Charlie Simpson - Young Pilgrim
It takes a lot to surprise seasoned music critics like us lot at TMF Towers, but ex-Busted front man Charlie Simpson's emergence as an acoustic folk-pop solo act, a distinct departure from the heavier folds he peddled in Fightstar, is one such occasion. Even more surprising to the more cynical among us, five tracks in and we're ready to hail Young Pilgrim as debut of the year. It starts off in flawless fashion: gorgeous four-part harmonies, catchy melodies and Charlie's throaty vocals await us on every turn, always blending to stunning effect; none more so than on the affecting 'Thorns' and jaunty lead single 'Down Down Down', featuring a superb twist of tempo midway through that immediately grabs the attention. However, problems arise over the dreary trio of 'Hold On', 'I Need A Friend Tonight' and 'Suburbs' where it becomes clear that if all the elements aren't held together by a great song, it all sounds a bit wet and, for want of a better phrase, wishy-washy. There are highlights late in the day with the sumptuous, low-key and heartfelt 'Sundown', in particular, casting a shadow over all others but you can never quite shake that mid-album stumble, however much you want to after the rather dashing harmonica solos in 'Farmer & His Gun'. Still, if you can overcome the wobble and the occasionally clunky lyrics ("We send people into space without even really knowing / If they're ever gonna come back down" - 'Down Down Down'), then you might find that Charlie Simpson has found a shoe that fits better than anything he's tried before.