Saturday, October 5, 2013

Golden Suits Self Titled Debut Album - "A Beautiful Cartharsis"

Golden Suits is Fred Nicolaus's latest musical incarnation. As one half of Department of Eagles (along with Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear) Nicolaus's songwriting skills would help stir their form of almost otherworldly melancholia but the voice they painted with was Rossen's. On this debut self titled album, Nicolaus not only played most of the instruments, the songs are anchored by his voice. This is not to say it was a solo affair. As noted in press info he had lovely assistance from "Chris Bear and Chris Taylor from Grizzly Bear; Fraser McCulloch from Milagres (who engineered the album); Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass from Ava Luna; Kris Nolte and Ian Davis from Mason Jar Music (who arranged strings); and Daniel Rossen (who sang harmonies and was an all-around supportive spirit)."

 The album is full of songs that feel like personal confessions or stories told over backyard fences or late night bro talks over numerous beers. More than one song is punctuated by hand claps and percussion that could be replicated at a house show by stomping on hardwood floors. I like this organic feel. Not that the album sounds lo fi in any way. It is pretty lushly produced around Nicolaus's voice that never get's lost in effects. His vocal's dressed only a bit always sound intimate. These folk based songs take such lovely melodic diversions in between the story telling. Swimming In '99 dashes along with lovely poetic remembrances "I wish I love you with 7 hearts so I could pass the days were apart."

I love the languid confessional that is Under Your Wing, "Scared of a phone call coming late at night but I'll take my chances cuz your arms feel right" - it has a pre-chorus progression that amps up the drama and a potent guitar break. It is an elegant piece of work. The shifty almost slightly drunken beginning of I Think You Would Have Been Mine pull you into the story. It sounds a bit sad like it is about missed chances bolstered by a moving string arrangement and guitar picking that can veer off into dissonant places.

The piano based and enchanting You Can't Make Your Mind Up feels a bit like a dreamy church hymnal. Wash It Away has a 70's pop sensibility and sentimentality inside it's indie skin. The empty spaces of Find A Way are as important as the sweet sounds. I love how the guitar chords hang in the air. This song feels like it might be that sing a long at live shows. The musical break first embraces you with it's power and then quietly lets you down easily. Great song. Little One somehow feels like a 1920's speakeasy drinking song. Didn't I Warn You has a sultry underbelly beneath a what might be a spite tinged love letter. It is dressed up so finely with stirring strings and that organic percussive feel.

All the songs on this album have their own level of greatness. The album also very much feels like an album... like all the songs need to coexist with each other. This collection of songs play well all together at one sitting. As a total creation it is a kind of dreamy slow burn as most of the songs have a kind of stayed tempo that doesn't change all that much from song to song. Because of this, the album can lull you into a spacey place. Couple that with the over all musical tone that pull cues from different eras and Goldensuits can put you into a timeless state. It is like seeing the flickering scratched pieces of someone's life on an 8 millimeter home movie. For me the piece de resistance is the track Dearly Beloved that starts off with this palm muted staccato guitar progression. Nicolaus slowly piles on reticent words, "one by one and two by two... clowns come tumbling down from Heaven trying to lead me to you" - the very patterned lyrical placement with the building musical bed sounds at once pretty and pretty eerie. It doesn't help that the opening line gets my heart beating faster as I may actually have a fear of clowns (later birds fly down from heaven). There are angelic ooohs and a military cadence too. Dearly Beloved wraps around you. It paints evocative pictures in your mind and it can induce chills. I say if a song can induce one goosebump for any reason let alone many it is a creative joy ride well worth taking as is this fine album.

From press accounts, apparently the album was inspired by a rather tumultuous year in Fred Nicolaus's life. Money problems, being chased out of his apartment by a severe rat infestation, a trip with his father exploring the death of his grandfather during Word War 2, and a painful break up. Nicolaus found himself 40 lbs lighter through it all. I think it is quite brilliant and I wonder if these songs birthed our of pain are now a source of healing. A beautiful catharsis.
Robb Donker

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