Idée Fixe • 2022

Evan J Cartwright’s melodies tumble out of him in ways that you don’t expect, and he pairs them with simple but equally unexpected instrumentation on bit by bit.

Evan J Cartwright’s debut LP bit by bit is teeming with life. Cartwright unfolds the origami-like mysteries of love, relationships, and existence (“Why do we gotta live?” he asks on “and you’ve got nobuddy”) and welcomes the rest of the world in: we hear church bells, bird songs, and children at play. “Many of the lyrics circle, and try to give a name to the illegible space between human beings,” he says about the record.

Cartwright, a Toronto-based singer-songwriter and drummer who has collaborated with acts like the Weather Station, U.S. Girls, and Charlotte Cornfield, took a similar approach to his 2019 EP, DON’t, filling every inch of it with both his love-laced melodies and the outside world. Cartwright’s melodies tumble out of him in ways that you don’t expect, and he pairs them with simple but equally unexpected instrumentation. These songs have the disposition of folk songs but are clearly also influenced by Cartwright’s jazz and improvisational background. On bit by bit, picked guitars hum, strings murmur, and briefly, a saxophone and keyboard are heard. On “i DON’t know,” Cartwright sings, “Is this a thing that we once laughed about? I guess we’ll never know,” but the latter sentence is obfuscated with electronic bleeps. 

What will likely strike you when listening to bit by bit is how full Cartwright’s heart is. He does not hesitate when expressing love, even when doing so is so exposing. “Just yesterday, I thought I heard an angel sing but it was only you,” sings Cartwright on “or a bell?” All of his emotions live just under the surface and are ready to be shared at a moment’s notice. What a beautiful and brave way to live. “Let me walk you through it,” Cartwright sings over and over again. He is a wide-eyed student of the world and offers to be your guide as you muddle your way through. Day by day, bit by bit.


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