Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gut Feeling: Fred Thomas - All Are Saved

Fred Thomas – All Are Saved
Polyvinyl, 2015
“Who is this guy?” I thought to myself whilst staring at the cover of Fred Thomas’ latest solo effort. “Is he from Brooklyn?” He looked like he might be from Brooklyn, which immediately brought on the reservations and mistrust I usually harbor for New York City bands. When I found out Thomas was from Michigan, all those reservations melted away. When I then found out he was the frontman for the excellent 00s indie pop group Saturday Looks Got To Me, I was sold. And then I listened to the record. This is what it’s like for me these days. There’s a vetting process based on ridiculous information, misconceptions, and it’s basically all about gut feeling and the strength of a band’s cover art.

One listen through it’s clear that you’ve just heard a man’s soul smeared across 11 tracks. Thomas is an excellent tunesmith (SLGTM’s 2003 hazy pop masterpiece All Your Summer Songs was an immediate staple when I found it in 2004), and while many of these songs are stuck in my head, they’re not there for the typical hooky pop reasons. They’re stuck there because they’re haunting. The images Thomas conjures in his lyric sheet are beautiful, rotten, and poetic. The songs themselves are a kitchen sink’s worth of quickly hammered out guitar chords, glaring electronics, latent pop flourishes (“Cops Don’t Care Pt II” is the earwormiest of the bunch, sporting the terrific sing-a-long refrain “They don’t give a fuck/ They don’t give a fuck about us”), and impassioned spoken word delivery.

All Are Saved is disarming. That’s the best I can do for it. It’s a bundle of raw feels that will give you the feels if you stick around and let it, which I recommend, because getting the raw feels is one of those things that makes you feel like you’re not totally alone in this world. Fred Thomas has released like 50 (fact check: 8) solo records but this is the first one to garner anything resembling attention. I am now wildly curious whether those albums are weirdo dabblings and it took him 8 records to figure out how to best sling his poetic alt-folk-pop or if he’s been churning out solo songwriting wizardry for the last 12 years behind everyone’s backs. I guess there’s only one way to find out, and by the time I work my way through that massive backlog hopefully Thomas will have unleashed another masterful record to the masses.

Check out that aforementioned excellent lyrics sheet here

"Cops Don't Care Pt. 2" - This is the one that'll hook you. 

"Bad Blood" - This is the one currently occupying the top spot of my "Favorite Songs of 2015" list. An absolute gut check. Beautiful writing, passionate music making, holy shit.