Kramies isn’t a newcomer, but long-time followers of this indie pop songsmith will confess that his new self-titled release carries a bit more personal mojo than his admittedly fine earlier efforts. His ongoing collaborations with other songwriters as diverse as Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle and Band of Horses’ Tyler Ramsay help give his self-titled release a virtual potpourri of voices for listeners to cull through.
It’s a uniformly strong release. The album didn’t emerge in a single continuous stream, fate and circumstance scattered the writing out over time rather than allowing the songs to emerge together. It is thoroughly coherent, however, and the accord struck between Kramies’ voice, his lyrics, and the songwriting makes for compelling listening.
He makes a great choice beginning the release with “Days Of”. This single ranks among the album’s strongest tracks and sets the table for everything after it. He’s accompanied on the song by guests Lytle and The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney; Kramies makes frequent use of collaborators and such top-flight talents consistently working alongside him reflects the esteem his peers hold for his talents.
Those talents are clearer than ever during the song “Hotel in L.A.”. Few other songs, if any, on the release provide as wide and clear of a window into Kramies’ head space (at the time of writing) as this performance. Tapping into such a pipeline between the subconsciousness and his musical/writing skills isn’t a talent many possess, at least consistently, but Kramies stands out. The song draws us into his inner world and, even if it isn’t necessarily bathed in warmth and hope, surprising beauty springs forth.
Many listeners will come away from this release tagging its second single, “Ohio I’ll Be Fine”, as the best song. It’s certainly the most complete. There’s practically something even paint by numbers about a three minute track that introduces a full-band arrangement at exactly the 1:30 mark – but it works and works marvelously. Kramies’ distinctive songwriting voice works here, as well, and has an inviting tone despite the often shadowy terrain his voice inhabits.
“Flowers from the Orphan” is another highlight and much of the reason why is because it breaks with the established pattern. It’s a fair shot at him to say Kramies is a little reliant on his core sound for much of the album’s first half, so interjecting these variations in the second half helps make the self-titled collection stronger overall. Some listeners will expect such an ending, but the muted melancholy persisting through the finale “4:44am” is starker than ever before.
He doesn’t go full-on aural desolation or solo performance, however, as there are subtle yet audible colors along the way that develops the track to its fullest. Kramies has built a strong reputation on the backs of his past EPS and collaborations with impressive names, but you may hear him shifting into another gear with this outing. It is the sound of a musical artist and songwriting nearing the peak of his powers and well worth many listens.