Friday, April 3, 2020

CD Odyssey Disc 1356: Matt Mays

My weekend started horribly, with news of a tragedy affecting a close friend of mine, made worse by the pandemic. So, I am in poor spirits, but I’m going to write this music review anyway. I hope it helps take my mind off life’s troubles, and I hope it does the same for you.

Disc 1356 is….Coyote
Artist: Matt Mays

Year of Release: 2012

What’s up with the Cover? Matt sits down on a very large coyote. I think sitting down on a coyote of any size is a poor decision but doing so on one this large seems exceptionally foolhardy.

How I Came To Know It: I seem to recall Matt Mays opened for Blue Rodeo at a concert and I heard him there. I didn’t buy his album from the merch table, but I had liked what I heard and when I saw this record in a store a few weeks later I took a chance.

How It Stacks Up:  Matt Mays has seven studio albums, but I’ve only got the one at this point, so it can’t really stack up.

Ratings: 4 stars

Artists always like to think they’re breaking new ground with each fresh album they release. “Coyote” does not break new ground; it is about as straight up, middle-of-the-road Canadian-style rock and roll as you can get. However, just because it’s driving in the center lane doesn’t mean it isn’t good – “Coyote” is a damned fine rock record, and the few complaints I have (to come shortly) are minor.

While this is straightforward rock and roll, Mays manages to find a lot of different dynamics and sounds within that genre. He mixes in straight ahead guitar crunch, with sparse, echoing piano bits and various other tricks and nuances. The production has a few more layers than I usually like, but they are blended so artfully I welcomed the experience.

Together it created a wall of sound that was more like mist than bricks; permeable and soft, and which lets you sink in with ease. Other “wall of sound” types could learn a few things here – there has to be a melodic path through your songs, or they’re just gonna sound like noise.

Mays’ vocals are raspy and melodic. They aren’t super emotive, but he knows what he does well and sticks to it. This involves a semi-choral soar that blends in nice with the rich production. You can hear every word if you pay attention, but the songs are just as pretty when treating his singing like just another sound in the symphony. The even mix reminded me favourably of Blue Oyster Cult (although not as good, obviously – let’s not get crazy here).

There are more than a few standouts, but I dig the guitar riff on “Drop the Bombs” in particular. With its laid-back churn it would make for great rural highway driving music. I don’t mean deep in the hinterland stuff though. Not Williams Lake to Prince George, or anything, but maybe Kamloops to Kelowna. It’s a little bit urban, a little bit country.

A couple of times (“Rochambo”, “Madre Padre”) Mays descends into experimental stoner rock, and in those moments he loses me. I will give full credit to “Rochambo” as a great song title, but if you’re going to go there then the song better do a better job of, you know, kicking me in the balls. Instead it has weird fuzzed out horn and reggae beats crossed with sixties psych. It doesn’t fit on the record and feels overly clever.

His sound fares better when it is “a little bit sad, a little bit stoned” which the album delivers on more than a few songs (and is a featured line in the chorus of “Stoned”).

The record ends with the stripped down, “Chase the Light,” a song about pushing on in darkness and never giving up hope that things will get better soon. It’s a good song for these troubled times, and so I’ll let it finish this entry with a few of its inspirational words:

“Further and further, until there's strange land
I can't let my shadow determine where I'll stand
Into the everlasting night
I'll chase the light”

Best tracks: Indio, Take It On Faith, Drop the Bombs, Slow Burning Luck, Stoned, Queen of Portland Street, Chase the Light

No comments: