I missed out on this one when it came around in May, but the endearing pop of Fred Thomas ensnares me every time. Offering up a record under his sparsely used moniker Idle Ray, the Michigan songwriter finds himself in the crosshairs of fuzz-pocked alt-pop and emotionally bare indie pop. Fitting the pieces of the puzzle together between Guided by Voices, The Reds, Pinks and Purples, and the soft-focus snap of Business of Dreams, the record lodges more than a few hooks into the brain and pulls at a sense of melancholy melt while it’s there. The gut-punch of fuzz is fun, and Thomas is more than qualified to dish out the lint-laden brand of power pop, but where Idle Ray truly shines is when the skies turn overcast and the bedroom feels like the only sanctuary fit to inhabit. When he magnifies the scars through the speakers, the album becomes more than just a fun knockaround of earworms and elastic pop.
When the crushing sighs of “Water Comes In Through The Windows” makes its way out out into the air the feeling of loss is palpable, inevitable even. It’s the kind of song that’s compact, but devastating, dredging up instant comparisons to Tony Molina. Similarly, the downcast “Coastline” evokes the kind of tenderness that Big Star often made seem easy, but that any songwriter might struggle to replicate. That’s not to say that the more ecstatic moments are worth sticking around for. Thomas has been a constant gardener of indie pop in his lifetime and he’s proves that he’s always stitting on a stack of hooks that haunt your days, creeping out of the back of the brain when you least expect them. If there’s a way to shake the immediacy of “Poloroid,” then I haven’t found it yet. The album was pressed in a scant run of 200, sadly long come and gone, but the songs endure no matter what the format. If, like me, you missed this one earlier in the year, I’d recommend a spin or ten on the speakers.
Support the artist. Buy it HERE.