Nik Freitas' Team Love debut Sun Down -- equal parts wry, warm and sonorous -- is the end product of several years of ups and downs. Freitas writes, plays, engineers and produces every note on his records. Not that he's got a lot of expensive gear. A visit to his Poppy Peak studio/shed reveals that Nik is working low-budget minor miracles, The kind of miracles one receives via hundreds of hours on Craigslist. One listen to Sun Down and you know you're hearing a certain hard-won grace.
Sun Down is a succinct, concentrated record that will take the listener from Paul Simon's Graceland to David Bowie's Hunky Dory. Each song -- each moment -- is endowed with a striking mix of self-possession and gravity. There is no reaching, no going for the gold, just ten lovely four minute thesis statements.
It all began several years ago for Freitas, when a co-worker sold him an antique piano that was "used by a street musician before the dawn of the Casio." Nik taught himself how to play the thing, and it became the cornerstone of his three earlier records, Here's Laughing at You, Heavy Mellow and Voicing the Hammers. Other people began to take notice. He's opened for Jason Lytle (of Granddaddy), played guitar for Jim Fairchild (of All Smiles), and recorded with Miles Kurosky (of Beulah). Lately, he's been opening shows for Bright Eyes…which led him to his current resting place at Team Love.
"All the Way Down" is Nik's version of a protest song, one that could have easily sprung from the pen of Raymond Douglas Davies. It stops and starts in fits of piano-driven whimsy that makes its point without the use of blunt force.
The end of the imaginary side one features "Sophie". Live horns punctuate the tale of a girl who seems to have made some rather unfortunate choices. It's a perfect signpost of a song, and clears the decks for what's to come in the second half, where Nik's orchestra of one builds the final five songs into an Abbey Road type sweep that fans of Jon Brion will hearken to. Sun Down is imbued with a sort of indie grandeur that is both unexpected and totally natural.