you came for more of the old, you came to the right place — though if you expected anything unique, I suggest looking elsewhere.
That being said, Fitzsimmons is no doubt great at what he does. His melodies are smooth and minimal. His lyrics are introspective, but hardly ever catchy. Most of Fitzsimmons’ past albums have made for great background music, but nothing more.
In 2011, he tried to spice things up in a new album, changing his typically melancholy rhythms to incorporate a more upbeat electronic sound. That sonic experiment — “Gold in the Shadow” — received mixed reviews. Some praised Fitzsimmons for the innovation, while others desired him to return to “what he did best.”
“Lions” is proof Fitzsimmons most regarded the latter. The entire album is an intermediate between “Until When We Are Ghosts” — Fitzsimmons’ remarkably profound singer-songwriter debut — and “Gold in the Shadow.” Any of these songs could easily have been a part of his earlier LPs. While certainly tasteful and well crafted, there is nothing particularly special about this new release.
The first seven tracks are pleasant but hardly distinguishable. Although I appreciate Fitzsimmons’ lyrics above all, I found it difficult to concentrate on them, fading into the background among melodies just too minimal. My attention was only truly captured with “Centralia,” an allusion to the fire in a Pennsylvania mining town in 1962 which left the city nearly abandoned.
Although I was a bit underwhelmed by “Lions,” I will say Fitzsimmons knows how to close an album. “Speak,” the last track on the LP, is a strong example why the artist has such a following. In a soft voice, he sings, “I will never speak your name again / I will never / Shall we still pretend?” and the forlorn melody haunted me for hours after listening.
“Speak” and “Centralia” are both representative of the two types of songs Fitzsimmons does best. “Centralia” is both inspired and inspiring, making you think and forcing you to appreciate the kind of lyricist Fitzsimmons is. “Speak,” on the other hand, is the kind of song you hate to love. It’s the kind of depressing and emotional song played on dramatic television shows — and, for some reason, it pulls on your heartstrings despite the cliché oozing out of the speakers.
Unfortunately, “Lions” only contains two tracks of this nature. The rest simply fall short. It’s good music — but the kind of good you listen to when you’re studying, not when you’re looking to be inspired. The LP is worth a listen if you’re looking for new singer-songwriter material to add to your library, but hardly deserving of any praise.