Kramies’ new self-titled album marks, in my opinion, a re-emergence. His willingness to self-title the collection is evidence of such thinking from Kramies’ himself as it suggests a sort of clearing of the decks. Changes in his personal life are in significant part responsible for a point of view shift that has Kramies looking back on the period of his life covered by these songs with a sort of elegiac melancholy. You won’t hear any longing for those days, no, but you will hear in his emotional voice the sound of a man confronting his past and, most importantly, himself.
You may see Kramies classified as a folk performer and the label has a certain amount of merit. He’s a much more conventional performer than someone modern like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon or other similar singer/songwriters. One of the album’s first singles, “Days Of”, begins the release with supporting appearances from The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney and Granddaddy’s Jason Lytle. Their presence has an undoubted positive effect on the collection, but the song doesn’t suffer in their absence.
It’s because Kramies is the song’s indisputable heart. He’s the sort of singer who sounds like he’s living every aspect of the experience depicted within again for his listeners. His willingness to travel into emotionally thorny territory is a quality that many music fans will respond to as it accentuates a sense of stakes. This moment matters; Kramies is putting himself on the line and it never feels stagy or overwrought.
“Hotel in LA” is one of the album’s unquestionable highlights. The synthesizer presence in the performance is much more prominent than the earlier performances. It never dominates, however. It’s one of those tracks that fall into the “dark night of the soul” category of songwriting, so it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Some will hear navel-gazing in Kramies’ lyrics while others will hear breathtaking vulnerability and honesty.
One of the best constructed tracks included on this album and another of its singles. A folkie template bookends the song while, at about the song’s halfway point ninety seconds in, piano and other light orchestration fleshes the song out to its full potential. It has stateliness and gravity lacking in the other tracks, but that isn’t a slight. Instead, it is satisfying to hear Kramies reveal another side of his musical character.
“Owl and the Crow”, the album’s penultimate number, is another dream-like acoustic meditation. It has a distinctly folk song bent not as pronounced in the other songs, but any differences in this vein aren’t jarring. Eight songs, by modern standards, scarcely qualifies as a full-length album, but Kramies re-educates us with this self-titled release. The eight songs he’s included connect with and fulfill listeners every bit as much as ten or a dozen songs might. Kramies has a discography anyone, mainstream or otherwise, would be proud to call their own, but this new self-titled release plumbs deeper and lingers longer. It’s an album you can come back to as well.