Album Review

William Fitzsimmons "Gold In the Shadow"

Marty Connors
I think I'm too old for William Fitzsimmons. He certainly seems the type of artist that I should love. He has a melodic, soft voice, his songs are largely acoustic (although from one album to the next, continuously layered with more and more production), and he is apparently a major beard enthusiast (seriously, the guy has a righteous beard, straight out of Roald Dahl's The Twits). But in the end, I just can't listen to Fitzsimmons for any extended length of time. His new album, Gold In the Shadow, does nothing to address the problems I've had with every William Fitzsimmons album; mainly, the songs seem so drenched in sadness and regret. Ultimately, I find myself just wishing someone would give Fitzsimmons a hug.

To compliment Gold In the Shadow, the new album is, musically, the strongest of Fitzsimmons' albums. The added studio production serves him well, and being able to add more to his arrangements outside of the acoustic guitar and drum machine goes a long way. It allows for a certain amount of uniqueness to each song, breaking up the samey quality that plagued his earlier releases. It's a pleasant enough album, with some interesting song textures and ideas. “The Winter From Her Leaving,” for example, moves along at a nice shuffle, and “Tied to Me” has a nice chorus who's musical theme has a similarity to those used in the movie The Brothers Bloom.

The problem, however, is the singularity of subject matter for Fitzsimmons. All of his songs seem to exist in a permanent state of heartbreak. I usually have no problem with a good heartbreak song. If anything, I gravitate toward them. But, Fitzsimmons can't seem to find anything else to write about. Not to discount whatever pain Fitzsimmons has experienced (and if his Wikipedia page is to be trusted, a majority of his songs deal with divorce, both his parents and his own), but the one-note nature of his music is overwhelming. And it's here that I think I'm too old to really appreciate what William Fitzsimmons does; his albums seem to exist in that same state of emotional distress that late adolescence does. There's a period of life where each ended love seems to unfold like a Fitzsimmons song. The regret, despair, and loneliness of losing someone, and the bitter realization of knowing you're not what that person needs. But it contains that unique rawness that only adolescence brings, when each love was THE love, and when it ends you think everything else will end too. The problem is, I'm past that, so all I'm left with is the embarrassment of recognition, and relief that my life experience is now removed from all of this.

And that's the problem I've always had with William Fitzsimmons; I can never wholeheartedly give in to his musical sensibilities. I really do appreciate the musicality of the songs he crafts, and he does have a wonderful voice. But his relentless subject matter is overwhelming. It may work for you, but it leaves me wishing Fitzsimmons would just find someone to love him already. Gold In the Shadow will be pleasant enough when a song pops up on shuffle, but as an album listening experience, I can't recommend it.