Although Split Single is technically a side project of Spoon’s Britt Daniel, it’s more precise to call the band a creation of frontman Jason Narducy. The versatile musician cut his teeth in the Chicago music scene—first as a member of ’80s punks Verböten and later with cello-augmented ’90s rockers Verbow—but has spent much of the last decade as a live sideman with acts such as Robert Pollard, Bob Mould, and Superchunk. After breaking a lengthy songwriting hiatus in early 2012—he was invited to do a solo set opening for a friend—Narducy sought a more permanent creative outlet of his own: What began as a quickie writing session turned into him amassing dozens of tunes.
Split Single’s excellent debut full-length, Fragmented World, certainly has the self-assured vibe of a record that coalesced easily. (In fact, Narducy, Daniel, and the album’s drummer, Jon Wurster, recorded it in four days.) With Daniel’s lively bass lines and Wurster’s pummeling rhythms as anchors, Fragmented World jumps between noisy power-pop lurches (“Never Look Back,” “Searches”), Guided By Voices-esque indie exuberance (the under-two-minute title track) and teeth-baring punk (“Monolith”). Even better is “My Heart Is Your Shadow,” which crosses early-’80s R.E.M. wiry jangle with Superchunk-caliber post-punk.
Still, Narducy’s lengthy résumé ensures Fragmented World is also an impeccable display of detailed songcraft. At its mellowest, the collection conjures ELO, Semisonic, and the Beatles, and a song like “Love Is You” has a sinister edge courtesy of serpentine strings and ominous drums. Fragmented World’s lyrics are also no afterthought: While their themes are common—fresh heartbreak, letting go of past romance, despairing about unrequited love—songs often twist darker (“I laid in your yard last night / But you never looked back, never looked back”).
Anyone expecting Daniel to have a more prominent role on Fragmented World might be disappointed, because he’s very much a supporting player. However, his contributions—especially when taken in tandem with Wurster’s parts—magnify the impact of these songs. Fragmented World finds Narducy completely at ease in the spotlight.