SINGLE REVIEWS: “Tokyo” and “Maggie” by Jeremiah Fraites

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WRITTEN BY: Rae Burach

Jeremiah Fraites, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of The Lumineers, has recently announced an upcoming solo release entitled Piano Piano. The LP, consisting of 11 acoustic tracks, will hit – or more aptly, grace – streaming services on January 22nd. Fraites, though, has already gifted his fans two singles from the album, “Tokyo” and “Maggie.” Setting aside The Lumineers’ widespread success, Fraites alone hasn’t put much work out into the world. He released a quiet, instrumental single “11 Shapes” in 2019, and the uncharacteristically electronic “Player Unknown” earlier this year. Piano Piano is set to give life to his solo career.

Fraites’s superb musicianship is no secret. He’s been making stuck-in-your-head tunes for the past 15 years alongside Lumineers co-founder Wesley Shultz. “I’ve never considered myself a great piano player, but a curious one,” Fraites writes in an album announcement via The Lumineers newsletter, “I obsess not only over the sounds of the chords, but also the shapes that my hands make when I go to play them.” If you’ve ever seen the Lumineers live, or simply watched a video of Fraites in action, you’ll agree that this is evident. It appears that, when his eyes aren’t closed in musical bliss, he’s focusing intently on his hands, playing with deliberateness.

“Tokyo” is a gentle track with dense strings and a dreamlike feel. Fraites said in a statement that it’s his favorite song on the album. It might take a few moments to orient yourself though, as Fraites uses an unexpected meter to create a sort of beautiful chaos. The track begins and ends with the same melody, but momentary pauses signal the start and stop of a middle piece where an orchestra joins in. Fraites released visualizations for each song on his YouTube channel, and the one for “Tokyo” features a lanky animated figure in his signature hat and suspenders slinking across a hypnotic background – a perfect fit for the vibe of this track. 

“Maggie” is titled after Fraites’s wife’s dog, who passed away while he was finishing the recording. Slightly more upbeat than “Tokyo,” this track’s chords are less sustained and more concrete. An instantaneous nostalgia is created by strings and steady percussion. It’s a dynamic piece, the tempo and volume rising and falling several times throughout the track. It ends softly, though, just as it begins. The visualization for this one takes place underwater. Little animated Jeremiah floats around the frame amid dolphins and other distorted aquatic creatures. Trippy!

Fraites plays almost every instrument on Piano Piano, barring a few orchestral cameos here and there. Although there’s 11 songs on the album, vinyl-purchasers get a twelfth track entitled “Lullaby.” So far, “Maggie” and “Tokyo” certainly have a Lumineers air, but with a dash of something different. Fraites’ instrumental work is elegant and classic, with a subtlety that somehow makes him cooler than he already was. If these two tracks are any indication of what’s to come, Fraites’ first LP will be a gorgeous feat. Check out the singles now, and keep your eyes peeled for the rest of Piano Piano on January 22nd, 2021.

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