Fred Nicolaus' first solo outing as Golden Suits is an immensely welcome affair. Since his work with Department of Eagles he has dipped off radar for many, whilst his other half, Daniel Rossen, has continued to excel through Grizzly Bear and his own solo EP ‘Silent Hour/Golden Mile’. For DoE fans, there is now the opportunity to fully enjoy and appreciate Nicolaus’ very definite individual stylings and flair.
Yet, it would do ‘Golden Suits’ a great injustice to view in merely in the context of Nicolaus and Rossen’s previous work. It is a wistful album bursting with narrative and charm. Based largely on the short stories of the ‘suburban Chekov’ John Cheever, Nicolaus uses Cheever’s eye for juxtaposition by warping cosy 60’s pop form, playing with it until it sounds comfortably new. The production is meticulous and warm, building multiple layers without ever sounding decadent. The songwriting is also absolutely superb. In fact, it is staggeringly good. There are moments on this album that will leave listeners aching. Particularly ‘Wash It Away’, which seven tracks in stands out as possibly one of the finest songs of Nicolaus’ career. It rolls along with that sort of muted melancholy not unlike the solo career of George Harrison. His voice certainly has the strength. It seems that for Nicolaus, 'wistful crooner' mode is default.
The only regret is perhaps that some tracks run a little long, for an album that works best as a pop record, opener ‘Swimming in ‘99’ runs a total of 5:47 without ever completely justifying this length. This is a small complaint though. Largely the record swells in all the right places, full of heart and genuine personal exploration. The dynamics are mostly spot on, placing the slow sway of 'Little One' next to the rattling midnight train that is 'Dearly Beloved' is a particular welcome transition.
By working with the inspiration of Cheever’s themes of human confusion and carving his sounds from an archive of experimentation, Nicolaus has produced a remarkably stirring album.
Words: Angus Harrison