Hirsute Midwest singer/songwriter William Fitzsimmons has a knack for crafting incredibly measured (almost hypnotically so), deeply personal, largely finger-picked folk confections that flirt with AOR pop without losing any of their artisan luster. Produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla (Tegan and Sara, The Decemberists), Lions dispenses with some of the electronic flourishes that crept into 2011's Gold in the Shadow. Walla's tape loops and synths reside largely in the shadows, allowing Fitzsimmons' easy voice, which falls somewhere between the breathy earnestness of Sufjan Stevens and the steady, deep water thrum of Toad the Wet Sprocket's Glen Phillips, ample stage room with which to strut and fret its hour, which it does relentlessly. Fitzsimmons' largely tortured lyrics are aided by heartfelt melodies that evoke images of the sad bits in a romantic dramedy, which wouldn't be so disconcerting if there was something else to break up the monotony. His adherence to recycled melodies and refurbished bits of pain and misery would be easier to take if the tempo or overall cadence of otherwise serviceable mope-pop confections like "Well Enough," "Took," and the lugubrious title cut were to ever change. Despite a mountain of evidence that proves it is indeed the spice of life, variety is not his strong suit, but Fitzsimmons does the best he can with what he's given himself to work with. Lions may not possess the toothy brawn of the beast that adorns its cover, but it's a meticulously crafted, ephemeral wisp of a record that's full of high-quality daydream fuel, which has to count for something.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger