Music

Nik Freitas: Sun Down

Mehan Jayasuriya

Lush, Beatles-influenced pop that offers a glimpse of what a more well-adjusted Elliott Smith might have sounded like.


Nik Freitas

Sun Down

Label: Team Love
US Release Date: 2008-05-06
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

At this point, the archetype of the laid-back, West Coast surf/skate rat turned laid-back, West Coast singer-songwriter is well worn. There's an ostensible prototype in Jack Johnson, a former professional surfer who turned to acoustic soft rock after a career-ending accident. Then there's the disciple, Matt Costa, a former professional skateboarder who turned to acoustic soft rock after a career-ending accident. A quick look at the bio of Nik Freitas -- a former Thrasher photographer from SoCal turned laid-back singer-songwriter -- suggests a third coming. Luckily, Freitas' third full-length, Sun Down, quickly dispels these fears. Sure, it's probably breezy, mellow, and carefree enough for the hackey sack-kicking Johnson/Costas crowd. But that's where the similarities end. Freitas is far more interested in classic pop melodies and lush production and the mature, confident tunes on Sun Down wouldn't feel out of place next to Paul Simon, the Beatles and Elliott Smith on your shelf.

Freitas wisely chooses to open the LP with the title track "Sun Down", a contemplative tour of the '70s AM pop dial. "I want to stand / On the mountain that's way up there / Connecting all the street lights shining / Heading off to light up / Who knows where," Freitas sings over a steady acoustic strum and occasional bluesy interludes. The production is warm as is Freitas' voice, a rich, self-assured croon that occasionally evokes late-period John Lennon. As a song, "Sun Down" serves as the perfect point of entry to Freitas' world: wistful, relaxed and sentimental, the narrator could be looking down on either a sleepy California town or the album's remaining nine tracks.

"Oh My God" throws a bit of a curve ball initially, beginning with the sounds of a saloon piano, a harmonica and an electro-theremin. The wobbly theremin is just the sort of eccentric touch that Elliott Smith might have added to an otherwise straightforward tune and the chorus -- which finds that piano melody blossoming alongside Freitas' blissful three-part harmonies -- would feel right at home on either XO or Figure 8. "What You Become" sees Freitas stripping down the wall of sound to just a piano and drum machine and while the four-and-a-half-minute, slow-burning lament feels appropriate after three midtempo songs in a row, the lyrics leave a bit to be desired, consisting mostly of Freitas rattling off various solemn images and asking, "Is this what you've become?" Still, the lilting chorus of "Ooohs" that follows approximates a classical Chinese string melody closely enough to lend the song a somber, ghostly feel.

"Sophie" wants to serve up the sort of guy-and-his-guitar rock that characterized Ryan Adams' early work, but unfortunately for Freitas, the mopey Sophie doesn't sound nearly interesting enough to catch Adams' -- let alone anyone else's -- eye. Halfway through, however, the song completely changes tone; big brassy horns take over, Freitas croons "Yeah" through clenched teeth and a chorus of voices shouts "Hey!" It sounds like Freitas is throwing the lovelorn Sophie a surprise party but it doesn't seem to work: "Yes it's been a while / And Sophie, you're still bumming us all out / So goodbye / We hope you find some way to smile." At the song's close, Freitas is finally ready to concede, "Maybe its just you."

By the time we reach the beginning of side B, Freitas has worked up the courage to make a grand statement. As its title suggests, "Love Around" finds him admitting to a very Lennon-esque philosophy: "I believe that there's love around / Yes I am sure that there's love around," he sings, leading into a full choir reading of the same mantra at the song's close. "See Me There" echoes with similar sentiments, with Freitas singing "Somewhere there's pictures of / People who fell in love back then / And maybe it was true" over a warm, orchestral sweep that smacks of Jon Brion. At the end of the song, he finds that the answer was under his nose all along: "Drove up to visit my folks / Just to see if they were okay / There's photos up when they were young / And to me, they still look the same."

Going out on a quiet note, Freitas ends Sun Down with "Shhhh", an understated, meditative ballad. Over the jazzy tumble of a ride and snare beat and a simple piano melody, Freitas extols the virtues of silence. "Even if they could hear you now / What difference would it make?" he asks in a falsetto before silencing the listener with a "Shhhh".

Based on the songs on Sun Down, Nik Freitas' closest cousin would seem to be Elliott Smith. Freitas obviously holds the Beatles in high regard, as the late Smith did and favors the same lush, warm sound that Smith spent the late part of his career working to capture. Unlike with Smith, however, there's no undercurrent of darkness in Freitas' songs: lyrically speaking, it seems that what you see is what you get. While this can make Freitas' lyrics seem a bit shallow, especially when juxtaposed with such rich production, it also suggests that he possesses a maturity and restraint that belies his relatively young age. No, it doesn't seem like Nik Freitas has quite reached his creative peak with Sun Down. If anything, though, that's just one more reason to follow his career with great interest.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Music

Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.