The beginning of "When I Died," the album-opener of their upcoming album Now We Can See, sounds like it came off of a They Might Be Giants kids album. This is a compliment- I love They Might Be Giants' kids albums.
But that is only the beginning of the song, where lead singer Hutch Harris sings "The earth was too hot, the earth was to thin, I took off my clothes, I took off my skin." The song grows into something much more than a simple kids song (about at the point where Harris yells, as if his life depends on it, "Yeah, so I could swim!"), with blaring power chords and a phenomenal display of The Thermals' superb brand of low-fi-garage-power-pop-rock.
And part of what makes this song so great is that even though it has that low-fi garage rock feel, it has a bit more shine and glimmer than other bands of the same variety typically do. The track is polished, with smooth guitars underlying the song and sugar-sweet melodies bridging the gap between choruses. Producer John Congleton has clearly taken some liberties with this record, tightening up the song for a cleaner listen: think a rawer-but-poppier Hold Steady.
As Stereogum said back in January with their Progress Report, "The Thermals have expanded in width as well as depth. That's got a lot to do with producer John Congleton (Polyphonic Spree, Explosions In The Sky). There's a fullness to the tracks that wasn't there before. 'That's definitely John Congleton,' says Harris. 'Every record we've done, we've been lucky to work with a producer who 'gets us,' musically, and emotionally.'
On "When I Died." The Thermals build even further on their stellar brand of polished garage rock, with soaring, anthemic choruses, smooth vocals, and old-school punk lyrics.