Chapter Three Reviews - 2021
If you're going to start a band, it's never a bad idea to have someone in the lineup who has a recording studio and knows how to use it. Take the Legal Matters -- all three members are gifted songwriters, instrumentalists, and vocalists, but the fact one of those guys happens to run a studio and is an experienced engineer has allowed them the opportunity to hone their studio craft so it's on a par with their other talents. The trio's third album, 2021's Chapter Three, is that rarity in indie power pop albums, an LP where the production and studio savvy is as intelligent and satisfying as the material they've documented. Given how good these songs are, that says a great deal -- Keith Klingensmith, Andy Reed, and Chris Richards have delivered another dozen gems on their third full-length project, mixing engaging melodies with lyrics that run from joyous ("Light Up the Sky") to haunted ("Pain") to bittersweet ("That's All") to pointed ("The World is Mine"), and make all those emotions ring true. Though the guitars dominate the proceedings as you might expect (this IS a power pop band), the group has the savvy to make use of a good vintage keyboard sound, and the '70s style synth patches on "Make Things Up" and "That's All" and classic organ tone on "Don't Read Between the Lines" and "The Painter" are the seasoning that brings out the flavors in those tunes. All three Legal Matters are fine singers, and along with their effective lead vocals, they can harmonize beautifully, and the Beach Boys meets Big Star tone of the layered voices is a delight. And the guys were smart enough to bring in a top-notch drummer, and Donny Brown (best known for his long tenure with the Verve Pipe) gives the music a strong rhythmic backbone that adds to the effectiveness of the material without getting in the way. In a genre where some acts take pride in sounding trapped in emotional adolescence, the Legal Matters sound smart and mature on Chapter Three without sacrificing the emotional warmth of the music, and this is more than a set of very good songs -- this is an album in the classic sense, where the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and you don't have to be a power pop obsessive to find this worth your while. Four stars (out of five) - Mark Deming
There are very few artists I know that consistently come out with great music (Nick Piunti and Sloan are good examples) and The Legal Matters is one of them. The Legal Matters is essentially a supergroup, featuring Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith. In Chapter Three, the band’s songwriting takes center stage, as the sound is pretty nailed down with crisp, perfect harmonies akin to America or late-era Beach Boys. At their most dynamic, the melodic “Light Up The Sky” is everything that makes The Legal Matters a power-pop powerhouse. “Independence Well Spent” is a Jellyfish-like study in contrast of light and dark moments in the instrumentation, and “The Painter” is about creativity and inspiration within the mind of the artist and it features some great hooks in the chorus.
Brilliant uplifting music is the band’s stock-in-trade, but they don’t stay in that lane. “Pain” is a challenging ballad, written from a unique point of view where “I need the pain to know I’m alive.” Another highlight is the bouncy “Please Make a Sound,” with a compelling, urgent chorus. They go off-script again for “The World Is Mine” and it plays like a perfect stage villain theme, it’s not overtly political but you get all the clues in the lyrics. Not a note of filler, but the challenging nature of some songs further expands the band’s stylistic range. The songwriting process itself is the subject of “A Memory of Sound” chock full of sonic goodies, and it ends with the angelic harmonies of “Passing Chord.” Highly Recommended and another predictable top ten pick for best album of 2021. 9 out of 10 - Aaron Kupferberg
As the title would suggest, this is the third full-length offering from Michigan popsters the Legal Matters, whose membership rolls include Keith Klingensmith, Chris Richards, and Andy Reed. All three sing—their pristine signature harmonies pervade nearly all of the dozen tunes—and Richards and Reed each composed six songs. It's their strongest release to date, with a slap of sunshine right out of the gate with "Light Up the Sky," a Pet Sounds-worthy ballad in "Passing Chord," and what might be their best-ever track, "The Painter," which sounds like some sort of otherworldly cross between a primo Wings ballad and a Plastic Ono Band number. Other numbers showcase a lyrical depth that is most welcomed, little daubs of synthesizer here and there, and, of course, some of the silkiest harmonies in the indie-pop biz. Don't miss the plaintively lovely "You Sure Can't Blame Her" and the Zombies-like psych-pop moves on a few of the tunes. Great care was obviously taken with every aspect of Chapter Three and it certainly shows—this is a top-shelf winner. Grade: A - John Borack
I Don't Hear A Single (April 2021)
I avoid mentioning lockdown and Covid in reviews, not out of callousness, but in a belief that music should be a diversion from the strain. I will mention it here though, because as we see signs of coming out of the tunnel, I can think of no better album to accompany me than one by The Legal Matters. The trio seem to be joined at the hip. I always assume that if I tell one something, he will tell the others, I don't need to contact all three. This expands into their music which always comes across as brotherly, tight and united. There is a real bond between the three and this album more than any confirms that. I thought I'd look at a couple of other reviews of Chapter Three, not because I'm a magpie. but to see if those reviews concurred with my thoughts. Being honest, they don't really. I see comparisons to Big Star, Fountains Of Wayne, Weezer and The Beach Boys. There may the odd bit somewhere that does, but largely I don't hear any of that.The Legal Matters have far more in common with a band like Crowded House and the harmonies are more Simon And Garfunkel or The Everly Brothers. The songs are divided equally between Chris Richards and Andy Reed, but this is no dictatorial song writing, the three work on all the songs together to expand what is initially brought to the table. The fact that one member writes the odd numbered songs, the other the even, may concern some about track sequencing. It did me as I (wrongly) associated Reed with the slower numbers and Richards with any pace. Well that certainly isn't the case here. I would never have associated Andy Reed with the wonderful The World Is Mine. It is all barrel piano, a little Toytown Psych and has far more in common with bands Like The Successful Failures. That's All is all Roy Orbison 60's twang and could almost appear on the American Graffiti soundtrack. You would think Reed wrote it, he didn't. This also underlines how collaborative the album is. The Painter is spot on 70's Piano Pop yet Please Make A Sound has a cracking 80's synth sound running through it. Make Things Up is splendid twang. A Memory Of Sound is jaunty pop at its very best and the closer, Passing Chord is an absolute vocal masterpiece. The Legal Matters usually do mellow best and there is plenty here to keep those fans happy. But there seems to be more chances taken on this third album and boy do they work. The harmonies are as tight as ever, but the songs seem to have even more oomph. There are plenty of bands that harmonise well. Perhaps, a few too many that made that California scene a little done. They should have gone to Michigan, because The Legal Matters could come up with any of those albums easily, but no other band could have come up with something as varied and great as this. Highly Recommended! - Don Valentine
In 2014, an indie pop “supergroup” called The Legal Matters debuted with their first eponymous LP. The group, composed of Keith Klingensmith (Hippodrome, the Phenomenal Cats), Andy Reed (An American Underdog), and Chris Richards (Hippodrome, the Phenomenal Cats, Chris Richards & the Subtractions) released a second LP in 2016 — the phenomenal Conrad.
Five years later, the group has returned with Chapter 3. The question with this third album is whether they can keep the momentum going from Conrad after five years.
The answer is a resounding yes. Chapter 3 encompasses what this blog is all about: lots of hooks and harmonies. In fact, the album is full of earworms that will keep you humming even after one listen.
Take, for instance, the opening cut, “Light Up the Sky.” It begins with a harmless verse that you think may repeat, but instead, not even 30 seconds into the song, it changes keys and bursts forth into a chorus in another key like a blinding bit of sunshine — the kind of melody that makes your head spin. It’s so addicting, you’re waiting through the second set of verses to get to that marvelous chorus again.
A second example? Look no further than the second cut, “Independence Well Spent,” which begins the same way – guitar riff, verse, and boom! — another marvelous chorus. It’s something The Legal Matters has always been good at, and it continues for the rest of the album. “Please Make a Sound” doesn’t wait for the chorus, with a stellar verse and bridge to complement the tension in the chorus.
The vocals are superb on Chapter 3, and nowhere are they more apparent than on the final cut, “Passing Chord,” in which the group is almost a capella, their voices echoing seemingly forever to a slow, almost spiritual accompaniment of a piano and organ. It’s the perfect ending to yet another fantastic release by The Legal Matters. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another five years for Chapter 4. - Peter Lee
MusicTAP, Futureman Records and myself are very pleased to announce the release of Chapter Three, the third album from Michigan’s The Legal Matters. With two successful and incredibly memorable, embraceable and tuneful previous releases (the self-titled debut and 2016’s Conrad) under their belts, the band are excited to present their third opus… Chapter Three.
The two previous albums garnered high praise for the bands’ classic vocal harmonies and catchy melodies: “The Legal Matters have ‘it’ —that glorious something special. Highly recommended.”—Popdose“ …and the latest album continues to present these unique talents in a 12-song collection, filled with more ear-worm melodies reflecting the times we live in and the times The Legal Matters live in.
Channeling all you love about The Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star, et al and infusing it with their own personality, the band continues to grow and mature while retaining the enthusiasm for beautiful, harmonic pop songs. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith – all notable figures on the Midwest power pop scene – once again handle vocal and instrumental duties with the help of Donny Brown(ex-Verve Pipe)on drums.
A quick and reasonable disclaimer: I’ve listened to, reviewed and enjoyed to no end the first two Legal Matters albums – both have an incredible wealth of melody, structure and punch. That’s my quote from Popdose that the band included in their press release – and it’s not b.s. This is one damned fine band, so with this third release, I went into it with the hopes that the caliber of the songs were as high a quality as the first two; that COVID-19 hadn’t wrought anything negative upon the band, etc. and I’m very pleased to report that my thoughts were rational but unnecessary, because once again, the boys have scored the hat-trick.
“Light Up The Sky” (video featured below) opens up the album – and immediately I thought of The Posies – small wonder – both great bands; both know how to kick off albums with strong standout tracks and the song has that Posies-esque feel, which I can immediately devour – and this song has a very distinctive ’70’s vibe, which made me feel very warm; “Independence Well Spent” has a heavier “rock” feel and progresses in a classic manner, with different movements – right away, I can hear that the band is going beyond their previous boundaries and they succeed with stellar results; “That’s All” goes in a completely different direction; acoustic-based with delicious country undertones and beautiful backing harmonies and “Don’t Read Between The Lines” screams of a good old-fashioned “radio hit” – how can you listen to this and NOT think this should be coming out of a car stereo, riding high on the charts?
“Please Make A Sound” is perfect power-pop: all the elements that I look for (and what I utilize when I write songs) – melody and then some, harmonies, riffs (including a glorious use of synthesizer lines), uptempo and 100% on-the-one (most favored track status here!); “The World Is Mine” has a mid-’60’s “sinister” tinge to it – think old spy movies and tension building cinematic moments – this is such a magnificent surprise and should (if there’s any justice in the world) be used as a theme song for a thriller; “You Sure Can’t Blame Her” is something I would actually expect to hear on modern country radio, as this is a perfect piece to be showcased on Circle TV or Dittty TV’s Americana network – once again showing The Legal Matters are NOT locked into just one sound and style and “Passing Chord” is the album’s closer and the absolutely right way to end the proceedings – an amalgam of Beatles/Beach Boys-styled piano elegy with atmospheric production and hauntingly beautiful vocals awash with harmonies.
Reviews are supposed to be objective critiques – well, okay. Speaking in strict terms, this album is undoubtedly my (already) #1 contender for Album Of The Year – it really doesn’t get better than this. There are so few artists/bands out there right now – some, but not many – that can execute the way The Legal Matters do. So they’d better start stepping up, because The Legal Matters, with Chapter Three, are absolutely on top of their game. A massively powerful and thrilling musical ride. - Rob Ross MusicTAP
The other night I pulled up the new album from The Legal Matters, Chapter Three. I’ve had the finished version for a while but needed to give it a few more spins in anticipation of fulfilling my promise to write about the release.
When you listen to new music, especially when it is in anticipation of providing some form of critique, it is not unusual to play a game of “sounds like,” where you describe the kind of touchstones and influences that will help the reader get a feel for an artist’s or band’s recorded work.
