For all of Saturday Looks Good to Me’s brilliance at Phil Spector/girl-group devotion, some of the best moments on their albums are when maestro Fred Thomas picks up a guitar and rambles through stages of heartbreak and memory and poetry alone (like on Every Night‘s stunning “When the Party Ends”). This Thomas solo album is in that same vein, but rougher, slower, and less arranged—less pop. It’s less stage-ready, more domestic: as if he woke up in the middle of the night, grabbed a guitar, and turned on the dustiest of 4-track recorders. It has a similar searching style—hammering at images and truths—to solo recordings by Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, a comparison driven home by the presence of friends picking up spare horns and banjos and joining in. Despite their help it feels like a solitary work, with Thomas’ typical themes (bad boyfriends, ghosts, the continuing cycles of everyday life) laid bare along with his strained voice and, thankfully again, his breathtaking handling of melody.
// Notes from the Road
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