Fred Thomas is never one to sit still. The prolific songwriter, musician, and producer/engineer always seems to be working on several projects at once, and his recordings are a series of in-the-moment snapshots capturing certain points of his life. It's impossible to envision him sticking to one persona and committing himself to playing the same repertoire for all eternity. As such, it's no surprise that he would title an album Changer, but since the 2015 release of All Are Saved, his most well-received solo effort to date, he's quit his full-time job, gotten married, and moved from his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan to Montreal, Canada. The songs on Changer don't specifically address these things -- at least one of them has popped up in his set lists even before All Are Saved was released, and some songs reference the period when he lived in Portland, Oregon during the second half of the 2000s -- but they all reflect the urgency of a life perpetually in flux. Similar to All Are Saved, he delivers his thoughts at a mile a minute, eschewing hooks and choruses in favor of poetic narratives about touring experiences, feeling disconnected at parties, worthless temporary jobs, and a general questioning of where all of this is leading. "Brickwall" is a rousing folk-punk tune about not being able to relate to old friends who have long since moved on, and having nothing else to turn to besides drinking. "Voiceover" is more furious, with a torrent of feelings bursting out, describing dream scenes and remembrances of friends left in the past. As with his previous album, shimmering electronics seep into some of the songs, recalling his City Center project, and there are also several ambient and IDM instrumentals, particularly during the second half. These tracks serve as refreshing breaks from the intensity of the lyrical songs, and the album was originally supposed to be much longer and include more of these ambient pieces, but was edited down due to demands from the record label. Thomas' atmospheric pieces are just as compelling as his songwriting, however, and anyone intrigued by these tracks should check out some of his many extracurricular projects, particularly the dark, jazzy free-form explorations of Billowing and the Krautrock-inspired instrumental pop group Hydropark.
by Paul Simpson