Nick Frater certainly keeps himself busy. In the summer he launched an ambitious video and audio project 59 Vignettes, an endeavor that reminded me of John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy in its effort to recalibrate fiction along emerging cinematic lines. Few of the contributions here exceed one minute and the accompany videos highlight the fragmentary, impressionistic feel of the pieces. There are a few more fully formedl song sketches on the record, tracks like “Number Name Unknown” and “In Another Song.” Some vibe McCartney on “Pay You Next Time” or even the Rolling Stones on “Fading Stones.” Other efforts are more experimental, like “Chiff Intermission” and “The Pelican Song (Wow and Flutter version).” Then there’s some fairly straightforward poprock numbers, like “Under Hogarth Skies.” But, given what came later, 59 Vignettes was clearly just a bit of fun, a diversion before Frater dropped his 2020 album proper.
On his more conventional record release for 2020 Fast & Loose, Frater lets his 1970s pop sensibility fly in grand style. The opening title track is practically a love letter to those 1970s TV themes. Then he kicks in with “Let’s Hear it for Love,” an anthem for our times that draws from a decidedly early 1980s ABBA vibe. Shifting gears, I love how the organ shots on “Luna” propels that song along. From there Frater showcases his talent for 1970s motifs with a bit of McCartney on “Cocaine Girls, some ELO on “So Now We’re Here” (with that great organ solo), and a spot-on 1970s pop feel to “California Waits.” But there are a few surprises, like the older ballroom sound on songs like “Endless Summertime Blues” and “That Ship Has Sailed.”
It’s always a splendid outing with Nick Frater. From the design, to the production, to the solid songwriting the results are routinely both eye and ear-catching, stylish and substantive. Mosey over the Frater-ville and you won’t miss a thing.