It finally occurred to me that what Chapter Three sounds like is The Legal Matters. More effort than luck, and certainly holding a huge dose of charm, this third album cements that the band indeed has its own defined sound.
In the spirit of the title, I decided to try and break that down into Three Things that are essential to The Legal Matters sound.
When you talk about vocals in pop music, most people immediately think “pipes.” The kind of big voices and scalar gymnastics that populate the celebrity-based music market and talent contests like “The Voice” are often described as gifts, or something you simply have. You are born with it and likely look for ways to show it off.
There is another type of singer who has to work a little more to find their voice. They need to work through their influences. They need to find their confidence. They find their favorite chords and their functional limits.
They probably find they are at their best when singing their own words, because that is when they sound their most honest. There is a purity that can only exist when an artist says “This is my voice. This is what I have to say. This is how I’m going to say it.”
I’m just happy to hear an album with no yodeling in lieu of intentional vocal melodies. We all should thank the band for that.
The other obvious attribute is the way the core trio of the Legal Matters - Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith – blend their voices into harmony parts. While a lot of bands use harmony, it is usually as a decoration or to fill out an arrangement. With the Legal Matters, these vocal parts aren’t an accoutrement, they are a feature and a pretty fabulous one at that.
If rock and roll has a glaring fault, it’s the glorification of machismo. The reality is most of what they sing about doesn’t reflect our actual lives and we all kind of roll our eyes as cock rockers and dime store cowboys sing about their various conquests.
Thing is guys – most guys, anyway – think about other stuff. Like their own perceived weaknesses. Their unspoken hopes. Their obstacles, real or imagined.
The Legal Matters are willing to tell you about being head over heels with a crush. They’ll tell you what it’s like to feel misunderstood. Or to run out of the right words and blurt out something unfortunate. Or the effects of chronic pain on you or the individuals around you. Or the self-reflection that only comes when a mentor and role model passes.
It’s a whole ‘nother trick to take all that and make it sound like a beautiful experience. The Legal Matters are able to do just that. Now THAT is a gift.
3. Instrumental Ingenuities
As proud practitioners of Power Pop, with the full arsenal of gear and production capabilities of Reed Recording Company at their disposal, the band has also forged an identity around their unique compositional twists and instrumental arrangements.
In a world where a lot of bands get away with chugging along with the same well-worn progressions, the Legal Matters will throw you a twist. You can’t help but smile with you hear something like a quick offbeat keyboard interlude pop up to stitch two sections of a song together or a “jangle and scream” guitar solo that channels and builds the emotional tone of the song in a way that a “tap / slap / sweep picking master” won’t ever achieve no matter how many notes they unleash on the ear of the listener.
Rather than building on riffs like the blues rockers and or chopping wood on the same handful of cowboy chords, the Legal Matters develop more complex motifs. They combine advanced songwriting chops with an innate ability to use multi-track recording technology to their advantage. You can tell this is a painstaking effort, with all its glory revealed in the details.
This is the point that you actually come full circle with the comparisons, except rather than thinking “this record sounds like,” you start thinking “this record holds up to…”
The names I insert in that slot are good ones. Big ones. Because as much as anything I have heard in a while, Chapter Three reminds me of the albums from my youth that made me want to sit and listen.; the ones that ended up providing the most comfort when I needed music the most.
At this point you might have noticed that I just wrote an entire review without name dropping a single track. That was intentional. Chapter Three is now available to purchase on vinyl, compact disc, and digital download. It can also be streamed on all of the popular music services. What I’d really like you to do is go check out this music for yourself. You’ll find all the necessary track listings and credits there. If what I described above sounds good to you, I think you’ll find it easy to build your own relationship with this set of songs. Matt de Hues
The Legal Matters are much more than simply a band of musicians. They are like a meeting of the minds between three notable figures on the Midwest Power Pop scene sharing similar sensibilities and consist of Andy Reed, Keith Klingensmith, and Chris Richards - three songwriters possessing unique talents who have created an exceptional new album to showcase those talents in the 12-song collection that comprises their third studio release titled Chapter Three. Filled with sparkling melodies and lyrics reflecting the times we live in, on this third release The Legal Matters continue to grow and mature while retaining their enthusiasm for beautiful harmonic pop songs. Also featuring the drumming of Verve Pipe co-founder Donny Brown, the 12 fresh tracks on Chapter Three cover all variety of topics ranging from the Pandemic, Trump, honesty, affliction and affections while framing these topics within a musical cushion capable of catapulting one’s consciousness into that rarified air of heavenly bliss. Released on Futureman Records, the group’s two successful prior releases (their self-titled debut and 2016’s ‘Conrad’) both garnered high praised for the band’s vocal harmonies and catchy melodies) and after listening to Chapter Three if I were to give it a one-word review the best word that comes to mind is simply, ‘WOW!’ Never in my lifetime did I think I would hear a band that could channel all the things I love about groups like The Beatles, the Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, and even CSNY in their purest and most unpolluted form, as reflected on such tracks like Passing Chord, and manage to distill all these influences in a manner that is still original and distinct - possessing a collective sound that is anything but derivative; and therefore forging new creative ground in the process. On Chapter Three one can safely say The Legal Matters have definitely accomplished that amazing feat. On the song Please Make a Sound, which would make an excellent single release, and with each of the tracks on Chapter Three, the songwriting is superb and stylistically very divergent; yet nothing sounds out of place or forced. After all the loneliness imposed upon us over the past year, this one cuts it all loose and is fueled with uplift and energy. “We’ve been making music together for 7 years now and from the first time we went to B-Dubs and drank too much and said we should make a record together, I realized how much I enjoyed collaborating with these guys,” explains Andy. “I’ve made a ton of solo records, but this band has become my ‘A Project’ if you will. It’s the project I like to bring my best material to and focus on the quality of the recordings as much as I can.” “Chris & Keith knew one another long before meeting me, and now they’re two of my best friends,” continues Reed. “We like to stretch out and try stuff we’re not normally comfortable doing in our usual projects and that’s the best part of it. First and foremost we’re all music heads and feel we’re just scratching the surface of diving into the styles that we love collectively.” “Now that we’ve made a couple records, going into our third we all know our harmony formula and patterns,’ reflects Andy. “If Chris brings a new song we kind of instinctively know if a 3-piece stacked harmony belongs there or not, and can build the rest of the song around it. Collectively, vocals are almost our primary instrument, so once we get the groundwork laid we can go into the rest of production and think what would be good for that particular tune.” “Every time we go into the studio we try different things,” notes Andy. “This new release has a little more keyboard action on it, whereas the first album was more guitar driven and the second was a hodgepodge of both. We’ve evolved and musically this extension comes from the fact we like to stretch ourselves into different sounds; but maintaining that strong vocal core is the thing that makes us The Legal Matters.” “As we approached this record, as a general rule we’ll do demos of our songs on an I-Phone with no .preconceived tempos or extra parts and let the song basically take us where it wants to go,” states Keith. “The songs have led us to this natural evolution of what ended up being the material of Chapter Three.” Given their amazing vocal harmonies and sensibilities, does the group spend much time working on their incredible harmonies? “Strangely, that’s one of the easiest things we do,” reflects Chris. “Each record we make differently. The last release we did two songs a weekend over a six month period, but this one was more laid back. When we started this in late 2018 I’d just come off making a Subtractions record and was hesitant about writing six songs for this project that would be any good because I’d just written 10 songs for that record, and I’m not a hit machine, that’s for sure.” “We make the musical bed live with the lead vocal and then go and do what we need, whether its triple-stacking the vocals like CSNY or doing a Beatles or Beach Boys type of thing. The best thing about Legal Matters recordings to me is that we do what we’re supposed to and then someone comes with a new part and we get stupid giggly, which makes it so exciting and for me that’s the magic.” “We’ll do our thing and then set aside time to add production and sit with that for a while and sometimes find more spots to enhance with vocal parts. That’ doesn’t happen all the time, but we stress the harmonies as the primary instrument in our band - it’s the only musical element that we consider a primary thing.” “We didn’t run into too many stumbling blocks,” interjects Chris, “and I love it when people pick-up on our influences, because we never take a song and think, ‘Let’s go make this a Zombie or a Weezer song’. Whatever overtones or influences people sense all come naturally.” With songwriting that is so accomplished and fresh yet still echoes with accessible familiarity, do The Legal Matters write their material the way Lennon & McCartney did in the early days, eyeball-to-eyeball? “Chris and Andy did most of these songs and then we worked them up together,” explains Keith. “The three of us are open-minded and want the other two’s opinion.” The group says they started working on Chapter Three two-and-a-half years ago. “We started on it back in 2018 with our first aborted tries and it was slow going due to the pandemic, notes Chris. “Everything took steam in the winter of 2019,” adds Andy. “We hit some strides before Christmas and had a couple songs we knew were good to keep, but then the Pandemic hit and things slowed down. We chipped away at it and really had no end game or illusion of what the deadline would be. We just kind of did it and put faith the process. Now that we’ve worked together so much we knew things would be okay and just focused on getting the work done.” Despite the up-tempo musical exuberance that colors Chapter Three, causing one to marvel that much of this material was written in the midst of such a disruptive Pandemic that touched everybody’s lives, was the band consciously trying to give people a sense of optimism in the midst of all the darkness?
“Music is a main outlet for us and one of the favorite things we love to do,” reflects Andy, “and the three of us realize we’re just happy to be around each other making music together because its who we are. That positivity that comes through is the sound of 3 friends making a record together. We’re doing it for ourselves and this band - especially with Donny involved and playing drums on everything - is a great way to create and get ourselves out there. “I think that positivity that you hear coming out is three friends who over a 2-year period only had time to see each other when we were working. Normally, without the Pandemic, we would also be hanging out, or going to Detroit for something and grabbing a drink; so just being around each other and doing something together was a treat.” “I would like to add that a lot of those happy songs also have some not so happy lyrics,” interjects Keith. “They may sound uplifting, but there’s darker stuff tucked in there. As for the talents and input of The Legal Matter’s unofficial 4th member, Donny Brown, the group is on solid agreement that he brings much to the table. “He played on most of our last record, Conrad, and he told us that he wanted to play drums on everything with this latest outing,” confesses Andy. “He loves all three of us as people and loves the music we’re making and wants to be part of it and we want him. He brings so much energy to these tracks. He’s very close to being an official member.”
“He’s an Illegal Matter on probation,” jokes Chris.
Chapter Three will be released on April 30th and available on Spotify and all digital music providers, with physical copies of CD’s and Vinyl available through Bandcamp and LegalMatters.com. “Lots of bundles are available for the new record and CD along with our previous two albums, so people have lots of options,” notes Andy. “The CD and Vinyl copies will also be available at Electric Kitsch and Dearborn Music; plus we’ll be offering a version with an Alternative cover that the band is going to sign and slip in front of the poly-sleeve.” As an award-winning recording engineer, Andy is especially excited about the vinyl version of this new release. “We received the test pressing a few weeks ago an it sounds incredible,” he enthuses. “Kim Rosen mastered the record and its one of the best cut records I’ve ever been involved with. I’m excited about people listening to the vinyl version because it sounds amazing. To do that a lot of things fall into place. You can’t just rip the digital file and expect the LP to sound good, so we had a specific master for the vinyl version and it translates really well in that format.” Look for the Deluxe Bundle which includes 12” LP (140gm black), CD, Hi-Res Download of Chapter Three as well as instrumental only mixes (not available commercially going forward), 12x12 Chapter Three art print (signed by the band) and a super set of Legal Matters buttons. Chapter Three contains some of the best Pop/Rock writing and performing I've heard in a long time. If this release doesn’t gain national traction, there is most definitely something severely wrong with the world. - Robert E Martin
The Legal Matters are a union of singer songwriters consisting of well respected names such as Andy Reed, Keith Klingensmith, and Chris Richards. It could be that they are lifelong friends and I suppose if I was that way inclined, I would have trawled the recesses of google to establish the how/why/when etc.
