There are artists who inexplicably stay under the radar. They pen sleeper hits or, more painfully for some fans, great albums that never break into a broader musical consciousness. You could put Ann Arbor, Mich.’s Fred Thomas under that list. He’s behind gorgeous pop tunes with Saturday Looks Good to Me—most recently with 2013’s exceptional One Kiss Ends it All—twee-inspired garage songs with Failed Flowers and noise-worthy electronic with City Center. If you just looked at Thomas’ solo material by itself, you could probably get by calling him prolific.
Though they’re the words used to market his latest, All Are Saved, it doesn’t make it any less true. Thomas’ latest LP, his first for Polyvinyl as a solo artist, serves as a logical mashup of his fractioned output—built on pretty acoustics, oddball electronics, wiry guitars and frantic bursts of spoken word. That’s not to say it’s a grab-bag of sound. Thomas has used the myriad pieces of his decades-long career to assemble something consistent, listenable and immediate.
Take album highlight (and first single) “Bad Blood,” a spazzy electronic song that sees Thomas at his most off-the-cuff: “Similarly, this isn’t fiction,” Thomas sings over synthesizers, just before diving into a more neurotic take on totally awkward encounters: “well, actually, most of it is/or a series of IRL moments/cloaked in the vagueness that songs give/but when there’s nothing to say/and you’ve got to say something/fuck, I don’t even know/I don’t even know.” With those rambling lines, the sterile synths, it’s All Are Saved’s biggest outlier—but it works in the grand scheme of an album intelligently jigsawed together with years of sound.
But moreso than the tones that populate All Are Saved, the thread that binds the LP is its debut single’s immediacy. Opener “Every Song Sung to a Dog” comes with a chorus ready-made for basement show sing-alongs. “Bed Bugs” shares too-real musings on the inevitability of change. Even at a seven-minute runtime, closer “Doggie” demands repeat listens. And you’ll be lucky to escape the album without repeating the bridge of “Cops Don’t Care Pt. II,” a joyous peak that proclaims: “They don’t give a fuck/they don’t give a fuck about us.” Maybe everyone-and-their-mom in your local indie circle hasn’t lingered on Thomas’ work—but we’ll see how they react after All Are Saved’s gut-punch of a first spin.