Charlie Simpson

Young Pilgrim

Written by: TL on 26/08/2011 00:59:28

Going from teen pop idol to reformed post-hardcore outsider, ex-Busted and current Fightstar singer Charlie Simpson has already tried some different things in music, but that apparently doesn't mean he's sated. Not if one is to judge from "Young Pilgrim", the first record the young Englishman has put out on his own, and on which he tries his hand at the more subtle singer-songwriter trade. The record has already gathered considerable praise from sites such as absolutepunk.net (which gave it a whopping 95% score), and even if it hadn't, it's fair to say that Fightstar's material has been so good that expectations should be quite high anyway. Mine certainly have been, and the obvious question is then: does it measure up?

Well, pretty much, yes. While the songs on "Young Pilgrim" are a good deal more subdued and chilled than anything Simpson has previously put out, the singer and multi-instrumentalist has still brought enough of his compositional wizardry into the project to ensure that both catchy choruses and super detailed arrangements are in plentiful supply. Effectively the music sounds like City And Colour mixed up with the more rich and experimental stuff by admitted influences Bon Iver and The National.

There's one very noticeable difference though, and that is that no matter how melancholic the subject of a song, Simpson's pop-star training still seems to shine through in the fact that the main melody and chorus of each song are always completely engaging and easily accessible. Especially the first half of the album shows this, with the four first tracks - "Down Down Down", "Parachutes", "All At Once" and "Thorns" - all setting the standard for the kind of easily recognisable melodies and refrains that characterise the record.

And it's not like that standard is lowered noticeably over the course of the album with "Hold On", "I Need A Friend Tonight", "Farmer & His Gun" and well, a few more, serving more of the same, so those who ask for nothing more than catchy songs will certainly be satisfied alright. That's only half the strength of the record though. The other half is the vast richness of the expression, with digital effects, pedal steel guitar, and a variety of classical instruments all being applied with needlepoint precision. While piano and guitars - both acoustic and electric - mostly provide the main melody, there's almost constantly something going on by means of playful, yet also tasteful additional instrumentation. Furthermore Simpson seldom misses an opportunity to sing harmonies with himself via overdubbing, some times with clean voice and sometimes with a Bon Iver-ish hint of an effect added digitally, which only goes to give the record even more replay-ability.

All this considered, "Young Pilgrim" is really one of the easier albums I've had to grade. After all, albums that manage more than a handful of catchy tracks often score 8 around these parts, and albums that have musical depth to boot, so they can keep giving for many listens, those tend to score even higher. However, I'm not sure I buy ap.net's 95% rating, which implies the record is better than pretty much everything else that's been put out this year. For that, the album isn't quite powerful or spine-chilling enough. It is however a rather wonderful record, with plenty to offer for both fans of intelligent, detailed music, and fans of easily enjoyable songs. Basically, if you like thougthful, casual music, you can't go wrong with this one.

Download: Down Down Down, Parachutes, Thorns, Riverbanks
For The Fans Of: Bon Iver, City And Colour, The National
Listen: facebook.com/charliesimpsonmusic

Release Date 15.08.2011
CSM Records / Nusic Sounds

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