However, I rarely do such things before a review, as I prefer to form my own opinions about the ‘actual sound’, without being swayed by the thoughts of other reviews, the band’s history or what I perhaps ‘should be looking out for’.
As such, uncluttered by such possible intrusions, it is plain to hear that their is a warmth and naturality to Chapter Three and indeed their previous two albums (their eponymous debut of 2014 and Conrad of 2016), that gives the feeling that this band thrive on complete comfortability as a group or perhaps even some sort of precious innate understanding, that only really exists by unlimited practice or by the complete, unusual happenchance, that very occasionally results in a genuine natural affinity. I always plump for the latter, as I am a romantic old soul.
This sense of easy warmth is best seen in Light Up The Sky, Don’t Read Between The Lines and Makes Things Up. Here the great modern power-pop voices that are given vehicles of expression in acts such as The Orange Peels, Teenage Fanclub and Dropkick, act as a foundation upon which sumptuous melodies and harmonies are layered with seemingly no effort. Its perfect laconic power-pop, which is never afraid to cherry pick from the best of classic rock, to add a bit of extra guitar expression.
Of course we could just add this act to the above list of greats and walk away safe in the knowledge that they are succeeding in augmenting a very special part of our collections. However, The Legal Matters are more than that, as there is a playfulness that visits the other musical nuances, that are plainly dear to them.
As such we see The Painter, Pain and You Sure Can’t Blame Her drop the tempo, accentuate the piano and slide seamlessly into perfect 70’s pop machinations, whereas crunchy, hazy psyche rock is visited in That’s All and 60s melodies galore and psyche-pop weirdness are juxtaposed in A Memory of Sound.
It has been five years since the last The Legal Matters full length and this release just serves to remind us that such a hiatus is too long ! Grab a wonderful slice of vinyl, from the always essential Futureman Records, here.
This Michigan harmony pop band have been on the scene for a few years and at least two of the members, Andy Reed and Chris Richards have solo stuff out (and third member Keith Klingensmith runs the ultra fine Futureman Records label….all three sing and for this recording they’ve added Donny Brown on the drums). Their previous record 2016’s Conrad, hit me immediately but this new one, took some plays to really sink in. I really like it now after several plays but found this record to be more of one that needed to grow on me. Having said that “Light Up the Sky” is a great opener all heavenly melody (that one didn’t need to grow on me as I loved it immediately) while “The Painter” is a near-masterpiece on par with anything off of Let It Be (Beatles not the ‘mats). “Don’t Read Between The Lines” rides the perfect wave of melody and Reed’s “Pain” sounds like something off of Straight Up or No Dice and they kick up the tempo and melody on the flat-out great “Please Make A Sound”. The band really stretched outs its talents on this record (and added some depth in the lyric dept) and I have to say, after several listens I believe this is the Legal Matter’s best record (topping Conrad was tough but they did it). Very recommended and then some.
The Big Takeover (April 2021)
Michigan’s power-pop savants follow 2017’s fan-enticement Trapper Keeper EP (free at Bandcamp) with a gorgeously-rendered third LP. This is essential listening for fans of Fountains of Wayne, Jellyfish, Teenage Fanclub, Matthew Sweet, Jayhawks, etc. The sparkling “Light Up the Sky” ignites like a slow-motion firework display as the backdrop to budding summer romance, while the wistful “That’s All” takes notes from Burt Bacharach brass, Laurel Canyon harmonies, and wisps of Rubber Soul-era Beatles, while recognizing unchangeable traits of a relationship that nonetheless persists. “We can’t laugh anymore, but we can sing,” sings Chris Richards. Andy Reed celebrates an underappreciated iconoclast in “The Painter,” over a foundation of thrumming John Lennon-style piano, and a bouncing romp with sputtering psych-rock guitar, “A Memory of Sound” marvels at the joy of making music. - Jeff Elbel
Popdose - (Highly Recommended)
Two years ago, Popdose introduced you to The Legal Matters, the brilliant Michigan-based trio of Keith Klingensmith, Chris Richards and Andy Reed. Their self-titled debut was easily one of the best things to hit this writer’s ears that year and made my year-end list. Now they’re back, they’ve been signed by the good folks at Omnivore (didn’t I tell you they know great music?) and their sophomore effort, Conrad, has just been unleashed. And if you thought the first one was great, you’re going to lose your shit when you hear this gem.
I’m not sure if I’d equate “I’m Sorry Love” with the White Album – it sounds more like it comes from Abbey Road, with those arrangements and those harmonies (Jesus, how much more perfect can you possibly get? Seriously – listen closely.); “Anything” shimmers like the sun off the water in the summertime – the chiming intertwined guitars and, again, the harmonies on the chorus that fits the gentility of the melody (this is quintessential radio-pop – and goddamn it, this is another one of those songs I’d love to hear while I’m driving) and a great key shift on the middle 8. “Minor Key” is the perfect Beach Boys/Big Star skewering, bringing the two sounds together pretty seamlessly; the detailed guitars, the harmonies, the tempo and melody – rich and textured and with that great recurring guitar and drums riff; “Short Term Memory” is the down-and-dirtier side of the band, like a rockier Hollies, around the period of Evolution or Butterfly and “More Birds, Less Bees” is the clever 7th and 9th chords-driven track that sounds like it would have been the opening theme to a late ’60’s film with a groovy girl and a sweet but misguided guy – these guys know how to write songs that fit every facet and situation.
Eleven tracks – I’ve given you five to begin with, savor and digest slowly so that they remain. Go grab a copy now – seriously, don’t even wait. And as usual, when I tell you something is that good, it’s no lie. The Legal Matters have it – even more now than they did before. Rob Ross 2016
All Music Guide (4 out of 5 Stars)
The debut album from the Legal Matters was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2014, a collaboration between three power pop cult heroes from Michigan that revealed they had even more to offer as a trio. Given how good The Legal Matters was, the strength of their second album together, Conrad, is a bit less unexpected, but that doesn't change the fact it's a genuine improvement on the debut. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith worked very well together on the first album, but they're clearly a bit more comfortable with one another on Conrad, and their individual songwriting styles mesh more easily the second time around. While all 11 tracks on Conrad are credited to individual members of the band, this plays more like a group effort, with each member bending their sound to the needs of the trio. Lyrically, these tunes are sometimes witty (the updated nostalgia of "Short Term Memory"), sometimes pensive ("More Birds Less Bees" ponders the mysteries of relationships), and always recognizably human and heartfelt (especially on "The Cool Kid," which contemplates the ways in which we never shake off the high school caste system). The group's harmonies are splendid on these sessions, with vocals that often recall the best moments of Big Star's #1 Record (and a few moments that would make Brian Wilson smile). The Legal Matters' way with a melody is even stronger and more pleasurable the second time around, and the production is straightforward but full of nice details like the Mellotron on "The Cool Kid" and the very '70s synth patches on "Better Days." (The album was recorded at Reed's studio, and his engineering and mixing skills are on point here.) Splendid in concept and execution, Conrad is a must for fans of 21st century smart pop, and hopefully this trio has more great music up their sleeves. Mark Demming 2016
Power Popaholic (10 out of 10)
One of the most anticipated releases this year was from The Legal Matters (Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith) a power pop supergroup that impressed many 2 years ago. The band has matured into a more cohesive unit and Conrad feels more confident, more buoyant and pushes the boundaries of the term power pop to what I would call “Adult-Oriented Power Pop,” and if you listen to the new Teenage Fanclub album Here, you’ll be in similar territory.
The bands influences have blended into each other, and the sound is now to closer to Crowded House meets Jellyfish meets America. “Anything” is a mid-tempo opener with stunning harmonies in its chorus that’s just brimming with optimism. “I’m Sorry Love” is a Jellyfish-like ballad with multiple shifts in tone and warbling guitar lines. Next, “Minor Key” is a perfect mid-tempo offering and then the band lets loose on “Short Term Memory” about the ephemeral nature of musical hooks and asks “who killed all the rock and roll stars?” Another gem “She Called Me To Say” is a catchy tune with some great bass and shimmering guitar work.There are also a few acoustic-driven personality sketches like “Pull My String” and “The Cool Kid” that are loaded with authenticity. We also get a very Posies-like power ballad “Hip Hooray” and it ends with the McCartneyesque “Better Days” explaining the dual message that better days are both behind us and in front of us. No filler, and not typical disposable music, this album needs to be digested over several listens. Overall this a meticulously crafted piece of pop that deserves to be somewhere in my top ten and earns my highest rating. Aaron Kupferberg 2016
What happens when you take sugary Teen Beat harmonies, marry them to chunky guitar tones, and then throw in grownup lyrics? You get a timeless power pop treasure that instantly feels like a classic. On their second album, Conrad, Detroit band The Legal Matters have crafted songs of love and loss and wrapped them in sunny sweet melodies with just the right amount of ache.
Conrad is the kind of album that makes you want to give it to all your power-pop loving friends with a knowing smile. It’s Beatlesesque, via Jellyfish. It’s like Matthew Sweet is fronting the Judys (minus the nuttiness of the Judys). It’s like Sloan’s Jay Ferguson got to take over the band entirely and created an album that fully embraces that AM radio aesthetic. And the cover is adorable.
Every track on Conrad is awash in glorious layers of harmony from Chris Richards, Andy Reed, and Keith Klingensmith. It’s delicious. And charming. The aching yearn of “Anything” is cuddled by the lovely harmonies, and “Minor Key” has a wonderful Beach Boys-like shimmer to it. “I’m Sorry Love” boasts a wonderful, ear-catching bridge that makes a relisten mandatory.
Even when they get a bit cross, The Legal Matters wrap that pain in deliciousness. “Short Term Memory” is sweet, angry nostalgia/”what the hell happened to music and culture?” in a tasty package of meaty guitars. The stinging lyrics of “Pull My String” are enveloped in gorgeous harmony and melody and that spoonful of sugar makes the bitterness go down. “The Cool Kid,” with sweet swooning harmonies, is wistful feeling and dissolves in a glorious fadeout.
Conrad is an accomplished, solid album. It’s the kind of album you want to disappear into. The Legal Matters takes the guilty pleasure out of power pop (if that’s your sort of guilt). The lyrics are “older and wiser.” They’re a bit rueful, a bit wistful; grownup lyrics cloaked in delicious sweet boy harmonies and melodies. The words resonate about painful, adult things that maybe you understand better if you’ve been heartbroken a few times. Or a lot of times.
Midwest-based group The Legal Matters is the power pop supergroup made up of members from bands you’ve likely never heard of (Hippodrome, anyone? The Phenomenal Cats? An American Underdog?). Regardless their collaboration in The Legal Matters is bound to bring the attention these guys clearly deserve. Drawing from bands like Big Star, The Posies, and Jellyfish, their second effort, Conrad, is a reminder of just how few great power pop bands are left today. This record fills that void nicely. Crammed with jangly guitars and sweet harmonies, there is hardly a false step on the record, from the slow burn of the album opener, “Anytime,” to the bittersweet closer, “Better Days.” And in between the album brims over with earnest lyrics and hard-to-forget melodies. This is a promising start to the power pop revival. John B Moore 2017
SEGARINI: DON'T BELIEVE A WORD I SAY - Best of 2016
Meanwhile, from the fine folk over at Omnivore who, on the most recent Record Store Day alone brought us lotsa Bangles, Beach Boys and Big Star present (to kinda quote the sticker right there on the CD cover) the highly anticipated second hook-filled and harmony-drenched release from Michigan’s Keith Klingensmith, Chris Richards and Andy Reed. And while absolutely no time whatsoever is wasted as “Anything” lulls ‘n’ floats most gently in on a lush Badfinger-by-way-of-Crowded House bed of ooooh’s, ahhhh’s and six strings, these Legal Matters, baby, are never content to toil merely within the boundaries of any musical pigeonhole: there’s “More Birds Less Bees” which goes one further plus deeper into vintage – guess who? – Bachman/Cummings territory while the sweet chilling “Pull My String” adds a slight scoop of Townshend, but with the ’tude toned properly down. May I add “The Cool Kid” should henceforth be piped through the PA at the conclusion of each and every International Pop Overthrow festival clear round the globe? Andy’s Reed Recording Company right there in Bay City, MI checks that all sounds shimmer, yet pack punch when need be, ensuring and reassuring any out there who may often fret over who killed all the rock and roll stars – yes, the ones that used to make us wanna learn our guitars in the first place. Gary Pig Gold 2017
Pure Pop Radio
The Legal Matters set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music.
