Fred Thomas
Sep 14, 2018

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Fred Thomas had been making music nonstop for years when a seismic shift in his creative process happened in 2013. Something mystical opened up in the fall of that year and the prolific songwriter moved from his already emotionally open style into an unprecedentedly direct and vulnerable lyrical approach as well as new levels of detail-fixated production. The songs took on a new urgency, inspired by a feeling that life was beginning afresh while at the same time a lifetime of experiences were cementing into worlds of memory. The results of that creatively eruptive time began with 2015's critically hailed album All Are Saved, continued into the turbulent pop of 2017’s Changer and now float into Aftering, a record that feels like the final chapter of an unofficial trilogy.

Just as the two before it, Aftering was produced, mixed and assembled on location in a close collaboration between Thomas and Athens, Georgia based engineer Drew Vandenberg. All cut from the same cloth, Aftering ties the knots that connect all three records. Where both All Are Saved and Changer flitted nervously between moments of jangly powerpop, electronic interludes and experimental acoustic weirdness, Aftering maps out a far more intentional arc, burning through a first act of speedy, hook-heavy guitar rock before taking a sharp, brutal dive into an abyss on the album’s second half.

Modeled loosely after Neil Young’s On The Beach, the nine songs here move from jumpy two minute blasts into a suite of four protracted and moody interconnected pieces. At first, Thomas' signature mesh of soaring melodies and experimental pop keeps things upbeat even when burying intense topics on songs like "Alcohol Poisoning" or in the post-election unrest of "Good Times Are Gone Again." Beginning with 8-minute fever dream “House Show, Late December,” the ache that sits in the core of the album comes to the surface completely. From here guitars almost vanish from the instrumentation and the focus shifts to tightly arranged strings, ominous synths, ambient waves and spoken lyrics somewhere between poetry and desperate confession. These longer songs drift in and out of each other slowly, drowning into their own lush darkness and heavy observations on anxiety, family and emotional abuse.

Connecting all three albums to an even deeper degree, Aftering finally realizes loose threads that began on earlier records, and calls on special guests from all phases of Thomas' life. Anna Burch returns to sing on buoyant single “Altar” and longtime friend and collaborator Elliot Bergman (Wild Belle, Saturday Looks Good To Me) helps sculpt the crystalline vibe of album closer “What The Sermon Said.” Newer friends show up as well, with members of Bonny Doon, Common Holly, Deadbeat Beat and other artists Thomas connected with through years of touring showing up in supporting roles over the course of the record. Wolf Eyes member and noted memelord John Olson even contributes some fried horns and electronics.

More than anything, Aftering calmly sets down the restless questioning and turmoil of the trilogy. Instead of landing on any tidy conclusion or neatly wrapping up a thesis, the album illuminates the themes of observation and acceptance that have run throughout Thomas' work for the last five years. Aftering reflects on an answerless and uncertain future, trying to make sense of it through scattered memories that flash like mental postcards. A sense of larger, universal dread refracts through these moments of searching. Ultimately, it’s not the dark times or bleakness that lingers, but a sense of connection and hope that comes from trying to communicate them as honestly as possible. Aftering, like the chapters that came just before, can feel sometimes painful, but there’s a clarity and beauty that’s always there as well, equally bright in even the darkest moments.


  • 1
    Ridiculous Landscapes (feat. Common Holly and Dominic Coppola) (4:00)
  • 2
    Alcohol Poisoning (3:00)
  • 3
    Hopeless Ocean Drinker (2:10)
  • 4
    Good Times Are Gone Again (3:05)
  • 5
    Altar (feat. Anna Burch) (2:29)
  • 6
    House Show, Late December (8:16)
  • 7
    Mother, Daughter, Pharmaprix (4:46)
  • 8
    Slow Waves (feat. Ashley Hennen) (9:12)
  • 9
    What The Sermon Said (feat. Elliot Bergman) (6:22)


"Fred Thomas is the kind of storyteller that you seem to meet through his music.”

Under the Radar

“If you are feeling a gnawing pit in your belly, a bleak sense of pointlessness that short-circuits your every function… welcome, Fred’s been here awhile. The water’s just fine.”


"It’s sort of bleak and bright at the same time, which is a lot like how the Michigan indie rocker’s music operates."


"Aftering, feels like a bit of a career capstone, channeling afflicted memory through static-cling guitars, painterly dissonance, keen literary observation and wide-eyed pop revelation."

Rolling Stone

"This is the unique power source of Thomas’ music, accessing raw nerves to transmit these paralyzingly visceral feelings of bitterness, envy, and self-negation that most artists can’t bring themselves to admit."


“…Thomas’ candid, conversational vocal style feels like he’s both inviting you into his thoughts with the utmost trust and performing an animated, poetic piece of social commentary to a packed-out bar.”


"It's a perfect jam for the summer of 2018, which seems to be plagued by a ominous kind of foreboding, even on its nicest days."

The FADER on "Good Times Are Gone Again"

"Thomas remains a master of punchy and verbose indie rock tracks that barrage your brain with so much information you don’t realize you’re body’s caught up in the beat."


"["Good Times Are Gone Again"] is a little more anthemic—built from Superchunk-like power chords and mumbled whispers that echo Yo La Tengo."


"“Altar” bursts with garage-pop hooks, and Thomas’ candid, conversational vocal style feels like he’s both inviting you into his thoughts with the utmost trust and performing an animated, poetic piece of social commentary to a packed-out bar. The song’s chorus is elating with the addition of Burch’s rapturous vocals, but Thomas’ verses reveal an underlying seriousness."


"“House Show Late December” is an arresting eight-minute opus that finds its footing somewhere between the cadence of slam poetry and a stream-of-consciousness narrative."


"Lead single “Good Times Are Gone Again” is one big crash. It constantly builds, which makes it feel mighty despite the lyrics’ largely pessimistic outlook. The line “Sharp days are wrapping around us” constricts your throat. Even in depicting a crushing doom, Thomas has a voice that I want to trust. He’ll hold my hand until the good times come back again."


"Like the most perfect day gone awry, "Good Times Are Gone Again" reflects swift change, beginning with light strings and a twinkling dance of keyboard before welcoming an unexpected surge of guitar and frenzied instrumentals."

The Grey Estates

"Aftering becomes the most heartbreaking album to end in an Arby’s."

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  • Good Times Are Gone Again (3:07)
    Jeffrey Freer
  • Altar (feat. Anna Burch) (2:49)
    Ben Collins
  • House Show, Late December (8:17)
    Cory Hearns