THOMAS CHARLIE PEDERSEN – Album Review: “Employees Must Wash Hands”

Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark is Thomas Charlie Pedersen, a thoughtful and earnest singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who calls his pleasing style of music “chamber folk”. It’s a fitting description, as his sound is characterized by intricate melodies, understated yet lush arrangements, beautiful instrumentation and comforting vocals.

Thomas has been making music for nearly 20 years (he must have started out when he was 13, as he still looks quite young!), both as a solo artist and as part of alt-rock band Vinyl Floor, which he formed in 2004 along with his brother Daniel and a third member who recently departed. Vinyl Floor has released five albums since 2009, whereas Thomas has released three under his own name, beginning with his debut album Second Hand War in 2016, followed four years later by Daylight Saving Hours. Now he returns with Employees Must Wash Hands, a lovely work featuring 15 tracks. The album is being released by Vinyl Floor’s own label Karmanian Records.

Thomas actually recorded two albums in 2021, this solo record as well as Funhouse Mirror with Vinyl Floor, which was released in September 2022. He explains how Employees Must Wash Hands came to be: “The Covid lockdown situation was a highly creative period for my brother Daniel & I. Alongside the Vinyl Floor tracks, I found I had written 15 more songs but I didn’t exactly know what to do with them. Daniel and I had been working on and off on band demos for quite some time, and when I suddenly was isolating at home I found myself writing even more stuff on my acoustic guitar & piano. I lived with these songs alone for a while, and late at night I could work on the lyrics for hours on end. At one point, our studio time with the band in Sweden got postponed – leaving us with 5 months of practically nothing to do but wait.

To keep ourselves on our toes, we decided to record almost the entire ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ album and we wrapped up the additional recordings once we got back from band sessions in Sweden. What you have here is the other side of the ‘Funhouse Mirror’ sessions – a quieter and somewhat more introverted and reflective album, but also showcasing a more arranged and ‘band-like’ feel than my previous solo efforts. Some of these songs deal with man’s relationship with God and God ́s relationship with man. Who has abandoned who? And is there any faith or spirituality left? They also deal with isolation, self doubt, and all the other stuff on my mind during the strange time that was Covid lockdown.”

The album, whose title is a cheeky nod to that strange pandemic time, serves up 36 minutes of introspective indie folk-pop goodness. Most of its 15 tracks are less than three minutes long, making for a quick and very enjoyable listen. Thomas’s brother Daniel had a major hand in the album, helping out with everything from arranging the songs to recording, producing & mixing them. He also sang backing vocals and played instruments on most tracks.

It opens with “Yesterdays And Silly Ways“, a pleasant track with a buoyant melody but somewhat darker lyrics about hiding behind an upbeat façade that hides less happy truths: “You tried your best, it was not your fault. Don´t try to delay me, your concrete walls proceed to retain a lonesome feeling. Yesterdays and silly ways.” Keeping with a similar theme, “Oh Whatever” seems to be spoken from God’s perspective to people and their tendency to fall prey to greed and ignorance: “Oh, my children, the sky is painted blue, but all you do is lying and denying every clue. Oh, my lost children, where money and mistrust is king. It´s sad to be the relayer, since I brought you everything.”

On the melodic “Slow Passage” Thomas sings of finding a bit of rejuvenation for his soul: “I might opt for a peaceful retreat or a lone walk in the woods, ‘cause a break from the wilderness will surely do me good“, with a catchy toe-tapping beat and some great guitar noodling.

One of my favorite tracks is “Rains On Saturn“, a beautiful piano-driven song that seems to speak of people who search for something better, while not appreciating what they already have: “You may prevail in your zeal for new horizons, but the sky you had was clear and when it rained, it rained diamonds. Drought for forty days, for golden times you yearn, just like when it rains on Saturn.” I really like the song’s lovely piano melody, accompanied early on by subtle sounds of rockets shooting through the heavens, then later by stirring strings. Thomas’s pleasing vocals are backed by his and Daniel’s enchanting harmonies.

Coarse Rasp of Yours” is a wonderful folk-pop song of remembrance and affection, with poetic lyrics containing the album title: “Employees must wash hands. It’s weird to feel oppressed by reality. A few emotional feeds, painted infinity. There are only a few things left which I truly still adore, a real blonde and that coarse rasp of yore.”

Several tracks have a strong classical sensibility: “Mass in D Minor” is a somber dirge-like song about being stuck in a state of depression and ennui: “I’ve become a regiment of drugs, booze and cigarettes. My smile’s just a cry in disguise. Life is just a sentiment, a motion of silhouettes. The sun is now a cloud in my eyes.” “Fiddler & the Travesty” is a hauntingly beautiful song with melancholy piano and hopeful strings, and Thomas and Daniel’s lovely harmonies as they lament “Fiddler and the travesty, can’t escape his destiny. Singing his heart out to no one. He must not sing forever.” And as it’s title suggests, “Organ Prayer (in E Flat)” is a church-like hymn with great lyrics calling out sanctimonious posers and phonies: “I´ve had enough of your dense accolades. Choose side or fall flat with the crowd. A prayer must lose some effect when it comes off too proud. Tell your lame friends to go screw themselves.”

One of the sweetest tracks is the poignant “You Can’t Have it Both Ways” a Beatles-esque song with lovely strummed acoustic guitar and a wonderful organ riff, accompanied by the guys’ sublime harmonies. “Sooner Than You Think” has more of a rock feel, with a driving beat and grungy guitars. The lyrics speak of trying to regain trust in a troubled relationship: “Recycled trust, we should aim for something new, but you long for the past and, honestly, I do too. I will gaze at your beauty without a nod or a blink.We may face the truth sooner than you think.”

I like how Thomas builds his songs around a particular instrument. Case in point is the lovely piano melody of “Tremble and Reel“, with what sounds like a recorder adding some nice touches, or “Beach in Vietnam“, a sweet 47-second-long love song consisting of a simple but impactful piano riff, accompanied by his heartfelt vocal. Strummed guitars form the basis of the beguiling love song “Night of Stars“, and the uplifting folk song “Worry Beads“, both of which also feature the guys’ delightful harmonies.

The album closes on a beautiful note with the stirring piano instrumental “Stagnant Pools of Sorrow“. The combination of gorgeous piano and orchestral strings gives the track a classical feel as well. It’s a fine finish to a truly wonderful collection of carefully-crafted songs. So just sit back in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and let them wash over you.

Here’s the album on YouTube:

And on Spotify:

Connect with Thomas:  FacebookTwitter 

Find his music on SpotifyApple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

15 thoughts on “THOMAS CHARLIE PEDERSEN – Album Review: “Employees Must Wash Hands”

  1. Man, I love Thomas and will definitely check out this album more closely! As I started listening to “Yesterdays and Silly Ways” my first thought was Beatles. I can see traces of the Fab Four in many of Pederson’s songs. His vocals are great as well!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Springing for singles I | Poprock Record

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