On the inside left panel of the gatefold sleeve of The Association’s 1970 double album “Live”, a list of the band members, titled The Players, fed into a section titled And Their Instruments, which named usual suspects such as guitars, drums and bass guitar along with suspects that were perhaps not so usual for a rock ‘n’ roll album: soprano recorder, tenor recorder, and pocket trumpet.
And, in the manner that cast credits for a film or television show might spotlight a particular actor–and Kiefer Sutherland, for example–the following was noted, perhaps as an afterthought to some: “and the human voice.” As a 15-year-old, music obsessed boy whose world turned around rich vocal harmonies, this was the most important piece of information on offer for an album that was, for me, a monumental achievement.
My young world, as informed as it was by my favorite comic book artists–Neal Adams, Gil Kane, Berni Wrightson–my stamp collection, my dedication to the television shows that defined my generation–The Twilight Zone, The Flintstones, I Dream of Jeannie–and my transistor radio, which connected me to broadcasts both local and far away, was moreover defined by the sound of the human voice singing the songs that were written by my favorite recording artists.
The Beach Boys were certainly important to me for that very reason, as were The Four Seasons and The Association, whose records I cherished (no pun intended) and played probably more than those of any other artists in my collection (don’t tell John, Paul, George or Ringo). A committed vocal, with just the right amount of heart and soul, could stop me in my tracks, but a two- or three- or four-or-more-part rich harmony was something else again; it was something magical, something quite amazing.
Thankfully, the melodic pop music I have devoted my life to championing these past 21 years, in reviews and on the radio, very often continues to put the spotlight on the vocal harmonies that I so cherish. Bands like Kate Stephenson’s Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club carry on that vocal harmony tradition in a way that mirrors the many hours I spent as a child listening to music playing on my stereo and coming out of my transistor radio.
Another band that carries on the vocal harmony tradition and, indeed, practically redefines it, is The Legal Matters out of Detroit, Michigan, a long-standing, storied music town whose favorite musical sons are many and varied and legendary. It wouldn’t be out of line to include Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith in that group, such has been the level of acceptance of their wares on the part of fans of melodic pop music.A second album was inevitable. Its name is Conrad; the cover art depicts a mouthless, seemingly silent, colorfully shirted koala bear. The 11 songs are a natural progression from the 10 on the first release, taken at a slower, but not slow, pace; the harmonies are more intricate and deeply felt. The vocal harmonies are more up front and alive. This is the sound of a band that has come into its own, that has benefitted from time spent feeling each other out, turning complex vocal structures into seemingly simpler constructs that aren’t at all simple.
The rich, finely detailed vocal harmonies are the collective star of Conrad’s show, but by no means the only performer; the instrumentation, supplied by Andy, Chris, and Keith, with Donny Brown and Andy Dalton handling drum duties, is peerless, and the songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing.
But it’s the rich vocal harmonies that set Conrad apart from a slew of other, recent melodic pop music releases. Nowhere is this more evident and true than on the short, coda-like, penultimate track “Lull and Bye,” a virtually a cappella, powerful slice of emotion-filled vocalese that is a thrilling testament to the power of the human voice that The Association so aptly included in the list of instruments played on their “Live” album. Other than the beautiful harmonies, the only instrument in evidence is a ghostly, spare piano, barely heard, that acts as really nothing more than a light, percussive underpinning. This track is so powerful that it recalls Brian Wilson’s “One for the Boys,” a majestic cut included on his first, self-titled solo album.
In order to truly appreciate the power of “Lull and Bye,” one must listen to the vocals-only mix available to purchasers of Conrad as a download bonus. For this experience, the piano part is gone and only the lovely vocal harmonies remain. To listen to it is a thrilling experience, along the lines of listening to the most vibrant of The Beach Boys’ recordings, stripped of instrumentation.
The vocals-only mix of Conrad should be considered an important part of the total listening experience, especially for musicians and students of how-it-is-done, although, of course, you can and will enjoy the album proper without ever setting the bonus tracks into motion. In fact, forget I said anything; Conrad is just fine–perfect, really–as it is.
This year has been particularly rich–there is that word again–with strong albums released by both heritage artists and artists new to the melodic pop world stage. As always, artists who stress vocal harmony as a key element of their musical makeup rise to the top of the heap for me. In just 11 lovely songs, The Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments.- Alan Haber
The Legal Matters-Conrad. Power pop's Michigan mafia (Andy Reed, Chris Richards, Keith Klingensmith) reunite as The Legal Matters with Conrad, the followup to their excellent 2014 debut. There is a bit of a shift here to a softer pop (as opposed to the classic power pop seen on their individual releases, especially Richards) but it's all very well done. The mid-tempo "Anything" opens the album with aplomb and is featured on a promotional EP the band released on NoiseTrade last month. It's fitting that that EP contained an unreleased cover of a Teenage Fanclub tune since that's the operative sound on this track. "I'm Sorry Love" follows, a slice of baroque pop out of the Jon Brion playbook. Elsewhere, pop gems "Minor Key" and "Short Term Memory" provide a Beatlesque vibe and the plaintive "More Birds Less Bees" recalls Jellyfish when they dialed things back a few notches. Between this album and recent strong releases from Nick Piunti and Ryan Allen, I may have to establish "Michigan" and "non-Michigan" categories for the year-end best-of list.
Cool Dad Music
There are songs that make you smile as soon as you hear them; and there are more than a few of those songs on Conrad, the new release from The Legal Matters.
The Legal Matters hail from Detroit, Michigan; and Conrad is their second album. It was clear from their 2014 self-titled debut that the band's major influences were power pop icons like Big Star, Matthew Sweet, and Teenage Fanclub. Legal Matters have covered Teenage Fanclub's "Don't Look Back" and included it in a sampler that made the rounds last summer. With great tunes and terrific harmonies, that first album was a delight for power pop fans. And, like Teenage Fanclub, a Legal Matters album contains contributions from three songwriters: Chris Richards, Andy Reed, and Keith Klingensmith.
"Anything," the opening track written by Richards, is a stunner about a guy trying to tell his best girl he'll do anything to make her happy. It's a great tune with terrific harmonies and backing vocals and a middle eight and guitar break that lift the song into sublime territory.
In "More Birds Less Bees," a conversation takes place between a couple; but the guy doesn't quite get what's going on (It may be one of those "Let's just be friends" talks): "But it seems she's talking more birds and less bees / and I don't really know what it means / but she's making me weak at the knees." The melody grows and grows and there's a really nice mid-60s AM radio sound to the song -- the Turtles perhaps?
In addition to those two song,s Richards also wrote the short, sweet, hymn-like "Lull And Bye" that ends with some lovely Beach Boys-style harmonies.
Andy Reed's "I'm Sorry Love" and "She Called Me To Say" bring more of a big guitar sound to the Legal Matters mix. These songs also bring up one of The Legal Matters' other big influences, especially when it comes to harmonies: The Posies, notably that band's Dear 23 album.
The acoustic "The Cool Kid" can be seen as Reed's take on Big Star's "Thirteen." Both are about teenagers who don't quite fit in, both trying to win the heart of a girl. There's also a bit of Ben Folds Five's "Underground:" "I was never cool in school / I'm sure you don't remember me."
If "The Cool Kid" is Conrad's Alex Chilton song, "Pull My String," Keith Klingensmith's contribution to the album, is the Chris Bell song (as well as the song that highlights their love of Teenage Fanclub). In addition, it's where everything that makes The Legal Matters such a much-listen for power pop lovers like me can be found in just one song. Henry Lipput 2016
Had I been able to review “Conrad” last month, it most assuredly would have made my best of 2016 list. The Legal Matters hail from Michigan, which is increasingly becoming a hotbed of exceptional indie pop. Andy Reed (late of the Verve Pipe), Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith are all well known to pop aficionados, and “Conrad” aims to give the trio even greater visibility. This tuneful buffet is bursting with melodies that recall McCartney at his most winsome, sung with enough sunshine-soaked harmonies to make Brian Wilson blush. “I’m Sorry Love” bounces along to a mid-‘60’s Carnaby Street beat, while “More Birds Less Bees” reveals a sincere love of The Monkees’ best heartbreakers. Make no mistake, though, The Legal Matters are far more than the sum of their influences. Their sound is unmistakably their own, and there is a continuity of quality that inhabits all 11 of these tracks. “Conrad” is really something special. Dan Pavelich 2017
Pop That Goes Crunch!
The Legal Matters Lay Down Some Sonic Truth
The release of the follow-up by a band responsible for the single best long-player in a prior year is cause for great expectation. Even if the prior album ascended to a career-best apex that could never again be approached, the follow-up would at least be “very good” barring unforeseen circumstances. Not to worry in the case of The Legal Matters, however. The band’s new album, Conrad, is at least as good as their self-titled debut, which captured the top slot on my year-end list of the finest albums of 2014. Time will tell if it is even better than the freshman effort.
This attention to detail, particularly as it generates unexpected twists and turns, shines throughout Conrad. The next track, “I’m Sorry Love” builds drama and tension for its first three-quarters of a minute, only to cut the impending doom with a playful, almost music hall-like break. “Minor Key” continues the yin-yang, promising darkness by title but delivering brightness by sound.
Although Conrad plays largely in the mid-tempo playground — about which there is absolutely nothing wrong — the band does cut it loose on occasion. “Short-Term Memory” is nearly three-minutes of riffs and harmony, accented by a tasty guitar solo. “She Called Me To Say” is quite sneaky — structured acoustically and sung by Andy Reed with his characteristically sweet vocals before deciding its really a crunchy guitar rocker.
In the end, its these unexpected things that make Conrad so endearing and relentlessly interesting. “Lull And Bye,” the tenth song in the set, is but a minute of gorgeous harmonizing and a simple piano. Its totally out of left field, and absolutely brilliant.
Conrad does not know a bum note over its thirty-five or so minutes. There is no wasted space, no needless repetition, just eleven songs that use the time allotted to deliver sonic truth. It hits retail October 28, with all formats — CD, LP, download — available from Omnivore Records. The LP even comes with a bonus download of a vocal-only mix of all eleven songs. Avail yourself of that. Nobody will release better vocals this year. - Jeffrey Raskin 2016
Discussions Magazine - 2016: THE BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
The Legal Matters personify the sound of Power Pop. Their music manages to include huge portions of Power Pop’s three key ingredients — melodic hooks, luscious harmonies and shimmering guitars. They also manage to squeeze in plenty of warmth, heart, and honesty. The band’s three members – Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith –have been making music separately for years (Andy as An American Underdog, Chris with The Subtractions and Keith and Chris with The Phenomenal Cats) but once they combined forces as The Legal Matters, they became arguably the finest indie Pop band in the U.S. The Legal Matters follow-up their smashing debut with an album that lives up to expectations… and then some! Not only have they come up with yet another batch of great songs, the trio have upped the vocal harmony ante on CONRAD. The harmonies are so airy, light and beautiful that they sound like they are literally floating above the music. CONRAD is far from a carbon copy of their debut – it is more like an upgrade with bonus features.Stephen "Spaz" Schnee
We first heard and reviewed these guys a while back and we were very impressed with what we heard. Since that time word has spread about The Legal Matters. We're pleased to report that these three talented fellows have now found an appropriate home on the always-engaging Omnivore Recordings label. Guitar pop fanatics will instantly love this album. Conrad features pop tunes that soar into the sky and beyond. This is pure feelgood stuff that will remind listeners of classic pop bands like Fountains of Wayne, the Gigolo Aunts, and Teenage Fanclub. Great chord progressions, killer fat guitars, cool driving rhythms, and vocals that are out-of-this-world... Who could ask for anything more? This band is the trio comprised of Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith. These guys have obviously been influenced by all the right bands and artists. And now, with the release of this album, they're surely on a quick path to solid artistic success. This spins like a collection of hits from start to finish. Pop fans are sure to immediately embrace cool uplifting cuts like "Anything," "I'm Sorry Love," "Pull My String," "Hip Hooray," and "Better Days." Highly recommended. Top pick.
