Reviews:: New Amsterdams At the Foot of My Rival

It's safe to say that the New Amsterdams have evolved substantially in their seven year existence. When the band started, Matt simply needed a vehicle for his acoustic, fast/slow strummed tracks. That's not to say the songs weren't enjoyable, as I jumped on board and soaked up the songs from the first two full lengths.

But it was sometime around the release of Worse for the Wear that the New Ams (and Pryor's songwriting) started to expand and really take stride. Songs like Hover Near Fame showed the unlimited ceiling for the band, and Pryor hasn't looked back.

Over the last two years (read more about the history here), he settled on a full time touring band and added steel, electric, drums, horns and most importantly, cohesion: All of which help strengthen his efforts. He's in a better place, focused, happy and he isn't stuck trying to figure out which song goes with what band. The New Ams can now add diversity to their records, tossing in full-on electric guitar rockers (like the opening number A Beacon In Beige) with the intimate 4-track acoustic work without having to cater to specific audiences.

Flash forward to the new release, At the Foot of My Rival. First things first - this is probably the most complete record Matt's ever made; rich in emotion and textures but still sparse at just the right moments. He flushes out some tracks with jazzy arrangements (This Day Is Done), but you never feel like Pryor is trying to be anything but himself. He still talks about his inner demons (his portrayal of failed love and pain on Hughes is great - as is the steel & banjo work) and adds the melancholic bliss we crave from him, but his sound is maturing. Drunk or Dead uses a simple acoustic riff you'd find on Never You Mind or Para Tora Vida, but the arrangement includes a gradual build of strings, horns and crashing cymbals. Trying to imagine him making this record seven years ago and combining the sunny tones, electric noodling and staccato drum lines of Wait or the bouncy, stand up bass riff of Lay on the Rails with the stripped down beauty of Revenge, well it boggles the mind.

At the Foot of My Rival is a series of emotional peaks and valleys. The cello work and brushed drums of The Blood On The Floor drags you down into a somber state, but that's contrasted with the euphoric high of Without A Sound (Eleanor). Another interesting wrinkle is Silverside, a unique combination of a Dire Straights-esque riff and just enough dusty country feel to combat the AM radio feel.

You look at all these things, and picture Matt drinking alone in a hotel room and you can't help but think how close he must have come to getting out of music altogether. Now he's got a new sound, a new outlook and as you picture the smile he must have had when recording the harmony rich Fountain Of Youth, you can't help but think he's finally found the secret to his perfect life.
MP3:: Story Like A Scar
MP3:: Fountain Of Youth
MP3:: Ex's Oh's (non album)
myspace :: label

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