With his debut self-titled solo record, Grizzly Bear and Department of Eagles alum Fred Nicolaus ventures out on his own under the moniker Golden Suits.
Golden Suits draws from Nicolaus’ previous work and various influences. The melodies recall Grizzly Bear, but Nicolaus makes them more buoyant. There’s no exact genre to describe the sound, but imagine a scrubbed and polished version of the psych folk from Department of Eagles.
The songs sound simple, but they’re not bare. Rather, the simplicity comes from the clean and clean orchestration. The distinct lines of each part create an open, inviting sound. “I Think You Would Have Been Mine” is a great example with repetitive percussion and guitar rhythms supporting Nicolaus’ vocals and free-moving strings to create a song that’s is more complex than it lets on.
Golden Suits is so unassuming at times that listeners may be surprised when the melodies pop up in their heads later. The billowy melody of “Didn’t I Warn You” is one that will easily creep into your subconscious. “Under Your Wing” has a similar effect.
The music is buttoned up and charming, but beyond pleasant melodies it fails to penetrate. Golden Suits was inspired by the writer John Cheever (“Chekov of the suburbs”), but only an educated few will notice unaided. It’s unfair to blame Nicolaus for Cheever’s anonymity among the public, but the album's unaffecting lyrics do little to inspire listeners to learn more about him.
However, this flaw is forgivable because Golden Suits can still be enjoyed without any knowledge of the concept. Nicolaus has proven that he can stand alone with lovely melodies and delightful arrangements.
Golden Suits will play Local 506 on September 27. Tickets are $8 in advance.