Elmore Magazine (94 out of 100)
Let’s have no talk of a sophomore slump around here. Conrad, the glorious second album from Detroit power-pop pushers, the Legal Matters, beats the dreaded curse with engaging, mood-elevating recordings that range from simple and catchy to breathtakingly sophisticated. In some sense, it almost feels too perfect– as if each immaculately crafted song was sent fully formed from a factory set in a technicolor Land of Oz– but therein lies the genius of the firm of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith. They make you believe again in songwriting magic, that with a wave of a wand all the rich, exquisite harmonies and every melodic flourish will turn out just as God and the Legal Matters intended, as “I’m Sorry Love” transforms into a colorful, Beatlesque carnival and “Minor Key” becomes flush with pop warmth. More wintery and delicate, “The Cool Kid” assumes the chilled expression of the Velvet Underground, while the bittersweet acoustic rendering of “Pull My String” aches with sincerity – both swept up beautifully in lush floods of string sounds. The product of keen attention to detail, of impeccable tailoring, Conrad is a charmer, the gentle, summery swing and romantic innocence of “More Birds Less Bees” as enticing as a hammock on a sunny, breezy afternoon and a slightly gnarly “Short Term Memory” invoking fond memories of Girlfriend-era Matthew Sweet. Every song gets a favorable verdict. -Peter Lindblad 2017
There might be plenty going wrong in this crazy old world we’re currently existing in, but the fact that a label like Omnivore is releasing a record like Conrad in 2016 should be a cause for some sort of celebration. Some are calling this a power pop record, but it seems to be a tad too sophisticated for that (somewhat) limiting tag – and besides, we’re not exactly dealing with an Iggy and the Stooges type of instrumental attack here. No, this is more pretty pop than power pop – Andy Reed, Keith Klingensmith, and Chris Richards write songs that are gently pleasing and they harmonize like choirboys throughout. (Of course, you can tell they’re not exactly choirboys because one of ‘em sings about “fucking up the scene” on the uncharacteristically loud – and great – “Short Term Memory.”) The best songs of the batch seem to be tucked in the middle of the disc: the deceptively cheery-sounding “She Called Me to Say,” the self-deprecating “The Cool Kid” and – especially – Klingensmith’s lone songwriting credit, the sublime, Teenage Fanclub-influenced “Pull My String.” Good show, chaps. - John Borack 2017
Hooks & Harmony
I hate it when bands I love “evolve” – i.e., go in a completely different musical direction.
When R.E.M. went all grunge on us with Monster, I despised it. When U2 embraced techno – even starting with Achtung Baby, I grimaced. When Creed started using the theremin, I rebelled. (Ok, I made up that last one. I have no idea of knowing whether Creed ever used a theremin. Promise.) I probably would have thrown eggs at Bob Dylan during his electric set at the Newport Folk Festival.
I like bands for a reason, and it’s their music. So it’s good to see that with their second release, Conrad, The Legal Matters continue to make songs that are hugely listenable, melodic and pleasing to the ear.
The album starts with a bang with “Anything,” which features thee-part harmonies on a memorable chorus. It’s almost as infectious as “The Legend of Walter Wright,” their superb cut from their first, self-titled album.
“I feel the warmth of the sun,” sings Chris Richards, borrowing from the Beach Boys in “Minor Key,” which incidentally, is not in a minor key. It has a Gigolo Aunts-vibe – a power-pop version of the Beach Boys.
If anything, Conrad rocks a little more, with fewer mid-tempo numbers and more guitar brought to the forefront. It’s also bolder and more assured than their first release; they’ve focused their sound and polished their songwriting. The result is a confident, self-assured record that still has something for everyone.
“Pull My String” is straight from a time machine, sounding like an AM hit from the 1970s. “She Called to Say” is accented with power chords, a Beatlesque bridge and an uplifting outro that features a unique chord progression – it’s brilliant. And you wish “Lull and Bye” were longer than a minute 10 seconds, with its achingly beautiful harmonies.
The Legal Matters have proven that there is no such thing as a sophomore slump. Conrad is sublime listening, each cut its own jewel with something wonderful to be discovered. And not a theremin in sight. - Peter Lee 2016
So far this year, the state of Michigan has given us at least two outstanding albums. if you missed the new ones from Nick Piunti or Ryan Allen, it would be wise for you to give these a listen. Now, another Michigan product gives us another poppy gem. It’s The Legal Matters’ Conrad.The harmonies are glorious from the opening Chris Richards’ penned “Anything”. to the final “Better Days”. “Minor Key” is a real winner with its Beach Boys feel and infectious melody. It’s the perfect track when the top down and the wind your hair. A Keith Klingensmith contribution, “Pull My String” has the kind of shimmer and jangle that made for any number of Mitch Easter produced hits in the 80’s. Although Easter had nothing to do with the recording, it somehow felt like an REM track to me. Andy Reed nailed it when he wrote my favorite song on the LP, “Short Term Memory”. Reed wonders aloud:“Who killed all the rock n roll stars? The ones that used to make us want to play our guitars? It makes me wonder who’s fu**ing up the scene. If we all jump off the merry-go-round, we can being back everything”. With a killer hook and some big, meaty guitars, this track is nothing short of pop bliss.The Legal Matters’ Conrad is surely among the best power pop albums of this year. - Richard Rossi 2016
Colorado Springs Independent
Power pop is the Rodney Dangerfield of the rock world: It gets no respect. Detractors call it shamelessly derivative and lightweight. Those with a soft spot for the subgenre appreciate its chiming, sticky-sweet melodies and sharp hooks. Michigan's The Legal Matters — a trio featuring Keith Klingensmith, Chris Richards and former Verve Pipe member Andy Reed — self-released a fine eponymous debut in 2014, gaining the attention of Omnivore Recordings, which promptly signed the band. On Conrad, Reed's high voice (with able harmony vocals from his bandmates) contrasts nicely with the McCartney-esque "I'm Sorry Love." Occasional melancholy minor-key outings such as "More Birds Less Bees" contrast with the preponderance of upbeat (yet midtempo) songs. Klingensmith only gets one writing credit ("Pull My String") but it's one of the best tunes on a strong album. BK 2016
Rock 'n' Roll Truth
You might like if you enjoy: Fountains of Wayne, Crowded House, Matthew Sweet
Tell me more: Detroit trio the Legal Matters' sophomore disc Conrad is a spirited and wonderful effort that is anchored by the sterling harmonies of band mates Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith. But the threesome's great vocals wouldn't mean anything without first-rate songs and commanding musicianship, and fortunately those key components are everywhere on the 11-song Conrad. The musically textured/lyrically sharp "I'm Sorry Love," luxuriant "Minor Key" (that would be at home on a Crowded House disc), scintillating "Pull My String" and yearning "Hip Hooray" are among this writer's favorites.
We’re, or at least I’m, so used to the Omnivore label putting out excellent reissues that I forget that they release current music as well. Hadn’t heard of this Detroit trio before but I do believe that I’ve got a cd or two from the band’s members, Chris Richards (gonna go check right after I finish this review) while his two co-horts include Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith (all three are credited with writing the songs). The name of the game here is melody, as these three plink out the right guitar chord at the right time. Oh and did I mention they harmonize beautifully together, too? Initially I was reminded of some of Matthew Sweet’s classic records (Girlfriend comes to mind first, of course) but these guys, on this sophomore release, are definitely forging their own identity (and winning over lots of power pop fans). “Anything” is a bit of a low-key opener, lovely but they’ve got better, like the next cut, “I’m Sorry Love” which starts out like soulful charmer but then busts into this soaring harmony and then into oddball Sgt Peppers pop part and it all totally works. Elsewhere, “Minor Key” just knocks it right out of the part with a hook to die for while “Short Term Memory” is this bands “Divine Intervention”, all wiggly guitar and a bit more bite overall. Also don’t miss other Grade-A cuts like “She Called Me To Say” and the string-soaked “The Cool Kid.” I don’t think I even need to say here that Conrad I well-worth your time. After giving this one several more listens I’m going to try and find their debut at my local record shop (wish me luck).
You know that new Teenage Fanclub (Here) you treated yourself to about a month ago? If it's currently occupying a space in your CD or LP rack, you just might want to clear the slot adjacent to it for the album I'm about to discuss herein. Ostensibly deriving their moniker from the spunky My Generation-era Who song of the same name, The Legal Matters are a Motown trio composed of local luminaries Chris Richards, Keith Klingensmith, and Andy Reed, all of whom I understand had a toehold in previous power pop endeavors. And as far as that ubiquitous nomenclature is doled out like so many Snickers fun-sized bars on a Halloween trick or treat run, the power quotient isn't consistently palpable on the Matters' second LP, Conrad. Luckily this isn't a problem, because much like their maturing counterparts - Posies, Matthew Sweet, and the aforementioned Fannies, volume and riffs aren't as relevant or in demand these days. Carefully measured and nuanced as these eleven songs may be they often exude time capsule-worthy quality control.
I likely need not mention it, but the Matters hardly reinvent the wheel here, or for that matter add or subtract any spokes. Conrad hardly possesses a revisionist bone in it's anatomy, and yes, you're likely to have encountered the band's modus operandi before, albeit conveyed on behalf of different and more renown artists. Thing is, this trio pull it off effectively without getting bogged down in any sort of pedantic ditch. Their secret weapon? Harmonies, in spades I might add, that are bound to conjure up the timbres of everyone from CS&Y to the Greenberry Woods. From the goes-down-easy persuasion of Conrad's milder fare like "Anything" and "Pull My String" to the more robust arrangements of "Minor Key" and "She Called Me to Say" these lads aim for the sweet spot while deftly curtailing any potential saccharine overload. The Legal Matters make it look all too easy. Truth is these kinda chops (not to mention hooks) take time to hone and marinate...but the main course has just arrived.
Power Of Pop
Save the best for last. This is our album of the week – retro pop at its finest from The Legal Matters. Its diverse range of melodic rock styles demonstrates how fecund the ‘genre’ still is. But it’s the pristine melodies and harmonies that will keep tune junkies coming back. “Anything” is an absolute earworm and once it begins, one runs the danger of never progressing further but that would be a big mistake as tempting as it might be. Conrad is essential listening for the PoP faithful!
I Don't Hear A Single
Detroit's The Legal Matters' self titled debut album was rightly celebrated by many as one of the best albums of 2014, if not THE best album and rightly so. It was refreshing to hear an album that majored so much on vocal harmony and melody.
It wasn't a major surprise considering the trio's past record, but it was still heart warming. Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith were well known around the Power Pop scene and if you get chance, you should dig out some of their individual albums. My vinyl version of Chris Richards And The Subtractions' A Smattering Of Mystery And Sound, released by Sugarbush Records, ages the needle considerably.
I was hoping for sophomore for their second release, Conrad and there is some of that. However, I've been fortunate to have the album for a fortnight or more and that's allowed greater familiarity and assessment. Normally, there wouldn't be that lead up to a review, but it's allowed me to realise the progression of the band. The Vocal harmonies are amazing, what appears simplistic isn't, the complex vocals have been lovingly crafted with great depth and every listen improves that aural experience.
Two years on and the band's trio have tripled the impact of their solo work. It is a big advancement on the debut album. The Vocals are richer and more complex, the arrangements have greater presence and feel fully formed as though you couldn't get one more improvement to each song. The songwriting and vocals are split, but the album is very much the sum of it's parts.
