William Doyle – Springs Eternal

William Doyle’s latest is a mixed bag, as capable of passages of delicate, elegiac beauty as it is of flailing missteps

Album Review by Joe Creely | 14 Feb 2024
  • William Doyle – Springs Eternal
Album title: Springs Eternal
Artist: William Doyle
Label: Tough Love
Release date: 16 Feb

William Doyle has been putting out music for more than a decade now and, after retiring his East India Youth moniker, has settled into a lane all his own of pastoral, philosophically-inclined art-pop. This development has culminated in his finest work, his last two records in particular finding a unique space, one that hovers somewhere gorgeous and uneasy. Springs Eternal is an odd thing, though. A mixed bag, but not in your usual sense; it’s not one song to another where the quality whiplash happens, but rather moment to moment, verse to verse. 

Take lead single Now In Motion for instance. It's a well-executed track in which Doyle proves once again his skill for melody, but his delicate vocal style leaves it feeling a little limp, not quite forceful enough to grip. In its final 30 seconds, however, it explodes into a full fledge Hot Chip-style synth workout and everything clicks into place in a way the rest of the song doesn’t come close to. This pattern happens time and again throughout the record – a passage will work only for the next to upend it with a duff lyric or a poorly judged guitar solo, making any momentum on the record sputter and stumble. What you are left with is a lot of songs that are two-thirds great. 

The album feels more refined and successful the more he plays to his ambient strengths. The instrumental A Long Life is far better for its uninterrupted exercise in haunted synth tones and glitched textures that has the eerie warmth of a decaying Camberwick Green episode, while the delicate arpeggios of Garden of the Morning perfectly suit his voice in a way the record’s more boisterous tracks don’t. 

It’s a record that sees Doyle take chances, not all of which pay off by any means, but it is one that never truly coalesces into a great album in the way his last two records have. That said, he remains a figure who is always interesting and developing. 

Listen to: A Long Life, Garden of the Morning, Castawayed