Department of Eagles’ Fred Nicolaus Is “Golden” with Golden Suits

19 Dec

Golden Suits

When we last heard from Department of Eagles — at least with any new material — it was 2008. The band, formed by New York University roommates Fred Nicolaus and Daniel Rossen — released In Ear Park, which combined elements of folk, rock and singer-songwriter music a la Paul McCartney.

Since then, Rossen has moved on to become part of Grizzly Bear. But Nicolaus has been quiet. Until now.

In 2013, Nicolaus — calling himself Golden Suits — released a self-titled collection of quirky, comfortable folk-pop in the same vein as the best of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman or Paul Simon — with a dash of Lennon and McCartney thrown in.

Some of the best creative work often comes out of times of raw emotion — a first love or personal loss. Golden Suits was the latter, with Nicolaus going through a bad breakup, losing his Brooklyn apartment, coping with his grandfather’s death — and dropping 40 pounds in the process.

The first song in the set, “Swimming in ’99,” is exceptional. The upbeat, catchy tune starts with a clocklike rhythm and builds into a richly orchestrated pop gem. “I Think You Would Have Been Mine” is another outstanding composition. Leisurely, effortless vocals float over plucking guitar, strings and a busy rhythm track.

“Didn’t I Warn You” starts as a simple tune with a  march-like rhythm and handclaps, but it builds into a disarming folk-pop standard with warm, welcoming vocals and uplifting swells of orchestration. “Wash It Away” has a nostalgic, backwards-looking feel that seems to harken to failed relationships. “I don’t know about this love ‘cause you are very easily bored, And every night would be a trial to keep your arrows in a row. We’ll wash it away, wash it away, like it’s all forgotten, And hope that we get lucky.”

Golden Suits is definitely not packaged or perfect — with vocals a bit on the pitchy side — but everything has been created with the true care and craftsmanship that Nicolaus brought to his work with the Department of Eagles — with melodies you’ll find yourself humming because you simply can’t get them out of your head!

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