Ably aided by Donny Brown and Andy Dalton on Drums, the instruments are far more pronounced and it certainly feels like Guitar has been brought much more to the forefront. The album is less mellow than the debut and they show they can rock a little. The greatest example of this is Andy Reed's Short Term Memory. Everyone will have a different fave across the album, but this is mine. It's an absolute crackerjack of a song. Worth the admission alone.
There's so much to admire on Conrad. My one wish is that Lull And Bye was longer, one minute and ten seconds doesn't do justice to the wonderful harmonies. Any one of these 11 songs hit the mark and it's a little unfair to pick any out in particular. But, special mention has to go to Better Days and the aching, Pull My String. More Birds Less Bees is also a gem.
It's been a year when three albums have been waited for and in all three cases, I worried that these albums wouldn't live up to expectations. Nick Piunti and Greg Pope have already released their finest albums yet. The Legal Matters have made that a trio, this is a vocal masterpiece. It's released on 28 October and you should count down the days.
My hope is that Omnivore get behind the release big time because if ever an album deserved to break out, it's this one. Special mention should be made of the Vinyl Release. This is simply because there is a bonus download with that version which features the vocals only version of the album. That's something, I, in particular, are fascinated to hear. - Don Valentine - 2016
JP's Music Blog
From Detroit comes the sophomore release from pop/rock band The Legal Matters titled "Conrad." The new albums shows the development and maturity in their songwriting since their debut album two years prior. The new eleven-song release begins with the wonderful harmonies of "Anything," before digging back to their influences on the Beatles-inspired "I'm Sorry Love." They bring together their voices for the undeniable pop appeal of "Minor Key," then bring out their guitars for the more rock-infused "Short Term Memory." When they slow the tempo down for the acoustic-based "Pull My String," you can appreciate the bond between band members Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith. The album wraps up with angelic harmonies of "Hip Hooray" and "Lull And Bye," before finishing with smooth rock sound of "Better Days."
All Music Guide (4 out of 5 stars)
The Legal Matters are a Michigan power pop supergroup, featuring Chris Richards of Chris Richards & the Subtractions, Keith Klingensmith of the Phenomenal Cats, and Andy Reed of An American Underdog, but if you think that tells you everything you need to know about the band, you could be wrong. The Legal Matters' self-titled debut album is a tuneful delight with great melodies, hooks, and vocal harmonies, but it's a more contemplative and low-key set than one might imagine; tunes like "We Were Enemies" and "Mary Anne" recall the pensive Chris Bell tracks on Big Star's #1 Record, the gorgeous tune faced against a dour lyric of "Have You Changed Your Mind?" nearly matches the bummed-out beauty of the Pernice Brothers, and "The Legend of Walter Wright" tells the tale of a sweet loser who wouldn't be out of place in a Village Green Preservation Society-era Kinks tune. There are plenty of tunes here that could be hit singles in a just world, especially the sunny opening track "Rite of Spring" and the playful, mildly cocky "Before We Get It Right," and the Legal Matters' three principals work beautifully together, bringing out the best in one another's abilities as songwriters, vocalists, and instrumentalists. But if you're expecting cookie-cutter high-energy power pop, the Legal Matters have instead delivered something a bit more sophisticated and ambitious, and rather than each member simply tossing a few tunes into the pot, this album sounds like a collaboration that's creating something more than the sum of the parts. Pop fans who want a record that will please their ears but also spark their imaginations will find all manner of pleasant surprises in The Legal Matters.
Hot Press (7 out of 10 stars) Colm O’Hare
Lifting their moniker from an early Who single, Michigan three piece The Legal Matters trade in the kind of classic, jangly power-pop that never goes out of fashion. They clearly take their craft seriously – the 10 songs here combine the best elements of golden era guitar pop and modern production techniques. There is an Irish link – an associate of the band is Cormac Wright of 80’s Dublin outfit The End (Tom Dunne and Trouble Pilgrim Johnnie Bonnie were also members).
Reminding you of Teenage Fanclub meets the Beach Boys, opener “Rite of Spring” makes for a great introduction while the mid-paced “Stubborn” boasts a jerky riff and an irresistible chorus. Meanwhile, with the lovely acoustic guitar textures and soaring “ooh-ahh’s”, “Have You Changed Your Mind” is as near perfect as a pop song can be and the acoustic strum and vocal harmonies on “So Long Sunny Days” recalls 70’s trio America (best known for “Horse With No Name”). More glorious harmonies abound on “It’s Not What I Say” reminiscent of Crowded House (“Fall At Your Feet”) in the guitar pattern but the Hollies vocally and melodically.
“Before We Get It Right” blends Beach Boys (Wouldn’t It Be Nice”) with a hint of the Beatles “Getting Better”. The pace slows for the nostalgic “Outer Space”, which boasts a lovely descending chord progression. Meanwhile “We Were Enemies” even more sumptuous melodies and harmonies. Fans of the Rubinoos, Fountains of Wayne and Matthew Sweet will savour every note.
PopDose- Rob Ross
You could make the argument that this is one of those reviews that just writes itself. On first hearing the name of the band, I thought “Who fans”, since instinct said “A Legal Matter”… Right. That’s one checked off. Then I listened to the album – with some anticipation, I might add – and tried so hard not to think it, but “yes. They’ve studied Big Star”. Right. That’s another one checked off – look at their photo. Now – here’s the most important factor in all this – I was not predisposed to just automatically like the band or this album. No – listen to this album once – you’re hooked. There’s just no way to avoid the sheer brilliance that Keith Klingensmith, Andy Reed and Chris Richards deliver in this spectacular ten song debut album. All the elements of proper, hook-laden, structured power pop in the vein of Big Star, The Raspberries, Badfinger (and some inflections of The Who on the “rockier” songs). The Legal Matters have “it” – that glorious something special. The Legal Matters is a top-flight debut killer.
From the opening drum slams of “Rite Of Spring”, the harmonies are tight (Beach Boys/angelic), the melody strong with subtle keyboard flourishes and you know you’re in for a sweet ride. “Stubborn” has a very Dear 23/Big Star In Space kind of taut groove while “Have You Changed Your Mind?” has all the elements of classic “hit single” written all over it – acoustic driven and a wonderful grabs-you chorus. “Mary Anne” reminds me of one of Wings’ slower tracks with golden vocals and harmonic interplay; “It’s Not What I Say” is a slightly muted minor-chord framed number which immediately recalls Big Star’s “You Get What You Deserve” with a delicious acoustic guitar solo and “Before We Get It Right” is a pure, perfect, sunny, upbeat pop song in big, bold letters.
Track for track, this album from The Legal Matters jumps to the head of the class in my estimation for this year’s winners. It’s not an off-handed comment – this album has begun to live with me from the first listen and if any piece of work – be it music, written, painted – can do that with such immediacy, it’s worth its salt.HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Power Popaholic (9 out of 10)
The Legal Matters have a pretty impressive pedigree. Consisting of Chris Richards (of Chris Richards and the Subtractions), Andy Reed (An American Underdog) and Keith Klingensmith (The Phenomenal Cats), they have made an album that easily makes my top-ten year end list.
Starting with “Rites of Spring” it shimmers with perfect vocal harmonies and smooth melody similar to The Wondermints. It is the kind of song that guitars were invented for, and will be going around your head for hours after you hear it. There is a subtle soft rock undercurrent to many of the tunes that may put off rockers who prefer a harder edge, but it actually works great here. It doesn’t let up with “Stubborn,” another great song with perfect riffs, and touches all around. “Have You Changed Your Mind” is a softer, mid-tempo track, fans of The Eagles and The Agony Aunts will appreciate.The hits keep coming, “The Legend Of Walter Wright” is a supremely hummable tune with a sweet balance of harmonies and guitar crunchiness. Even when the band gets stylistically mellow for “So Long Sunny Days” it plays like a lost Beach Boys/Poco track. And just in time for summer, it grabs you and doesn’t let go.
Goldmine Magazine (John Borack)
Michigan-based popsters Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith have produced – together and separately – some of the coolest indie-pop music of the past decade or so. Now they’ve joined forces as The Legal Matters and have fashioned a lovely record that showcases their pristine harmonies and a kinder, gentler power pop sound. The 10 breezy, easy to like ditties here go down smoothly and leave a lasting impression, particularly Richards’ “Rite of Spring” and “Have You Changed Your Mind?” and Reed’s “The Legend of Walter Wright.” The Klingensmith/Reed co-write “Mary Anne” is also a winner, building from an almost ghostly beginning to a harmony-filled climax. The Legal Matters is a perfect summer record for anytime of the year. Grade: A-
Hooks & Harmony (Peter Lee)
In a way, this review is not fair, for in my description of the songs of Andy Reed, Keith Klingensmith and Chris Richards – i.e., The Legal Matters – I could easily evoke the name of practically every influential power pop artist. This is not to say that the songs on the group’s self-titled debut are derivative; instead, each song is so instantly accessible you swear you must have heard it before, and you find yourself searching your internal power pop catalog for the right reference. And sometimes, the influences are apparent; the intro to “Stubborn” sounds like “Girlfriend”-era Matthew Sweet; the opening cut, “Rite of Spring,” oozes of Beach Boys harmonies. And “Have You Changed Your Mind” sounds like a Gigolo Aunts outtake. But that’s okay. All pop music is derivative. What The Legal Matters have done is recognize the recipe for a great power pop song: Take an inventive set of chords, sing a hummable melody over it, and layer it with harmonies. Lather, rinse, repeat.
No more is this apparent than on “The Legend of Walter Wright,” an upbeat song complete with ooh la la’s and classic pop chord progressions; but four songs into the album, you recognize this song not as a Who song, or a Posies tune, or a Big Star melody: It’s The Legal Matters making their own recipe, and it’s sheer pop perfection, one that will leave you singing it hours after you’ve heard it.
From then on, the influences move to the background, and all you hear is sublime pop music. “Mary Anne” is a nicely textured ballad with the signature harmonies lacing the chorus. “Before You Get It Right” is downright infectious, starting in a minor key but moving quickly to a major key (What great pop song stays in a minor key for a really long time? Okay, “Eleanor Rigby”.) and featuring a nice little guitar lick repeating the same note over and over, which complements the changing bass line.
In fact, in no time, the 10-song album is done, and you’re left wanting more derivations, more Raspberries, more Badfinger. These guys have found their own voice by finding and tweaking the best of the best power pop artists, and I can’t wait to digest another meal from them.
Daily Vault - A- (Jason Warburg)
Like a million other Facebook users, I took the “Albums That Influenced You” challenge last week. After a few listens to The Legal Matters’ self-titled debut, I feel like I already know what a major chunk of their list would look like, starting with The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and Revolver, The Byrds’ Mr. Tambourine Man, and the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, then adding something by The Hollies and maybe The Everly Brothers, too. A couple of songs into this classicist power-pop gem and it’s 1966 all over again.
The Legal Matters came together when Andy Reed (An American Underdog) joined up with Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith, bandmates in both Hippodrome and side project The Phenomenal Cats, to explore their shared musical roots. The Midwestern trio of singer-songwriters proceeded to deliver as finely-crafted an homage to mid-’60s pop-rock as you’re likely to hear recorded this decade.The sunny jangle of “Rite Of Spring” captures the imagination immediately, a sweetly melodic George Harrison / Roger McGuinn mind-meld that adds a prominent synth line for emphasis. The key, here and throughout, is the way the close harmonies and chorused background vocals of Reed, Richards and Klingensmith lift each track into the sky. As the rest of the album unfolds, the boys manage to traverse many of the same genres as their heroes. Building from a blues base, “Stubborn” adds an irrepressible main riff and multilayered harmonies to deliver a catchy-as-hell ode to frustration. “Have You Changed Your Mind?” explores Byrds-ian folk-rock territory; “The Legend Of Walter Wright” and “Before We Get It Right” feel like Rubber Soul outtakes; the quieter “Mary-Anne” is the sweetest ballad Brian Wilson never wrote; and closer “We Were Enemies” moves the needle from mid- to late-period Beatles with tinges of orchestral pop and psychedelia leading up to a big, swirly ending. In between, “So Long Sunny Days” offers British Invasion harmonic pop in the Hollies vein, all gentle strums and lush background vocals. Bouncy beats, jangly, memorable guitar lines, and earnest lead vocals backed by rich, layered harmonies; with this flawlessly imagined and executed album, The Legal Matters deliver a sonic time capsule arriving intact from the summer of ’66. Listening to a trio this gifted play in the footsteps of their musical heroes is a genuine pleasure. A-
Pop That Goes Crunch!
