Dan Croll is going through some changes. 2020’s ‘Grand Plan’ represented a clean slate, with the songwriter swapping the gloom of this Sceptred Isle for the perpetual sunshine of LA. Five years down the line, however, he’s at another crossroads – should he stick or switch? New album ‘Fools’ is unafraid to tackle Big Topics – self-doubt, a break-up, the loss of his grandmother – but it’s also a wonderful example of a songwriter doing what comes naturally to him, and revelling in the results.
Some facts: the album was constructed at Montrose Recording in Richmond, VA, with Dan Croll co-producing alongside close friend Matthew E. White. Those are the prosaic fatcs, though; what is doesn’t cover is the verve and daring that ‘Fools’ embodies, the flickering shifts between sounds and tones, illuminating the darker aspects of his songwriting.
‘Slip Away’ sits on those organ chords, reminiscent of everyone from Ben Folds to Brendan Benson. There’s a pleasingly mid-Atlantic aspect to the songwriting, perfectly exhibiting Dan Croll’s feeling of being stuck in the middle of that vast watery expanse. ‘Talk To You’ is outwardly cute but the lyrics stab at the heart, detailing the lingering loss of a break-up.
‘Friend Of Mine’ revels in companionship, the vocal open and tender. The jaunty ‘Red And Green’ has a West Coast feel, the harmonies in the middle eight augmented by glistening steel guitar. ‘Second Guess’ is a real highlight, the choppy guitar hitting bluegrass levels of velocity, the perpetual speed representing a restless mind, a person out of place.
‘Fools’ has a choppy 80s edge to it, a kind of Quiet Storm track reinterpreted through an English lens. ‘Stephen’ drops the pace a little, a woozy ballad with psych inflections pierced by one of the record’s most emotive vocals.
Closing with ‘How Close We Came’ this is an album that asks difficult questions, and isn’t about to supply easy answers. Dan Croll wrestles with important aspects of his life, with music becoming a balm. Remarkably consistent, ‘Fools’ has a fine, artisanal quality, the work of someone with a clear passion and love for making music.
Words: Robin Murray