Matthew Good – Vancouver

A week late on this one, so I mght do two next week or just drop this weeks, we’ll see. Anyhoo, I normally like to try and do reviews of albums I like, but this week I felt I had more to say about one I didn’t like so much, although I do have some good things to say about Matt Good’s work in general, and will make some recommendations of better albums and songs to listen to. Just to put my biases out there, I tend not to like many of Matt Good’s long, slow, steady songs, so maybe there are just more of those on this album, and that’s what’s making me all cranky.

Overview
If you have heard more than one of Matt’s previous albums (with or without the “Band” moniker), you’ve pretty much heard this album. On this album are lots of the following: open chord guitars, ominous strings, echo-ey pianos, sparse acoustic breakdowns, long songs (once a basically structured pop song starts to reach and surpass the five minute mark, I often wonder why), and the trademark drone/quiver vocals. On this album are little of the following: the rock, spaces, new influences, fresh sounds, intensity, excitement. On Matt’s three other solo albums, I have found at least one song to get really excited about. Weapon, Put Out Your Lights, and Born Losers (yeah I tend to like singles) were all songs I wanted to listen to again and again after first hearing them, and I still enjoy listening to them now. I think what this new album is missing is some sense of intensity and dynamics. Most of the songs sound like you could take out all the backing instrumentation, just leaving the constant guitar strumming and vocals, and there would be little to no change in the sound or feel. There are very few changes in the dynamics, even song to song. I always felt one of Matt’s best skills as an artist was the ability to sing a low, somber, flowy verse, and then kick it up a notch and an octave for another verse or the chorus or the bridge, and I didn’t notice any of that here, if it was present it was dampened by the constant volume and intensity level of the rest of the music. Alright, enough Hatorade, down to some good stuff.

Highlights:
Last Parade – Sounds like it would fit right in on Audio of Being or Avalanche (sampled, almost electronicky feel), with a multi-instrument stacked melody like the main guitar hook in Born Losers.

Fought to Fight it – Anti-Pop energy with Hello Time Bomb-ish synth blurts, and some good old sound byte sampling.

seeing as I found the strengths of theses songs to be mostly how they sounded like old Matt Good songs, I’ll recommend some other Matt Good songs I really like.

Poor Man’s Grey – White Light Rock and Roll Review: Short, sweet, dirty rock n’ roll. “My Momma she done told me, there’s heart and then there’s hate, if one of them’s inside of you, the other one it ain’t.”
Ex-Pats of the Blue Mountain Symphony Orchestra – White Light Rock and Roll Review: A little injection of the Who, and chorus that is totally not a standard Matt Good melody makes this one a blast of fresh air.
Advertising on Police Cars – Audio of Being: Yeah it’s long and slow, but he had me at stereo delay piano (that’s the chimey sound bouncing between speakers in the chorus). Also, the verse is somber, but the chorus gives this nice lift of hope (although the lyrics kinda contradict that), and the change back and forth between the two different tones makes the seven minutes useful.
While we were Hunting Rabbits – Avalanche: Again, long and slow, but somehow I like it, maybe its the swell and fade of the intensity throughout. There is also a cool video for this one that was done by some Vancouver Film School Students I believe.
Near Fantastica – Avalanche: Don’t love the chorus but boy do I love that intro. I have no idea what makes the airy, indecisive melody at the start, but it’s cool. I love the weird, spacey background sounds all over this album. The sampled live drums also add a nice touch to the start. Makes it almost sound electronic for a minute.
I Am Not Safer than a Bank – Hospital Music: just listen to it. I would hate to insult a whole bunch of other stuff that he has likely worked much harder on, but I think this may be the best song Matt Good has ever written. Maybe I just have a thing for concise, to-the-point songwriting.

Music Nerdery:
It’s not on this album, but the solo of Hello Time Bomb is pretty much the reason I wanted an analog delay pedal. The lead guitarist is not really playing any notes, just turning up the feedback so the delays never stop, and then changing the delay time to make those space-warp sounds. I just wish I could learn to control it like that, at make it sound at least close to musical.

Recommendations:
Listen to other Matt Good Albums. Pick any one. If you like your stuff with more instrumentation, cool airy/spacey sounds, and interesting uses of instrument samples, go with Audio of Being, the last Matt Good Band album, or Avalanche, his first solo effort. If you like it a little more down and dirty, check out White Light Rock and Roll Review, the most different sounding of all his stuff, it was tracked almost entirely live, resulting in a loose, more honest sound. Actually sounds like four dudes in a room together playing some music. I also think it’s good for Matt to have other people playing on his stuff. I don’t know for sure, but I think a lot of the recent stuff is all him on the recordings (for guitars and vocals at least), and I really think he needs to have some outside influences to shake his stuff up, or the next album is going to sound even more tired than this one.

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One thought on “Matthew Good – Vancouver

  1. Alanna says:

    I agree. It sounds tired. I had high hopes, and it's an ok album for driving through the mountains with someone else in the car and having a conversation…i.e. background music.

    I do like 'Silent Army in the Trees' though. And I hope that this is an album that grows on me over the years.

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