The Legal Matters Deliver Perfect Harmony...
Some albums grab you immediately and refuse to let go. You wake up, and one of its songs is in your mind. You’re at work, and another one is seemingly in your ear. You’re making dinner, and yet another one is bouncing around relentlessly in your head. And so on, and so on and so on.
The self-titled debut by The Legal Matters is one of those records. The Legal Matters is a “rockin’ pop project containing equal parts Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith,” each of whom has been discussed many times previously on these pages. Given that life’s too short to write about bad music (or even mediocre music, for that matter), it is hardly surprising that I would at least “like” this “rocking’ pop” effort.
That, however, is quite an understatement. The whole of this combination is greater than the sum of its three “equal parts.” The Legal Matters is the best long-player I have heard so far this year. It is hard to imagine anything coming out in the second-half of the year to eclipse it.
The opening track, “Rite Of Spring,” sets the tone for the album in its first few seconds. A simple keyboard riff over strummed guitars bathes the revelry about the perfect girl in undeniable warmth and sweetness. You can feel the sunshine on your skin by the time the million-dollar three-part harmonies kick in at about the one-minute mark:
Gorgeous harmonies are all over this record. Richards, Reed and Klingensmith are superb singers on their own. This record makes the case, though, that they should be singing together until they can sing no more. Check out, in particular, how the harmonies sung during the chorus add a sense of hope to the longing that otherwise characterizes “Have You Changed Your Mind?”
Indeed, several songs on the album adroitly play the bitter against the sweet. “So Long Sunny Days” hides its own sense of longing and melancholy in three-minutes of absolutely perfect melodies. “Mary Anne” is probably the prettiest song about a life full of regret that you will hear this year.
None of this means that the Legal Matters can’t “rock” when they want. But they do it without trying to beat you over the head. “The Legend Of Walter Wright” — a man who was “remarkably clean and mildly polite” — may be the best song in the collection. It will have you reflexively increasing the volume on the car stereo whenever it comes on as you drive around town:Delivering “only” ten songs over thirty-five minutes, The Legal Matters recalls a time when the space limitations of vinyl meant that truly great artists only waxed their best ideas. There is no fluff here, and not a moment of time is wasted from start to finish.
So, run, don’t walk, to wherever you go to buy the finest music, and get The Legal Matters as soon as you can.
Discussions Magazine (Stephen Schnee)
Ever since I was a little kid in the mid '60s, I've been a fan of melodic guitar pop. How could I not be? I was raised on The Beatles, The Monkees, Glen Campbell and Neil Diamond. I discovered Punk, New Wave and Power Pop in '77 and I have spent the rest of my days searching for music that hits me in the head and heart and makes me literally say 'Holy shit!' whenever I hear a chord change or vocal melody that kicks me in the gut. It has happened many times, although a lot less frequently over the last 20 years. It's not because I haven't searched for great music because I have. I'm always looking for something that moves me, whether it is a brand new release or a reissue of something I have never heard before. I can get goosebumps hearing some rare Power Pop single from '79 or an obscure Doo Wop song from '58... My musical tastes are vast yet my real passion is rooted in the three minute melodic Pop gems that have given me so much happiness over the years....
The Big Take-Over - Jeff Elbel
This Michigan based trio has apparently created it's debut with the intention to travel through time and release 1967's greatest psych-rock album. "Before We Get It Right" bounces like the Beatles "Getting Better" before transitioning to Byrds-like jangle. The band reveals it's modern origins through crafty moves on songs like "Rite of Spring", with it's transcendent ode to true love and/or obsession. Alongside shimmering Beach Boys harmonies and watery Summer of Love guitars are sly power pop moves that would render Matthew Sweet beatific. Affection for the Hollies keening vocals, McCartney's cartwheeling bass and Beatles "You Won't See Me" counter melody are evident in the luckless "The Legend of Walter Wright". The apologetic "It's Not What I Say" jumps half a decade to the FM-pop of Seals & Croft, America and Gerry Rafferty.
AcousticMusic.com - Mark S. Tucker
I'd heard of these guys and wondered why a number of crits were so effusive in their praise of what was, as far as I could tell, only a pop unit. Don't get me wrong, in the right hands, pop music is another great form…but so damn few know how to do it right. My all-time favorite such LP is the almost totally unknown LP Touch by Barnaby Bye, then there was Chas Jankel's equally anonymous but way the hell cool Byzantium, followed by latterday Rare Bird, Capability Brown, The Hollies, and a number of others but…Smokie? Blue Ash? The Records? Really? Are ya kiddin'? Even the well-lauded Raspberries and Eric Carmen were highly hit and miss, Dwight Twilley, Moon Martin, and similar writer-performers vastly superior, so, as you can guess, when the term 'pop' floats around, I tend to grab a can of Raid.
Well, after all those jaw-dropping Rockpalast DVDs and, much earlier, the killer Catbone Unreleased CDs, MVD slid The Legal Matters my way, and, yeah, I can see what the buzz is about 'cause these guys go back to the roots, to Peter & Gordon, the Beach Boys, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Turtles, Illinois Speed Press, Emitt Rhodes, and similar groups but with a modern edge and power-pop holdover. The harmony vocals are excellent while the lead vocals give away just where The Rise of the Geek (Elvis Costello, etc.) began. Mary Anne, in fact, reminds me of Capability Brown wed to The Hollies.
Every single cut here is pure pop and, in many senses, purist pop. It's Not What I Say, my favorite cut, has a very Brit timbre, as though Gerry and the Pacemakers had listened somehow to the future Sniff 'N the Tears (now THERE was great novo-pop!) with a bit of the early mellifluous Beatles thrown in for good measure within the atmosphere of America's first LP. On the radio, this song would either be a chart pick or else spell the end of civilization: after all, if people can't get hip to something this well done, then, yeah, bring on the chart crap all at once in a draconian deluge, drown us all, and let's have an end to the farce. While that's happening, though, play this CD as the soundtrack.
Pure Pop Radio - Alan Haber
The next time you rise on a cold and dreary winter morning to find that your overnight brought you two or three inches of snow, and you are moved to mumble “Just what we needed…more of that soul-killing white stuff,” think about the three members of the Legal Matters, who hunkered down in the Reed Recording Company studio this past January to make happy music against a weather-beaten Michigan backdrop. Even in the face of pounding white stuff, the show must go on.
As the snow fell fiercely around them–as a foot or two rolled into more than the sum of a record Michigan winter’s snowfall–Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith, equal parts of the same enterprise and veterans of various bands and solo tracks and whatnot, turned what started out as a new Phenomenal Cats record into a brand new enterprise, a song cycle informed by music that was made perhaps a lifetime ago by bands such as the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, Big Star, Fleetwood Mac, the Beach Boys and who knows who else. When all was said and done, 10 songs were completed in six days, a veritable hop, skip and a jump of sorts that very possibly deserves some kind of knighthood or at least a pat or two on the band’s collective back.
The three friends, with pop-star-in-his-own-right Nick Piunti and drummer Cody Marecek and all of the sounds they loved that came before them swirling around in their heads, strapped on their guitars, fired up their keyboards and plugged in with the sole purpose of creating their art. And, with the equipment whirring gently around them, they set to making the magic happen, as only members of the P-Cats and An American Underdog and the Subtractions could do. And, lo and behold, came the Legal Matters first, self-titled album. And the summer music season of 2014 took off with what promises to be one of the best melodic pop albums of this or any other year.
There was a review of a Pink Floyd album–probably The Wall–in which the writer theorized that this was a band that never orphaned a single idea. It’s like when the ubiquitous observer of film says that every penny spent on a particular movie is on the screen. Similarly, the Legal Matters have incorporated a heap of ideas into their musical stew and left not a single one on the cutting-room floor. It’s all there in the music, in the air, in the moment.
It’s in the happy pop of “Rite of Spring,” where deeply-stacked and deeply-felt harmony vocals come together to transform a lovely melody into a rainbow of emotion. It’s in the gentle light country-pop groove of “Have You Changed Your Mind,” in the “Things We Said Today” mode of “It’s Not What I Say,” in the slightly spacey and emotional “Outer Space,” and in the gorgeous, harmony-stacked “Mary Anne.”
It’s in the from-the-heart, quite musical missives that the harmony-drenched law firm of Reed, Richards and Klingensmith have delivered to the ears of melodic pop fans all over the world. Borne in a winter wonderland that caused a populace to stand still yet still allow the creation of what Joan Jett called “good, good music,” these songs are what happens when all is right with the world. “It always feels so good to hear good music,” Joan sang, speaking for all the lovers in the world–the romantics who cradle soothing sounds and feel the elation that good, good music provides.
The Legal Matters’ first, self-titled album is good, good music. It’s good, good music for when the snow falls, for when spring turns to summer, during a light rain, and for when fall signals the end of baseball season and the year moves into its closing phase. It’s good for what ails you, a prescription that works wonders no matter the season or circumstance. The Legal Matters is good, good music. But next time, order up a warm summer’s day, boys.
We weren't quite sure what we were expecting from a band called The Legal Matters (...hardcore? ...or electronic perhaps?)...but whatever we expecting, this wasn't it. Instead of music that is serious, harsh, or related to legal issues, these three guys write and record pure uplifting pop with a heavy emphasis on vocal melodies and harmonies. This band is comprised of three guys who are not newcomers to the world of music. The Legal Matters is/are comprised of Keith Klingensmith (formerly of Hippodrome and The Phenomenal Cats), Andy Reed (formerly of An American Underdog) and Chris Richards (also formerly in Hippodrome and The Phenomenal Cats as well as Chris Richards & The Subtractions). These guys have recorded an album of super smooth melodic guitar pop that will instantly remind many listeners of Teenage Fanclub (the vocals are eerily similar). Songs are what make an album of course...and songs are what make this debut album such a cool spin. Recorded in just six days, these guys have created something that could take some bands years to create.
Killer pop cuts include "Rite of Spring," "Stubborn," "Mary Anne," "It's Not What I Say," and "We're Enemies."
Power Of Pop
Consisting of Chris Richards, Andy Reed and Keith Klingensmith, The Legal Matters, a powerpop supergroup of sorts combine their distinctive talents, experience and songwriting chops to produce an eponymous debut album that lives up to the bands & artists that served as inspirations. It isn’t difficult to detect the primary influences of The Beatles, Beach Boys, Big Star and The Byrds (the usual suspects) over the 10 songs presented here but what is remarkable is the quality of the music that is greater than the individual parts.
To distill it further, one can savour the authentic 60s pop flavour in songs like “The Legend of Walter Wright” “It’s Not What I Say” and “Rite of Spring” that bring vocal harmonies to the fore coupled with melodic fervour and knowing references to 1st generation powerpop outfits like Badfinger and The Raspberries. However, like Big Star, there are also enough nods to other pop-rock sub-genres to keep things on an even keel. The country-folk touches of “Have You Changed Your Mind”, the chamber pop sensibility of “Mary Anne” and the dreamy Byrdsian pop-scapes of “Outer Space” fill up the gaps nicely and complete the picture somewhat.
It’s refreshing to listen to music that hearkens back faithfully to the 60s/70s without sounding derivative or dated, imbued with enough distinct personality to make it relevant for 2014. Highly recommended.
CD Hotlist (Pick of the Month-January)
In case you needed to be reminded of the fact that the world always needs more hook-filled, harmony-drenched power pop, here’s the debut album from The Legal Matters, a regional supergroup made up of former members of Midwest mainstays Hippodrome, the Phenomenal Cats, An American Underdog, and Chris Richards & the Subtractions. If (like me) you wish Fastball would hurry up and make another album already, then run out and pick this one up — it will help with the waiting.
