Saturday Looks Good to Me – Every Night

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

I am pretty sure this was the first Saturday Looks Good to Me album I bought, and as is often the related case, it is my favorite SLGTM record. Researching the liner notes has made me feel incredibly untalented and underachieving.

What I Think of This Album

If I could only rescue one SLGTM from the Christo-fascist mob that will someday come to reeducate me, this is the one I would save. Mastermind Fred Thomas upgraded the production values without losing any of the retro charm. He also turned in an excellent set of songs, recruited a compelling new female vocalist in Betty Marie Barnes, and improved his own singing considerably. I defy you to not like this album.

Right from the start, tearjerker “Since You Stole My Heart” demonstrates all that is right with the album. The heartfelt, nuanced and powerful vocal from Barnes (I think) is priceless, surrounded by a clever and fresh backing that includes saxophone and an organ interlude, and just-this-side-of-sappy lyrics that firmly root the piece in ‘60s girl group aesthetics (as well as sonics). The strings outro is gorgeous, to boot.

The back-to-back placing of two of my favorite songs on the album is likely what cements my love for it. The sweet, acoustic “When the Party Ends” features a late arriving and eye-opening rhyme scheme, some of Thomas’s best singing ever, and a gauzy, cocooning string arrangement. “Dialtone” is equally witty with another prime performance from Thomas; the arrangement builds slowly at first, with spare bass, subtle piano, and percussion joining the acoustic guitar until Thomas calls the rest of the band in, who participate with enthusiasm in what sounds like an indie-pop hootenanny.

That these tracks are followed by the amazing “We Can’t Work It Out” (nice) is almost too much for my heart to bear:  Berry Gordy and Phil Spector are clapping in their graves over this one. “Empty Room” hangs out in the same neighborhood, sort of like the precocious little sister who tags along with the big kids:  not quite able to achieve at the same level, but very impressive and confident nonetheless.

High drama informs the accusatory “All Over Town” (Barnes, again, I think), which is Motown on steroids. “Lift Me Up” starts out sounding like the Jam’s “Town Called Malice,” but Thomas is a more committed revivalist than Paul Weller; the vocals by Barnes (I’m almost sure) are excellent. Thomas delivers a heartfelt and delicate ballad in “When You Got to New York,” with some excellent lyrics and a nice accordion accompaniment, and of course the strings come in later.

Spector-ish drums propel the jaunty “Until the World Stops Spinning,” which ends up being a hipster putdown (“But the girls think you’re a joke / With your jacket from the thrift store and your little rum and Coke”). Thomas thus ends up delivering a modern tale wrapped up in the same retro clothes the subject of the song is mocked for.

Thomas takes the lead on “Keep Walking,” pushing against the upper limits of his range, but the rest of the energetic, quasi-gritty track works just fine.. A much more effective Thomas-sung number is the dark, lush, Zombies-adjacent (Those drums! That organ! The vibraphone!) “If You Ask,” which contains a surprisingly lengthy, dense, sometimes disorienting instrumental section that justifies the label “epic;” at almost five minutes, it is probably the longest song the band had ever recorded up to that point. 

One small stumble is duet “The Girl’s Distracted,” which is too lighthearted and silly, though the musical performance is excellent – the string arrangement in particular comes close to saving the track.

As usual, the band is a constellation of Thomas’s friends and peers (18 this time), several of them with ties to the corporate world:  Warn Defever (His Name Is Alive); Elliott Bergman (Wild Belle); Scott Sellwood (who is an attorney and has been an executive at Meta and YouTube); Charles Koltak (a public school teacher in Chicago); Scott DeRoche (a member of Drunken Barn Dance with Sellwood and possibly also a digital marketing executive); Joseph Hintz (a financial analyst with a mutual fund family); Nate Cavalieri (the Sights, and also an author of a Lonely Planet travel book and a journalist); Justin Walter (who has trumpeted with Iron & Wine and His Name Is Alive); Michael Herbst (Antibalas, and also an executive at Morningstar); and Faith Gazic (Terror At the Opera), plus vocalists Kelly Jean Caldwell; the previously mentioned Barnes; Ko Melina (the Dirtbombs); and Erika Hoffman (Godzuki, His Name Is Alive).

The Best Thing About This Album

Thomas’s songwriting and arranging are at their peak here.

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

I am very into the pink tones, and the duo-toned image of accordionist is cool. The font is subpar.

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