BIG STIR RECORDS and NICK FRATER invite you to check in to AERODROME MOTEL, the new album from the acclaimed Croydon, England-based singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. The record, featuring the lead single/focus track “Dancing With A Gertrude”, sees release August 19 on record store shelves (as a CD) and streaming platforms worldwide, and is available for pre-order at www.bigstirrecords.com and other online outlets now. Frater‘s tenth album overall and his third with Big Stir, AERODROME MOTEL builds on the success of last year’s acclaimed Earworms and marks yet another stride forward for the ever-creatively-restless, always-impeccably-tuneful Renaissance man.
Nick Frater stands out on a modern pop landscape populated by innumerable prolific self-professed polymaths by virtue of not having to profess anything about himself at all. The critics and tastemakers of the indie-pop world are more than happy to do it for him: Earworms was 2021’s Album of the Year at Powerpopaholic. The previous year’s Fast & Loose won Frater a five-star review, and a citation as a “pop tunesmith par excellence,” in Britain’s revered Shindig! Magazine. And 2019’s Full Fathom Freight-Trainearned the Album of The Year honor from International Pop Overthrow, with all three adorning countless other Year’s Best lists worldwide: Earworms alone ranked in the Top 20 with pop scene influencers in the US, UK, Canada, Italy, Sweden and Argentina.
That acknowledged consistency of sheer quality is why a new Nick Frater album is always something special, but each record is also unique… he simply doesn’t repeat himself. Frater’s songwriting has drawn frequent comparisons to Bacharach, and Aerodrome Motel sees him continuing his quest for new catchy hooks and melodies. But he’s also chosen to take a few risks on this album and explore some broader subject matter too. We’re treated the usual rock song territory of love and loss, but also endangered baby names (on the undeniably catchy single “Dancing With A Gertrude”), wave machines (on the title track with its mutual echoes of Elliot Smith and the Fab Four) and even the graffiti from a toilet door set to music (the horn-driven, Elton John-inflected “Rough & Tumble”)!
Frater tells us: “The last few albums have felt like some big steps forward for my songwriting. More and more I’ve enjoyed writing purely from the voice. Frequently you’ll find me being that person singing at the bus stop or while walking around the supermarket, recording ideas in to my phone. I get a few funny looks, but I’m convinced this technique is helping capture some catchy tunes. Having started songwriting by trying to find surprising and complicated chords – and I still love those songs! – I also love the idea that a pop song could translate to a Salvation Army band, or panpipe trio, or 8bit chip tune. Could this song survive being played by kids with a recorder? I never ever want to hear the answer to that question, but I find it helps focus my melody writing!”
By the time those supermarket melodies have been refined, paired with dollops of a trademark lyrical wit, immaculately produced and performed by Nick and a sterling guest cast, they’ve become irresistible earworms that anyone might catch themselves humming in public. Frater lives in a land of 60s/70s sophisticated-pop, a self-confessed obsession with vintage recording techniques, and a ‘more is more’ approach to production. AERODROME MOTEL, named for the long-abandoned London airport near Frater‘s home, hits the tarmac in exactly that mode, with “The Pleasure Is Mine” bringing to mind Steely Dan. It then dives into a pair of rockers – “Love Heist” and “Stuck In My Ways” – sporting the kinds of radio-perfect choruses and soaring harmonies that have made Frater so beloved among power pop aficionados worldwide.
Those hooks are all over the record, of course – it is a Nick Frater album, after all! – but there’s texture aplenty, and wry observations and introspection alike informing the lyrics. “Dear Modern Times” is a scathing look at the death of nuance in today’s social discourse, in a musical setting Frater calls “The Zombies meet Billy Joel.” Elsewhere, “American Expressways” brings Brian Wilson-style studio savvy to an examination of the befuddled ambivalence of a soldier returning from the front. There’s also the character-study ballad “No Hard Feelings,” which brings together haunting mellotron strings, a Twin Peaks baritone guitar, backwards tape, and harmonium against sparse drums, creating an almost cinematic scale to the song balanced against an intimate and heartfelt vocal.
The album closes with another character study, “White Courtesy Phone,” a blissed-out psychedelic country-waltz with haunting pedal steel and French horn framing a portrait of a traveler who never seems to arrive anywhere. It hearkens back to the title track, inspired by the artwork of the 1960s motel matchboxes gorgeously echoed on the album artwork by frequent collaborator Adam Mallett. And that’s the framework of the record’s traveling themes, with Frater bringing his love of West Coast American mythology and his very British sensibilities together… with side trips exploring adult male mental health, finding oneself gagged and bound in the back of a getaway car, and just plain rude-sounding but intoxicating glam rock stomp.
AERODROME MOTEL is far more than a simple layover or road stop on Nick Frater‘s ever-ascending career path, and it’s thrilling to hear his melodic and lyrical inventions continue to take flight. Open yourself to Nick‘s way of blending wit and melody and you’ll likely laugh, cry, and pause to see the world around you in a new light… often in the space of the same song. Check in on August 19 and stay as long as you like… just leave the wave machine where you found it, for the next guests.