Fred Thomas’ Saturday Looks Good To Me return with the acoustic indie-pop/folk of Fill Up the Room. In their K Records debut, the Michigan-born band almost entirely eschews the female vocals of prior records Every Night (2004) and All Your Summer Songs (2003), going at times more wry, and at others, more haunting. While one has to go digging a bit, there’s gold to be found in this here Room.
Much of Fill Up the Room tends towards the more upbeat, and, in general, that is where the record is at its strongest. “(Even If You Die On the) Ocean” has a ‘cheery in the face of horror’ vibe that doesn’t get too too clever, catchy, but also flowing. Even more hooky and fun is “The Americans”, with its Casio tune opener and wonderful beat. A similar bright-but-wry attitude permeates “When I Lose My Eyes”, while the following “Make a Plan” plays slower. However, at almost seven minutes, “When” is too long, and “Plan” employs too many stops and starts. And the subsequent “Peg” is simply too sweet, too cutesy, too twee (though thankfully clocks in at under two minutes).
The sad side of Room delivers neither the heights, nor the frustrations, of its happier half. The blues-y soul of opener “Apple” is good, but only gets really ‘great’ at its end, while the sad country female vocals of “Hands In the Snow” (the only one on the record) flow nicely in the chorus, but play a little one-note in the verse. The record ends at its most tragic with the slow, heartfelt strings elegy, “Come With Your Arms”, and the echoing, sorrowful remembrance of “Whitey Hands”.
After six years of near-constant studio and tour time, Saturday Looks Good To Me has built up a devoted following, and they are sure not be disappointed by Fill Up the Room. As an introduction to singer/songwriter/producer Fred Thomas’ group, the record doesn’t exactly bowl you over, but does leave you with a nice taste in your mouth.