Dan Croll is one of those guys who is living out your coolest dreams and wildest fantasies. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t hate him for it; he’s just too darn sweet.
23 year old Croll – one of those “well it’s over for me then” moments – originally hailed from Staffordshire, England, before being given the chance to move to Liverpool at 18 to attend the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. While at school there he won a national Songwriter of the Year award, earning him the opportunity for a one-on-one session with LIPA’s founder, who happens to be Sir James Paul McCartney. Brain melted. Arguably his greatest achievement though (for gamers), way cooler than being schooled by one of the greatest songwriters of all time, was seeing one of his early single releases feature on the soundtrack for FIFA 14, and a remix of another single featuring on GTA V, the fastest selling entertainment product in history. Life achievement unlocked.
These early tracks earned him big raps, including the Guardian describing his sound as “Paul Simon jamming with Prince”, as well as big reps supporting the likes of Bastille, Imagine Dragons and London Grammar. How could his debut album Sweet Disarray ever live up to the hype? Step one: include those tracks on the album. Check.
Sweet Disarray opens with From Nowhere (the original GTA 5 tune) and the catchiness is instant. The crisp and electronic drums and synth have you bopping your head immediately as the guitar and rocky bass line drop in. The layers are perfectly looped in and out to pique attention. Thinking Aboutchu works to the same premise, somewhat feeling like Croll is just mashing together as many quirky synths as possible, but they come together harmoniously, like a synergy of sound. The whole album has you trying to think who he sounds like or where you’ve heard it before, with third track Wanna Know sounding like Matt & Kim, and the more poppy In/Out’s speedy guitar work feels like Two Door Cinema Club, although with Jinja Safari’s afropop rhythms and island guitar chorus; a theme picked up again on latter track Maway. Football fans will recognise the FIFA feature Compliment Your Soul, on which Croll exhibits his falsetto alongside plinky instrumentation, leading to perhaps the album’s biggest chorus backed by rousing horns.
Known for having one foot firmly in the folk camp, Only Ghost is the first real example, driven early by only acoustic guitar and a bass/snare drum combo. The chorus picks it up to the Dan Croll realm with synths and a heavy bass line, before returning to the stripped back verses with self-harmonizing layers. Can You Hear Me packs a hip-hop beat with a dark soulful atmosphere, before the title track brings back the folk feel with acoustic guitars and airy vocals, before erupting into a giant, surreal final chorus. Always Like This certainly does sound like Paul Simon, with Croll definitely taking cues from his classic You Can Call Me Al. It could slot neatly onto Graceland and feels as if Ladysmith Black Mambazo will creep into the background at any moment. Closing track Home inherits a more conservative folk vibe, with the strumming guitars, upbeat whistly synth and soft crooning bringing the album to a blissful end.
Sweet Disarray is innocuous, unpredictable folk-meets-electro-pop. His airy, supple voice is easy on the ears as he sings of the comings and goings of relationships. Croll creates an album full of dreamy atmospheres packed with melodic richness, intoxicating rhythm and climactic arrangements. Disarray has never sounded so sweet.