As an undergrad at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, Dan Croll was not only lauded with myriad awards, but also chosen as one of just eight students to have a one-on-one with founder Paul McCartney. He’s no doubt a great student, one well-versed in technique, music theory, and his pop forebears: He cites not just the Beatles, but also Paul Simon, James Taylor, and De La Soul as heroes. Perhaps that’s why it’s no surprise that his debut LP reads more like a college thesis designed to satiate a panel of professors than it does an original document. Croll, like most students, is too immersed in his influences to think beyond them.
And it’s not just the aforementioned legends, but also modern acts like Imagine Dragons and Bastille, both of whom he counts as former tourmates. In an interview with Music News, he described his debut LP as “all of those influences thrown into one massive pot.” Well, that’s evident, but where is he? Not on Sweet Disarray, it seems.
The record sounds like a who’s who of Spotify buzz bands, a time-stamped memo alerting music executives to the mainstream’s idea of indie rock. Imagine Dragons, The Mowgli’s, Walk the Moon, fun.: Echoes of each ooze through Croll’s squeaky-clean fusion of folk pop strums, R&B synths, and feel-good lyrics (the anthemic “I just want to compliment your soul” might go down as this year’s most nauseating chorus).
That said, there’s no doubt Croll is a talented multi-instrumentalist. Just see the buoyant electric skronk on opener “From Nowhere” or the thrilling guitar solo anchoring “Always Like This”. If only there were more moments like these, flourishes that provide some hint of personality. In interviews, Croll describes his music the way one might describe a record they’ve just heard for the first time: “a bit folky-poppy” or “folky classical to warm R&B; it really jumps around a lot.” He even admits that the title Sweet Disarray is in reference to the record’s myriad influences. For someone who records under his own name and not that of a collective, Croll remains a mystery, a patchwork of influences content to blend in, not to stand out.
Essential Tracks: “From Nowhere”