Musoscribe (Bill Kopp)
My friend Bruce Brodeen occasionally endures some good-natured ribbing for those mini-reviews he penned in his NotLame mail order catalogs of the 90s. If you viewed his writing a certain way, it seemed like he thought everything was great. But I’m reminded of the (possibly apocryphal) conversation between a fan and Raymond Burr of TV’s Perry Mason: approached on the street and asked how he could possibly win every case, Burr is said to have replied, “Well, madam, you only see the cases I try on Thursdays!” Point being, some reviewers (myself included) don’t waste much time shining light on lesser efforts, unless they deserve it. With that in mind, here’s another review in which I basically tell you that I really dig the music.
I first stumbled across the music of Andy Reed in early 2012, around the time his album Always on the Run (credited to An American Underdog) was released. Reed’s a busy guy: he’s also a member of The Verve Pipe, whose recent album Overboard is enthusiastically recommended to fans of timeless pop (rock guitar and vocal variant). But those two ongoing projects are seemingly not enough to keep him occupied; he has of late joined forces with two songwriters (and musicians and singers) of comparable merit to form The Legal Matters. Fans of shimmering, memorable pop rock won’t want to miss their self-titled debut album. Joining Reed are Keith Klingensmith and Chris Richards; the trio share composition duties, and take turns on lead vocals.
“Stubborn” is some delightful midtempo rock with just a hint of country influence, on the level of Tom Petty or Gin Blossoms. There isn’t any filler on The Legal Matters: subtly distorted guitars are joined by rhythm guitar (often acoustic, always a good thing in this sort of context), plus plenty of lovely vocal harmonies, like the “la la la” and “ooh” bits peppered throughout Reed’s “The Legend of Walter Wright.” The Legal Matters don’t sound exactly like anyone else, but there are some production and composition signatures that suggest a stripped down answer to Rick Hromadka‘s Maple Mars.
Klingensmith and Reed cowrote “Mary Anne,” one of the most gentle and contemplative tunes on the disc. Subtle instrumental backing supports some carefully stacked vocals.
The Legal Matters might be thought of as a songwriters’ collective. Richards’ “It’s Not What I Say” would work well enough as a guitar-and-single-vocal tune, but here, with the (still understated) backing of band mates, Richards and his song end up recalling the best of soft rockers like Pure Prairie League. An acoustic guitar solo is the cherry on top.
The spare and restrained instrumentation on Richards’ rock-oriented “Before We Get it Right” recalls The Beatles‘ “Getting Better.” Reed’s “So Long Sunny Days” strikes a wistful tone, and his lyrics are wholly consistent with that approach. Once again, the tight and carefully-applied vocal harmonies are a highlight. The c&w influence is more pronounced on “Outer Space,” but it’s presented well within a melodic pop context, free of artifice; the song’s bridge takes things to another (higher) level entirely.
The Legal Matters closes with Reed’s “We Were Enemies,” wherein the trio judiciously applies a bit of keyboards to support the melancholy number. The soaring harmonies and electric lead guitar balance things nicely, ending the album on a perfect note. The extended outro (full of ahhh vocals) is a delight.
More, please. Timeless pop like this is never in great enough supply, though The Legal Matters are certainly doing their part.
Rock NYC - A- (Iman Lababedi)
Every couple of years The Apples In Stereo release a new album, and every couple of years I find myself back in the dark underbelly of power pop, a world of bands and sounds that take off from the Beatles via Big Star and ends up who knows where. At its worse, it gives melody and progressive pop a bad name, and its best it is The Legal Matters.
Don’t let the band name fool ya, Detroit's own The Legal Matters sounds nothing like the Who, what it is is Chris Richards of Chris Richards & the Subtractions, Keith Klingensmith of the Phenomenal Cats, and Andy Reed of An American Underdog, playing gorgeous, catchy perfectly structured and highly melodic pop songs.
The harmonies, the tunes, the ringing guitars, the smart as a whip lyrics, and the brisk smart 35 minutes in length all add up to a glorious take on old fashioned pop sounds. The harmonies on “Before We Get It Right” send you through the roof, “Rite Of Spring” are the sort of pop song that should be blaring from FM Radio stations for the next six months, and raises up as one voice, and the guitars ring like Roger McGuinn.
The next song, “Stubborn” is the catchiest on the album as it works its way to a fabulous and compact guitar solo and the first four songs are as strong an opening for an album I’ve heard all year. It dips a little from there with “Mary Anne” a little quiet for my tastes, but it only takes a coupla tracks for the album to regaining its footing with “So Long Sunny Days” , a melancholic downer to help you cry in your coffee. It less builds and more ululates to the last song on the album, the broken up “We Were Enemies” reaching to an extended Abbey Roadish coda. A thrilling end to a fine, fine piece of work.
The trio play together very well, it is all Byrdsy zoom lens and undertow harmonies, tugging the glorious melodies deep into your consciousness. A fine album, maybe not your Daddy’s power pop but all the better for it. Along with the Britannicas, this is the power pop album of the year.
Audiophile Audition - 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5 (Doug Simpson)
It is ironic indie pop/power pop trio the Legal Matters dubbed themselves after the Who’s 1965 song “A Legal Matter.” That is because the Michigan-based threesome’s debut doesn’t mimic or ape the Who’s early Mod style. Obvious links to England’s first wave of rock music are to the Kinks and to a smaller degree the Beatles, as well as ‘90s indie pop groups such as Velvet Crush, the Posies and likeminded acts. Anyone hoping for soaring, Cheap Trick-like guitar hooks, hefty drums or churning riffs might be surprised by the nuanced songwriting (all originals), mostly mid-tempo arrangements and less-is-more approach; think of the Raspberries or Badfinger. The 10 tracks, which total 35 minutes, reflect the first and second eras of guitar pop mated with contemporary, mid-budget production procedures. The result is material with hummable choruses, infectious harmonies, and appetizing pop music which ought to be all over the radio but never will be.
Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith came together in 2013 and recorded at Reed’s studio (Reed Recording Company) and earlier this year issued their self-titled album via Klingensmith’s label, Futureman Records, as a digital download, on compact disc and as 180-gram vinyl. This review refers to the CD version. Softer songs are reminiscent of ‘70s pop artists and have a late summer impression which belies that the music was taped during a brutal winter. The acoustic-tinged “Mary Anne” showcases the trio’s genteel harmony vocals and underscored sonic detailing. The straightforward lyrics about how relationships can go from good to bad is smoothly highlighted by acoustic piano, subtle electric guitar and guest drummer Cody Marecek’s precise drumming. “So Long Sunny Days” has a soft-rock tone akin to tunesmiths such as Bread, England Dan & John Ford Coley or Pure Prairie League. And a whiff of the Eagles (pre-Joe Walsh) wafts through the winning, acoustic-accented “Have You Changed Your Mind?,” one of several songs about the shakier elements which can occasionally darken a couple’s long-time connection.
Clearly, these guys know their indie/power pop influences. Upbeat opener, “Rite of Spring” has a Big Star meets the Velvet Crush feel. Ringing guitars, a punchy backbeat and a pulsating keyboard undercurrent provide a glorious, mid-‘60s crossed with a mid-‘90s mannerism. It’s a head-nodding number with a chorus which imbeds in the brain and won’t let go. One reason this tune isn’t a hit is because this is a small, independent release, and probably won’t be noticed by those who need or should hear it. “The Legend of Walter Wright” is the closest the band gets to rocking up their amps, with a musical sweep comparable to the Fab Four’s Rubber Soul period, while the third-person narrative—about one man’s imagination taking over reality—is more similar to Ray Davies’ best work. The only component which mars this album is Reed’s sometimes somber lyrics about a couple’s possible or impending dissolution: will they solve their problems or become single again? It’s a minor critique, but puts a subdued coloring to some music. Overall, though, the Legal Matters have crafted an earnest and very fine addition to the indie pop clique which bodes well for both the band’s prospects and the independent music scene in general.Pop Geek Heaven - 4 and 1/2 stars out of 5 (Michael Baron)
THE LEGAL MATTERS (Futureman Records) Detroit power pop trio consisting of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith have produced a chiming, multi-part harmony celebration of the Everly Brothers, C,S&N, Hollies, Byrds and Beach Boys blended into a sing-along series of seriously sweet songs beginning with the "Rite of Spring," whose close-coupled A/B harmonies recall the dB's. The acapella passage puts the emphasis on the honeyed voices. You can almost hear the Hollies singing "Stubborn" or the Everly Brothers singing "Have You Changed Your Mind." "Mary Anne" is something Brian Wilson might have written ca. Pet Sounds while "So Long Sunny Days" is a languid surf and sun drenched slice of canyon rock with liquid guitar. There's a hint of Jeff Buckley in the gorgeous "Outer Space," but it's all gorgeous.
Detroit Metro Times - City Slang (Brett Callwood)
Legal Matters is a local power-pop trio, and its self-titled debut album from Futureman Records was recorded over six days in band member Andy Reed’s studio. The influences are immediately apparent, from the ’60s pop of the Beatles, the Monkees, etc, to the harder power-pop of Big Star and Cheap Trick. The hooks are huge and the harmonies and sweet. Great songs well played by excellent musicians.
Pop Fair (Harper)
The Michigan based power pop supergroup features the talents of Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith. No surprise that there are great songs galore on this one. Loved this one. (#7 on the Top 25 of 2014)
First we have The Legal Matters from Michigan. The cover might not be the most inspiring I’ve seen, but inside you will find a huge amount of melodic pop treats. Of course that was totally expected, because the members Andy Reed, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith have written a lot of fabulous pop music in different shapes and forms over the years I’ve been following US power pop. I would say this one is monstrously highly recommended, if you want to use that Not Lame scale. I would be rather surprised if I don’t find this one on the end of year lists of every power pop -orientated blog/website. It’s that good.
Broken Hearted Toy - Terry Flamm
The Legal Matters hail from Detroit, and two of their members, Chris Richards and Keith Klingensmith, performed together for 19 years in The Phenomenal Cats. When Andy Reed recently came on board a decision was made to forge a new identity. All three members sing, and their harmonies make an immediate impact on The Legal Matters’ self-titled debut. The easy-going “Have You Changed Your Mind” and “Outer Space” evoke 1970s acts like The Eagles or England Dan and John Ford Coley, while “Mary Anne” and “So Long Sunny Days” have a more delicate beauty. Those who like their power pop with more octane will embrace “Rite Of Spring,” which serves as a soaring tribute to true love. “The Legend Of Walter Wright,” a clever portrait of a man detached from those around him, and “Before We Get It Right” offer catchy fun in a definite Beatles vein.
The Legal Matters raises the bar for the contemporary definition of power-pop. The first thing you notice are the harmonies -- seamless, lightly sweet and with the airy delight of musical marshmallows. Next you feel the gentle power of the melodies as they tap into the sweet spot in your consciousness. It's a style that evokes the Byrds, Shoes, and Windbreakers; but in a way that remembers the past while putting power pop's evolution toward the service of intelligent design. As in all the best examples of the form, it's an elusive magic you just can't put your finger on. Thankfully, Legal Matters has its own fingers on all the right chords. This is what gives this special band's music its ruling appeal.
THE LEGAL MATTERS are a power pop super group consisting of the great talents of CHRIS RICHARDS, ANDY REED, and KEITH KLINGENSMITH. The sound is decidedly classic power pop with strains of Beatles, Byrds, Tom Petty, Matthew Sweet, and Teenage Fanclub. What makes this an OUTSTANDING cd is the GREAT production and excellent song writing. These seasoned pop veterans know exactly how to make a lovely tune and deliver the goods here in full. The other thing worth mentioning are the superb layers of wonderful harmony vocals throughout the disc. THE LEGAL MATTERS is a grade A release and one of the best of the year! Don't miss out on this!