“I’m skittish, genre-wise. My aim is to approach pop from an unusual angle”. Dan Croll’s statement definitely rang true with his debut ‘Sweet Disarray’, and even more so with his next serving ‘Emerging Adulthood’. Straying away from just the Afrobeat infusions which littered his first record (which, by the way, can be heard in the form of ‘Away From Today’ for just a bit of familiarity), album opener ‘One Of Us’ feels extremely divergent, but rebellious. The guitar work has more intent, there’s extended guitar solos, there’s plenty more reverb, and it’s brasher.
Adopting a poppier, bolder sound due to his work with producer Ben Allen (Kelis, Animal Collective, Cee Lo Green), tracks such as duet ‘Swim’ with Stealing Sheep’s Rebecca Hawley and ‘Bad Boy’ indicate a new realm of exploration and artistic growth. Eighties grooves even rear their head on ‘January’, which offers up a disco feel, Nile Rogers-esque vibe and ‘Educate’. While the lucid, transient synths of ‘Sometimes When I’m Lonely’ transport you to faraway galaxies, capturing that uncontrollable feeling of isolation after a breakup.
Reflective in its themes, Croll focuses in on the insecurities which plague the Z-generations and millennials. He provides commentary on peer pressures: “Heard that you can’t beat the rush / Give in and me one of us” (‘One Of Us’), vulnerabilities, societal burdens, “You want to escape the norm” (‘Bad Boy’) and alienation: “Given the state I’m in / Never really felt alone like this before.” (‘January’).
Though ‘Emerging Adulthood’ does push Croll far out of his personal comfort zone to a certain extent, it does feel like he could go further with the complexity. Nevertheless his musicianship is undeniable, as each and every instrument on the record is played by himself. It’s a vital sign that Croll's only just coming truly into his own.
Words: Lois Browne
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