I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff. There's nothing like a well done, melodic, acoustic based pop song and Charlie Simpson has come up with twelve of them on "Young Pilgrim", his solo debut. Simpson joins the likes of Andrew Belle, Greg Laswell (who he sometimes vocally reminds me of) and James Vincent McMorrow, who've all produced albums in this genre that are amongst my favorites of the last couple years. It should also come as no surprise that the album was produced by Danton Supple, known for his work with Coldplay and Doves just to name a few, as those influences can certainly be heard as well.
It has been an interesting journey to get to this point for Simpson. He is only 25, but already has been in the music business for ten years, starting as a member of British boy band Busted. Growing tired of performing music that left him feeling unfulfilled, Simpson left Busted in 2005 to focus on his recently formed new band Fightstar. A far cry from the teen pop he was performing with Busted, Fightstar is a post-hardcore band, dabbling in alternative and hard rock as well as metal. Although the band still plans to return, Simpson and the other three members went on a hiatus last year so they could take on other projects, including this album.
So "Young Pilgrim" is yet another change of direction for Simpson, but it proves he can do the acoustic based, singer/songwriter thing with ease. Every song has a major hook, starting with opener "Down Down Down", with multi-tracked vocals producing a resounding chorus before the song becomes a combo folk/country-rock stomper in its final minute.
There's simply no denying the instantly catchy choruses and harmonies that dominate this album. Tracks like "Hold On", "Cemetery" and "I Need A Friend Tonight" all swim along on acoustic guitars, strings and Simpson's warm baritone. Nowhere is there a better example of the pop songwriting prowess on display here than on second single "Parachutes". I don't know if that title is a nod to the previously mentioned Coldplay, but the pounding pianos, howling backing vocals and jangly guitars of the chorus certainly bring them to mind.
This album has a late summer feel, laid back and warm, but with enough pensive moments to know fall is right around the corner. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, with "Sundown" the only true quiet ballad. It closes with perhaps its loveliest track, "Riverbanks", which starts with guitar strums and piano before bursting into a grand chorus declaring "Open your eyes, something beautiful is happening." That would serve as a pretty good review for this album as well. Open your eyes and ears to "Young Pilgrim", a wonderful solo debut from Charlie Simpson.
"Young Pilgrim" was released in the UK August 15, 2011 via PIAS Recordings. No word yet it it will receive a U.S. release at some point, but it is well worth importing.