Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Golden Suits - Golden Suits (2013)

During the press cycle for Daniel Rossen's Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP last year, Rossen let slip that he'd been helping former Department of Eagles band member Fred Nicolaus with his upcoming solo record. In an instant my hopes of an Department of Eagles reunion were reignited after years of lying mostly dormant. To what extent that aid was was left unclear and it wasn't until well over a year later that the first peak what Nicolaus had been brewing made it's way out in first single "Didn't I Warn You"

With Daniel Rossen functioning mostly as the megaphone of Department of Eagles, it's rather easy to relegate Fred Nicolaus to the role of background player but on his first solo venture, under the moniker Golden Suits, Nicolaus makes his own voice heard in a big way. While Rossen's vocals often accompany a sense of emotional urgency, Nicolaus' flexes his with practiced calm. Where Rossen's are swathed in intricately layered arrangements, Nicolaus' vocals roam wild and free. But Golden Suits is more than just your standard "he did this so I'll do that" kind of record - rather for the first time, we get to see what Fred Nicolaus can do when only relying on his former collaborators for finishing touches.

The result is an album that takes it's time - softly treading, lightly weaving, and effortlessly steered. Nicolaus' melodic power comes predominantly from his ever spotlighted vocals and his lyricism is spry and clever while given ample time to take root. Though almost every one of Nicolaus' Department of Eagles conspirators are present, Golden Suits is far from a Department of Eagles record and their influence is subtle if anything. The only audible instance of Daniel Rossen's vocals is in the harmonies of album closer "Dearly Beloved".

Golden Suits is clearly Nicolaus', recounting his own tales of woe and upheaval distilled into a sense of offbeat pop that allows them to be more than melancholic musings. They're not quite elevated to the level of humor but infused with just enough pep and light-heartedness to be utterly enjoyable, relatable, charming, and not as insufferable as an album of "Woe is me" songs has the potential to be.

While it may have been a bit of unintentional misdirection that lead me to Golden Suits, I'm certainly glad it did. Not only does the album spotlight Fred Nicolaus as a dear melodic yarn-spinner but paints a far clearer perspective of Nicolaus' strengths as musician in ways a late arrival to Department of Eagles might not really indicate. Fred Nicolaus might be the least famous of his Grizzly Bear cohorts but Golden Suits proves it's not for lack of talent and Nicolaus should be well on his way to selling out venues soon enough.

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