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!