Yesterday Michigan scene indie folk old boy Fred Thomas debuted a video for the first single from his upcoming record Changer (out Jan 27 on Polyvinyl) via NPR’s Songs we Love series. “Voiceover” charges in and—to a certain degree—past you with an upbeat tempo and Thomas’ unstoppable ruminations on laying “awake for hours” with “no progress/and another dead kid at my feet.” It’s a sad, relatable song, but with a happy, marching meter! That’s Fred Thomas for you. That’s a Michigan style. You can’t stop moving or you’ll freeze.
I’m from Michigan too, and I’ll admit I always took the scores of Fred Thomas musical projects (like Saturday Looks Good to Me) for granted and that his live shows would always be good—sometimes borderline life-affirming. I paid less attention to Michigan bands after I moved to Portland, but in 2015 All Are Saved snapped my attention back to Thomas, his impressive history of making good records and just, in general, being a good dude. Just last week Saturday Looks Good to Me added a song to a digital record and zine project to benefit Planned Parenthood.
The video for “Voiceover” fits with Thomas’s aesthetic of rust belt bohemia: dim rooms, high ceilings, old white walls that people rent and can't put holes in to decorate. Detroit director Noah Morrison explores life’s repetitive motions. Women remove lipstick shades, men apply eyeliner, and the same gate clicks open several times in scenes that are simultaneously home movie in their timing and borderline fashion design in their composition—which speaks to everything I know of the Michigan rock indie scene. There’s a blaring sameness, especially once the booze pops out. “Voiceover” contains a strong similarity to the opening anthem on All Are Saved, “Every Song Sung to a Dog.” It's got the fast, conversational singing right down to the seamless horns slipping in at the song’s blaring close. In both song and video, “Voiceover” is another anthem to being bright and frustrated and renting.
Changer is due out Jan 27 on Polyvinyl. Fred Thomas plays Mississippi Studios on Feb 8th.