Saturday Looks Good to Me – Fill Up the Room

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

If you plotted a chart (or is it a graph?) of the artists in my music collection, whereby the x-axis ranged from Obscure to Popular and the y-axis represented the Number of Albums Owned, I think Saturday Looks Good to Me would probably be the most extreme outlier, as I own six albums by this relatively unknown conglomerate. Interestingly, the next band in my collection – Saturnine – poses possibly the greatest threat to SLGTM’s weird dominance. That band is far less popular and while I only have two of their albums, they released a total of six, so in theory, I could expand my library to have them take the crown on this.

What I Think of This Album

This is a tough album for me. Mastermind Fred Thomas decided to change things up, and I think that was a mistake. For one, the arrangements are more traditional (with one notable exception) and lack the strong orchestral elements of past work. Crucially, Thomas handles almost all the lead vocals alone, and for the first time, SLGTM sounds like a Thomas vehicle more than a Thomas project.

This album came out in 2007, and Thomas also released three solo albums in 2006 and 2007, so perhaps he carried over the philosophy of his individual efforts and applied it to this recording. It’s a disappointing effort, even as it houses some pretty good songs, including perhaps one of the best Saturday Looks Good to Me tunes ever.

It also hosts perhaps one of the worst SLGTM songs. If a detractor of indie-pop pointed to opening track “Apple” as an example of the defects with the genre, I would be hard-pressed to mount a defense. While the slide guitar lick is cool, it is overused and Thomas’s singing quickly devolves into a series of formless bleats against a listless tempo. 

“When I Lose My Eyes” gallops like a horse trying to be first in line for that Spector reissue on Record Store Day. The drums carry this song, but the brass flourishes are very welcome and Thomas pairs it all with a fine melody. That said, it wears out its welcome at almost 7:00, and the blasts of distorted guitar at the end should have arrived much, much sooner. The opposite problem reveals itself on the too-short “Peg”; Thomas actually croons sweetly, but one gets the impression he wasn’t trying too hard on this one, which is a shame.

The novel ethnic influences are misguided and unsuccessful. “Lose My Eyes” segues almost seamlessly into “Make a Plan,” a slight tune featuring Latin guitars and an overly precious delivery, though some of the sound effects are interesting. Meanwhile, “Money In the Afterlife” sounds distressingly close to (and worse, short of) Vampire Weekend and that band’s appropriation of Afro-pop guitar sounds.

The second half of the album fares better, not coincidentally, as the deviations from the band’s prior sound diminish for a stretch. There is a glassine quality to “The Americans,” which could only have been improved if Thomas had left the vocals to one of his usual female collaborators (though he does an adequate job with it). When the strings finally come in, it feels like Saturday Looks Good to Me has come home again. 

Too, the energetic, handclap-driven “Edison Girls” is the kind of song Betty Marie Barnes or Erika Hoffman (Godzuki) would have knocked out of the park. Ironically, Barnes’s swooping vocals on the glorious “Hands In the Snow” only reinforces the missed opportunities with the other tracks. “Hands” is a regret-fueled breakup song with some exceptional lyrics and one of the best melodies Thomas ever crafted. “And I watch you drink / Invisible ink / So I won’t know / When you swallow your words.” I am on the floor. I am speechless.

Paired with the standout from the first half – “(Even If You Die On the) Ocean” – these tracks make up the heart of the album. As for “Ocean,” Thomas’s charm swells higher and higher with every beat of the bouncy, Motown-derived treat, riding a catchy wave that will hopefully wipe the world clean. 

Unfortunately, the album closes weakly (at best). The final song (“Whitey Hands” – uh, what?) marks a return to Thomas’s experimental impulses, a sort of avant-garde mashup that blends banjo, busy snare work, and trippy production effects. The slow, spare ballad that precedes it (“Come With Your Arms”) really adds nothing to this album.

I don’t know why, but the fact that this was on K Records just makes it all worse. That pairing should have worked really well, and I feel like Thomas squandered the opportunity.

Many of the usual suspects contributed to the music on this (see the earlier posts on the other albums), though there are only eleven guests this time, which seems low compared to the usual mix.

The Best Thing About This Album

Hands down, “Hands In the Snow.”

Release Date

October, 2007

The Cover Art

Absolutely terrible. I can’t believe I still own this album. It’s like insult after injury.

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