Divide and Conquer – Top Album Reivew
Daniel Everett is a singer/songwriter from Bristol, UK. A member of Polly and the Billets Doux, Fragments is his second solo release. Drawing on the autumnal folk sounds of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake, Everett mixes in elements of Americana and even AM-radio power pop for a light, easy listen that still has a stark immediacy.
“Rivers and Canyons” opens the LP, establishing much of Everett’s songwriting approach. Gorgeous fingerpicked guitar leads a harmonized falsetto vocal that clearly nods to Mitchell, to say nothing of the somber mood. He draws out a yearning that is subverted in the cathartic “Home, home / Welcome in my arms” refrain. Though it never has knives out, “Rivers and Canyons” is a strong opening salvo for the record; proof that Everett knows the subtleties of composing for maximum impact.
Much of the first half of the record follows the first track’s example. “I Won’t Go” has a plodding bass and multiple harmonized vocals a la Fleet Foxes. “Time” has a bit more of an early Paul Simon vibe, and “Farewell, Louisiana” is obviously inspired by Drake’s bedroom folk, but everything leans on the fluttery acoustic playing and Everett’s sweet vocals. By keeping the writing relatively simple, Everett can foreground his talents without trying to outdo himself over and over. The record as a result isn’t pushing itself on the listener but instead demanding they lean in.
“From the Sidelines” is the first track to introduce a bit more in terms of instrumentation with more forward drumming and even a spot of wah-wah funk guitar. Though the song generally has a little bit of a Gilberto Bossa nova vibe, the electric arrangement and almost Radiohead-like vocals in the end section take the song far from any simple generic classification. It’s a slight further step out of Everett’s established M.O., but it’s a good spot to show he’s got more up his sleeve.
The middle of the record keeps things in the folk territory, but with enough keen moments to keep it from running stale. “Rise and Fall” is still a moody acoustic number, but Everett plays with some ‘70s rock elements, like the ELO-esque punch in the chorus vocal. There’s even some more modern stuff, like the quick bursts of arpeggiated guitar that are a Dirty Projectors signature.
Elsewhere, “Northern Lights” brings a rich bass line and background vocals twinkling behind the chorus. Alternating between a reserved Mitchell feel in the verse and a bridge with a sprightly pop melody, the drawn-out chorus evokes the wintery vibe of the song’s namesake sight.
“Beautiful Again In Your Eyes” is a more traditional folk number, while “Give It Up” gets just a bit muddled in its jazz trappings, but “Everlust” Fragments’ closing track reiterates what makes the album a success. There’s a somber cast over the whole track with transportive upright bass and orchestral percussion atmospherics. Everett’s vocals are both detached and full of emotional anguish with sometimes discordant harmonies that reach a peak with the “I love you still” section in the middle.
After about the four-minute mark, things go significantly more ambient with giant washes of sound under reversed guitar plucks and unpredictable bass. It’s interesting to hear the careful arrangement untether itself, and represents a logical conclusion for the record— a methodical piece of work creating friction with its own emotional underpinnings. Fragments is a broad exploration of all that Everett can do, but instead of bloating under all the stylistic weight, the record instead shows the artist’s intention more clearly. Though sometimes a complicated listen, Everett’s LP is definitely well worth the effort.