Fred Thomas’ album artwork for his upcoming album, Aftering — the last part of the trilogy comprising 2017’s Changer and 2015’s All Are Saved — finds a faded, pale blue wooden-siding wall that’s discolored and peeling. It’s sort of bleak and bright at the same time, which is a lot like how the Michigan indie rocker’s music operates.
Last month, we heard the album’s lead single “Good Times Are Gone Again,” and today we hear another. “House Show Late December” is an arresting eight-minute opus that finds its footing somewhere between the cadence of slam poetry and a stream-of-consciousness narrative. (In other words, Thomas goes full Kozelek here.) Like a lot of his songs, this one dwells in the misery of the last few years while shining a light on it, offering some clarity in dark times.
The track chronicles the familiar microcosm of a house show in the dead of winter — one where people gather around in a kind of “tallboy communion,” talking shit and getting together to “bemoan the bad year” — before zooming out on the world at large. Thomas shifts easily from observing the invasive properties of anxiety, how it can sneak into airports or the aisles of a Target, to reminiscing on his past and musing about the future.
He burns through some gut-wrenching vignettes while sparse guitar chords and padded drumming fill the space between each word, allowing the lyrics to really take the forefront. Thomas’ voice grows more caustic while he lists off some of society’s miasmic qualities, and you can hear some tinkering synth as the song fades into a spacey breakdown towards the end.
Here’s Thomas with some background:
“House Show, Late December” was a song that was actually written when I was working on Changer and recorded for/cut from that album in a totally different, noisier version. The Changer version didn’t quite feel fully formed and was more wide strokes of imagery and ideas about anxiety, life in the winter and the unchanging yet always new backdrop of the diy house show. It took me a few years to flesh out what I was really trying to say in both the lyrics as well as the instrumentation. I wanted it to sound as nervous, jittery and stiffled as the house show setting I was describing. The first draft was more ambient and fried, with a slow electronic kick drum just kinda burning through the whole thing. Went in the exact opposite direction for this version, enlisting not one but two live drummers (Maria Nuccilli from Deadbeat Beat and Jake Kmiecik from Bonny Doon), jazz bassist Dave Sharp, Emily Roll on noisy saxophone and myself playing guitar, all live in the room. After it was recorded I sent it to John Olson from Wolf Eyes and he played some totally ungodly horn/noise/electronics combination which I mixed in.
The video was made by my friend Cory Hearns, who I met around the time I was working on All Are Saved and have stayed in touch with since. He expressed interest in making a lyric video for one of the songs from my new record and picked this one; an 8 minute, dirgey, bleak as hell spoken word piece about having panic attacks at house shows or at Target. He totally got the desperation, stillness and weariness and reflected it perfectly in this video.
Check out the “House Show Late December” lyric video below.
08/16 – Detroit, MI @ El Club $
09/16 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk – Indoor +
09/17 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall – Upstairs +
10/10 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR #
10/11 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl #
10/13 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle #
10/14 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings #
10/16 – Norfolk, VA @ Charlie’s American Cafe #
10/17 – Washington DC @ Songbyrd #
10/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle #
10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right #
10/21 – Portsmouth, NH @ Book & Bar #
10/23 – Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola #
10/24 – Toronto, ON @ Baby G #
10/25 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig #
10/26 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle #
11/30 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza +
12/01 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios +
$ w/ Joan of Arc
+ w/ Owen
# w/ Anna Burch & Common Holly
Aftering is out 9/14 via Polyvinyl. Pre-order it here.