Pop culture critic Sarah Vowell once described her personal religion as “a faith cobbled together out of pop songs” where something as seemingly insignificant as a well-timed Elvis song on the radio is as good as a sign from God. Sure, she knows that most people consider music to be “just … corny pop tunes,” but she’s also discovered that such songs can hold tricks, turns and twists of fate that can make or break a heart. After listening to the second album by Ann Arbor’s Saturday Looks Good To Me, it would be hard to believe that Fred Thomas didn’t subscribe to the same pop philosophy.
As the mastermind behind SLGTM (and being a member of His Name Is Alive, flashpapr and Lovesick), Thomas wears his heart on his album sleeves, looking — like Vowell — for sound salvation on the turntable, the stereo, the AM/FM. He may not sing about Elvis or the radio itself, but on Cruel August Moon, he’s clearly learned that music has the ability to save lives.
Just listen to the album’s haunted interior, where Thomas and several of his friends (including Erika Hoffman and Warn Defever) have created a timeless-sounding LP that’s full of life-or-death desperation in matters of the heart.
It’s a striking departure from SLGTM’s self-titled 12-inch debut, with somber and deliberate introspection replacing the band’s makeshift Motown tunings and Beach Boys bounce. Desolation seeps through every song, each heartbreak recalling the best moments of Will Oldham, Ida and Neil Young, and each heartache holding secrets such as, “I had faith that you could save my life.”
It’s the sort of blind faith that most people place in others; Thomas probably does it too — just not as often as he places it in his record collection. Now he’s offering up nine songs to help others cobble together their own pop philosophies.
Saturday Looks Good To Me performs with Ladybug Transistor and the Lucksmiths Wednesday, June 20 at detroit contemporary, 5141 Rosa Parks Blvd. Doors at 8 p.m.
E-mail Jimmy Draper at firstname.lastname@example.org.