Personnel: Donny Brown (drums).
Audio Mixer: Andy Reed.
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 Deming