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Hit City USA
Golden Suits second album, Kubla Khan, is anything but your run-of-the-mill folk record. Fred Nicolaus (of indie-rock band Department of Eagles) has produced a refreshingly vulnerable body of work that is both raw and personal. The 11-song album goes full circle, encompassing everything from stripped down, melancholy tracks such as “You’re Crossing a River” and the self-titled “Kubla Khan” to scream sing heartbreak anthems like “Useless” and “Another One.”
Nicolaus manages to fit some surprises into Kubla Khan, at times toeing the line between electro-pop and The National-esque indie rock arrangements; a good example being the eighth track on the album, “Lie,” which is an upbeat and sparkling synth glossed track that is paired with a vocal performance reminiscent of Tom Petty, creating a pleasurable and interesting juxtaposition.
Where the real brawn of Kubla Khan lies is in its lyrical content. Nicolaus seems to have chosen to refrain from indulging in popular practices such as catchy, ambiguous verses and easily digestible phrases anchored to poetic curb appeal and focused more on creating a tangible, journal like sense of catharsis within every song. Kubla Khan is an incredibly cohesive piece that drips in themes of love and loss and does not shy away from sharing the gritty details. “I didn’t know then that I would love you, so I was careless like a bird turning it’s wings to the sky…” the first lyrics from the track “Like a Bird”, shows one example of just how specific and personal Kubla Khan can be at times.
While the content of Golden Suits’ second album can easily become quite dreary and individual, it does a swell job of steering clear of being bruiting or self-indulgent. This principle coupled with the vivid sonic contrast between Nicolaus’ modern production techniques, electronic song elements and classic instrumentation and structure, creates a truly unique body of work that isn’t pretending to be anything. Kubla Khan is a proper Folk Rock album, with components both nostalgic and exploratory, that lends itself completely to the 21st Century.