Monday, January 21, 2008

Reviews:: Matt Costa Unfamiliar Faces

The title of Matt Costa's new record has many meanings, any of which could be a jump-off point for the record. After touring the hell out of his first run of songs (I think he's been to Vancouver three times in the last two years), Costa is obviously feeling the strain and loneliness of the and it creeps into many tracks on the new record. But in a less obvious way, the record shows Costa experimenting with new styles and trying to move past the traditional influences that are always name-dropped with his reviews.

In an expected way, the results are mixed. Costa's first EP and his initial Brushfire release showcased his love of Donovan, the Beatles and Paul Simon but more importantly, showed his immense potential. He could have easily built his house on that solid foundation and kept his fan base extremely satisfied, but instead he moved past the acoustic pleasantries and experimented with bigger, bolder sounds.

Sure he still delivers some great acoustic singer songwriter tracks but the album opens with the mop-top piano gem, Mr. Pitiful. The plinky piano shimmers as he jumps into a pop track that changes how you think of his work. His combination of simple elements, like the round he throws in so casual before the chorus at the one minute mark, works perfectly and reveals an unexpected upside to his song writing.

The album shifts again and again over the next few songs - some fall short (Lilacs), some hit nicely (the country swagger of Never Looking Back and the gentle swoon of Downfall), and some come out of nowhere (the rollicking roots on Emergency Call) - and you start to realize that Costa has a lot of ideas swirling through his head and finally has the time and budget to explore each one. I'm not sure any fan of his past work would expect to hear the Belle & Sebastian/Josh Rouse bossa nova sounds of Vienna from Costa, and whether or not you like the results, the effort is worth recognition.

For the record, I like most of Unfamiliar Faces and even the tracks that stumble make me excited about the direction Costa is moving in. The piano notes he adds liberally to the strongest tracks on the record (the title track floats along nicely) show his understanding of pop music, and it's just a matter of finding how he wants to use this new found freedom. Some songs come off in a kid in a candy store fashion, as he's got unlimited layers, sounds, instruments and production to play with and some of the collage of sounds he creates are too much (Cigarette Eyes). But undoubtedly, as he keeps pushing forward with these ideas and finds his niche (like he does on the Bound) the results are going to be terrific.

Random note:: Is it just me or does his track Miss Magnolia sound eerily like In the Summertime by Mungo Jerry. I actually started singing "In the summertime when the weather is hot. You can stretch right up and touch the sky."

[MP3]:: Emergency Call (live at Street Scene)
[MP3]:: Mr. Pitiful
[Video]:: Mr. Pitiful

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Posted at 1:22 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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At 8:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous did sayeth:

if you dig matt costa - i know you'll dig Johnathan Rice.

his latest album, Further North is a gem! one of the most underrated albums of 07.

give him a try. doubt you'd dislike it!


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