“Kramies’ self-titled full-length release is a bit of a departure for this virtual staple of the modern dreamy indie pop world. Kramies has enjoyed well-deserved attention for his collaborations with Band of Horses’ Tyler Ramsey and Jason Lytle of Granddaddy, but several EP releases as well. Lytle and another guest, The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, are prominent during on of the album’s singles, the opener “Days Of”.
Kramies dredges a lot of the songwriting for this album out of a place of melancholy, if not outright despair. There’s a Robyn Hitchcock-like quality surrounding Kramies’ voice during the opener. Yes, we call this dreamy indie pop, but there’s a narrow spectrum of influences exerting a hold over Kramies’ songwriting – especially this one. There’s synth-pop swelling in the background, an orchestral bent, and even a smattering of Americana poking its way through the mix.
“Horses to Maine” continues in the same musical vein but Kramies dials up the heartache clearer than ever. Attentive listeners will latch onto the rewarded flashes of specific imagery layered throughout the lyrics of these songs and how these moments often successfully illuminate the entire piece for listeners. “Hotel in LA” is one of the earliest tracks Kramies composed for the album and certainly isn’t buoyant fare.
It will touch all but the hardest hearts, however, as there’s nothing faked or false about the desolation and loneliness rife throughout this track. The dreamy indie pop sound that Kramies has thus far built his catalog on is an ideal vehicle for songs such as this, gloom coloring the tracks like tinsel, but never quite dragging them into the mire. Kramies’ songs, instead, seem to float above it all, distraught, but never undone.
The acoustic guitar and other instruments in “You’d Be the Fall” are far more tethered to earth than the vocal. Kramies’ voice sounds as if it is wafting out of a fog, soothing in some ways, but seemingly disembodied and haunting. The remainder of the song follows the album’s established approach thus far, but yet it hits a different place within. It’s one of the strengths behind his work that Kramies accomplishes that, time after time.
Very deliberate writing opens “Flowers from the Orphan” and the minor key piano underlying the arrangement hints at the song’s darker depths. Introducing female vocals contrasting Kramies’ is an excellent decision that has the same effect as the additions to the preceding track – it’s very much in keeping with the album’s material, but components such as this help it stand out more.
“4:44am” ends the album appropriately. It is more spartan than its seven predecessors though Kramies and his acoustic guitar never disappoint. Melodies on this release are invariably sketched out but the lyrics aren’t, and many listeners will come away from the self-titled effort pegging this as among its best lyrics. Let’s hope the personal issues bogging down Kramies’ life are put to bed now, and he keeps producing engaging material like this because, while it may sail under the radar, it’s one of 2022 best releases.”