Nik Freitas

Here's Laughing at You

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Like a less sentimental, updated Emitt Rhodes, Nik Freitas, professional photographer and occasional drummer for San Franciscan labelmates For Stars, offers up a grab bag of pop delights on his first solo album, to which the modifiers D.I.Y., indie, and Beatlesque all suitably apply. Regarding the former characterization, Here's Laughing at You originated almost completely (and coincidentally) on a Rhodes organ in a small, typically untended twenty-something's room, a clutter that makes its way into the music, and to the music's benefit. Freitas was responsible for most of the notes, too, although he was assisted in the production -- one of the album's most idiosyncratic elements -- by childhood friend and occasional bandmate Aaron Estes, who also lent a hand to various performance aspects. As for the latter description, the songwriting certainly isn't as consequential as Lennon and McCartney, but it is distinctive and adventurous, tweaking song structures just so and taking chances, and it follows in the same mold as that duo's later work, frequently taking cues from the complex song structures, melodic turns, and buoyant but dense mood of post-psychedelic Beatles, as on "Pictures of the Sun," the stripped-down "Universal Buyout," and "Counting Yellow Lines." The google-eyed optimism endemic to the AM pop/rock universe of the '60s also pops its head through the grooves from time to time. The album also dips a toe into numerous other musical waters, as on the dark but danceable drum-and-vibes groove of "Pull My Leg" or on "Check the Weather," a bluesy, soulful treat that harks back to the mongrel '70s and comes out sounding like Supertramp trying its hand at a Stevie Wonder tune. But the regnant sensibility falls squarely into the same milieu that spawned a clever and off the beaten path tunesmith like Ben Folds, quirky bands Mercury Rev and Built to Spill, slightly skewed and unconventional West Coast indie rock units Quasi, This Busy Monster, and Death Cab for Cutie, and the entirety of the far-flung Elephant 6 collective. If those sound like formidable touchstones, Here's Laughing at You supports them nicely. A solid debut.

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