Last week, I blogged a little about one of my favorite musicians, Matthew Good. This week, I thought I’d post a few thoughts on his newest CD Vancouver. Which (CD is misleading) I downloaded it thanks to a friend’s thoughtful Christmas gift.
Vancouver is a collection of songs about Good’s hometown & the different experiences he’s had there. They are dense, moody & thoughtfully crafted. Often times I think Beautiful Midnight, the title of the first Matthew Good CD I ever bought, could apply to his whole catalog.
“Last Parade” opens the album, an anthemic tune that walks the line between dynamic (“It feels like time to fuck or leave”) & dirge-like (“Let the dirt fall around me/Baby ain’t it good to be back home”). “Last Parade” & other Matt Good songs like it are an example of why I’m so caught up in his music.
I don’t know how well I can explain it; the lyrics, the repetitive piano notes & the building guitar chords match aurally to these thoughts I have about human nature. The difficulty of being human & flawed but resolute to live aware of that & in spite of it. Good’s music is an affirmation of that for me.
Anyway, all that aside, after the strong opener, Vancouver falls into the same trap that Audio of Being, a previous Matt Good CD, does. The first uptempo song immediately sinks into slower “downer” songs. Both “The Boy Who Could Explode” & “Great Whales of the Sea” are excellent songs. However, like many of the other songs on the CD, they rely heavily on string orchestration to create atmosphere. This tactic has worked to underline the drama on previous CDs but has always been used sparingly. I’m thinking mainly of “Sort of Protest Song” on Audio of Being & “While We Were Hunting Rabbits” on Avalanche.
I like these previous songs; I like that they are over 5 minutes & are dramatic & rely on creating an atmosphere. However, I enjoy them even better because they’re in the middle or at the end of the CD. I can rock out & then take a moment to reflect on what I’m hearing. This does not work for “Great Whales” & “Boy Who Could Explode” because they’re at the beginning of the CD. If you had this on in the car, trying to get a groove on, you would get impatient. Also, unfortunately, the orchestration is used in nearly every single song on the album.
Thankfully, “On Nights Like Tonight” brings us back to speed. The mood changes so quickly that it feels like you’re chasing Good as he sings out “Carry me Mother Mary I’m faithless/Like Sister Theresa, canonized, faceless”. Then he brings us to the taffy-slow chorus, which leaves you grasping for meaning as he drawls “Who’s at the helm?”
Other notable songs are “A Silent Army in the Trees”, a fearful dialogue of a soldier’s thoughts in a post-9-11 world, “Fought to Fight It”, a companion track that is easily a cousin to anything off of NIN’s Year Zero or The Slip, & “The Vancouver National Anthem”, a theme song for any city that gentrifies it’s districts at the expense of any undesirables. Vancouver rounds out with “Empty’s Theme Park”, a clever inversion both musically & lyrically of “Last Parade”. “Last Parade” states “The burning future’s in the mountains/All lit up, yeah you can count yours”. “Theme Park” pleads “Bear it like you’ll never let it show/Shine the light and so never let me go”.
For me, Vancouver is a solid CD. A little indulgent with the atmosphere building; a little skewed tempo-wise, but still a staple of my player right now. I always seem to notice the dusk & the wane of the day when I hear Good’s music. Something about his CDs brings my gaze to the sky & my thoughts to what I may have missed today but what I can still catch tomorrow.