“All Are Saved,” Fred Thomas Album Review
All Are Saved marks the eighth solo release by Michigan’s Fred Thomas. In addition to leading the celebrated indie pop outfit Saturday Looks Good to Me, Thomas has amassed a staggering catalogue of recordings and performances as both a solo artist and as a member of various side projects. Ranging from the electronic-tinged soundscapes of City Center to the hook-filled pop of Mighty Clouds, Thomas’ prolific output consistently displays his talents as a multi-faceted singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist.
In this solo effort, due for release on April 7, Thomas showcases his ability to effortlessly shift from the frantic drum beats and stream-of-consciousness ramblings of “Bad Blood” to the lo-fi acoustic melancholy of “Monster Movie.” Lyrically, All Are Saved traverses territory familiar to listeners of Thomas and his other projects – fragmented memories, regular use of the second-person, and irreverent exclamations such as that in “Cops Don’t Care Pt. II,” where he sings “They don’t give a fuck / They don’t give a fuck about us.”
Despite its position as the sixth track of the album, the already-released “Bad Blood,” is an appropriate point of departure for discussing All Are Saved’s particularities. Thomas’ use of spoken-word in several tracks highlights the importance of the songs’ lyrics and the verbal inventions found within them.
In “When They Built the Schools,” we are left to guess at the meaning of “puppet days, puppet nights, and this puppet century.” However, such cryptic wordplay proves to be rewarding rather than frustrating, especially considering the variety of sonic textures and styles found on the album.
Whether sung or spoken, Thomas’ vocals are accompanied by equally interesting instrumentation. For example, “Expo ‘87” begins with a lone palm-muted guitar, and later erupts in synth lines, electric guitar riffs, and busy drum patterns. The prolix outpourings of tracks like “Expo ‘87” or “Bad Blood” are counterbalanced by instrumental tracks like “July” or “Thesis (Lear)” that add to the ambiance of the record and signal the album’s constantly changing tones and tempos.
When listening to the album from beginning to end, it is easy to identify a constant oscillation between experimentation and familiarity. The shouted vocals and electronic accents of the lead track “Every Song Sung to a Dog” may be more in line with some of Thomas’ more experimental releases, but guitar-driven numbers like “Cops Don’t Care Pt. II” remind us that Thomas is able to pen an undeniably catchy tune without resorting to lyrical or musical clichés.
In one of my favorite tracks of the album, “Bed Bugs,” the singer delivers an endless string of personal and poignant lines accompanied solely by his acoustic guitar. The haunting, lo-fi “Monster Movie” features a finger-picked acoustic that grounds Thomas when he asks “In a whisper / on a front porch / could you be more / could you be more for me?” Such moments are reminiscent of the artist’s earlier solo material, but then the album unexpectedly changes pace without being too jarring.
All Are Saved ends with the lush instrumentation and subdued vocals of “Doggie,” where strings and toms bring the album to a theatrical close, ultimately dissolving into feedback and noise. The closing track serves as a microcosm of the record as a whole – it is a prime example of Thomas’ ability to navigate between experimental patchworks of noise and hauntingly melodic confessions.
Speaking as a longtime fan of SLGTM and all things Fred Thomas, All Are Saved is an extremely satisfying, challenging, and exciting release that defies categorization into one specific genre. Accordingly, fans of a wide-range of styles can, and should, appreciate this latest release by one of Michigan’s best artists.
Catch him during his upcoming tour :
05.06.15 – Detroit, MI @ UFO Factory (Album Release Party)
05.07.15 – Toronto, ON @TBD
05.08.15 – Montreal, QB @ TBD
05.09.15 – Providence, RI @ The Parlor
05.10.15 – Manhattan, NY @ Elvis Guesthouse
05.11.15 – Brooklyn, NY @ Palisades
05.12.15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Hazzard Hall
05.13.15 – Raleigh, NC @ Neptunes
05.14.15 – Asheville, NC @ Tiger Mountain
05.15.15 – Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
05.16.15 – Knoxville, TN @ Pilot Light
05.17.15 – Louisville, KY @ The New Vintage
05.19.15 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Photo by Esme Mcclear
Marcus Khoury is a translator, graduate student, and indie rock connoisseur. Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, he currently resides in Massachusetts. Contact him at mdkhoury519 (AT) gmail.com