William Fitzsimmons – Derivatives

Release Date 17/05/2010 (Naim Eagle)

By Chris Gilliver

William Fitzsimmons has a remarkable story to tell. Born the youngest son of a blind couple in Pittsburgh, he grew up to be a psychotherapist. The eventual break up of his parents’ marriage proved so traumatic that he wrote an album, the recording of which proved so difficult that Fitzsimmons’ own marriage flew off the rails. Amazing it’s true, but the really remarkable thing about Fitzsimmons is the stunning beauty of his music. Like processing an orange into delicious freshly squeezed juice, he has the rare ability to turn his tragic story into music that evokes his experiences without losing anything in translation.

This new release “Derivatives” is a reimagining of some of the more prominent tracks off his breakthrough album “The Sparrow and the Crow”. If you haven’t heard this you should start there. His gentle vocals and instrumentation are of the same style and quality of quirky, surfing troubadour Neil Halstead – both have massive birds nest beards though Halstead is more humorous. The reimagining is very much like Jimmy Tamborello’s electrification of Ben Gibbard’s (from the Death Cab Cutie) gentle stories that resulted in the Postal Service’s cult classic “Give Up”. In time “Derivatives” has the power to make a similar impact.

In fact there’s a case for saying that these remixes are actually superior to the originals. The synths add a third dimension that lifts the tracks into something that is more moving and dramatic (though never becoming as ridiculously trite and banal as the programs like “One Tree Hill” on which his tracks have featured).

The George Raquet remix of “I Don’t Feel It Anymore” is one of the few tracks this year to have knocked me off my feet. Since hearing it I’ve been wandering gently intoning “I Don’t Feel It Anymore” receiving worried looks from my girlfriend. Fitzsimmons (like my girlfriend) need not fear. Both are blazing. The Mikroboy remix of “If You Would Come Back Home” is equally excellent shedding some of the subtlety of the original resulting in something that is more Passion Pit than Postal Service, which is all good to me. I love both acts.

The album ends with an acoustic cover of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl”. It’s a little throwaway, but it’s amusing how Russell Brand’s wife makes it sound dirty, and Fitzsimmons makes it something innocently boyish.

Few things set my mind on fire these days, but this does. It’s the best thing I’ve heard so far this year. I only hope that his next album is entirely electronic. In the meantime this will not leave my turntable.

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