Naming an album Songs We Sing may seem presumptuous, but Matt
Costa seems to get away with it by offering melodies that make
it difficult not to hum at least a few bars.
Released by Jack Johnson's Brushfire Records, this full-length
debut has a notable sand-and-surf feel, but with a compelling pedigree
hidden beneath the bittersweet complacency we're so accustomed to
hearing from modern singer-songwriters. The pop overtones Costa lends
to folk, country, and rock suggest he may be just as influenced by
The Kinks' emulation of Americana music as he is by real thing.
It's a unique twist that marries Brit-pop melodies, modern song-craft,
and traditional styles in an aural ménage a trois.
Lyrically, Costa keeps his focus ambiguous without being esoteric.
"And the salt burns my skin / and your eyes were cold as the
ocean," he sings on "These Arms," just hinting at
a potential sea of emotions resting beneath the song's piano-dotted
surface. Such generalized lyrics make it easy for listeners to place
themselves in the songs, but don't offer them much to do once they're
there. Fortunately, their delivery is near perfect, with vocal harmonies
and unique instrumentation to fill any gaps. When a harpsichord
enters "Astair" it offers some classical refinement to
what might otherwise be just another letter to a mutually disenchanted
Costa apes a variety of musical styles, throwing some stock blues
guitar on "Ballad Of Miss Kate," and borrowing heavily from
both Buddy Holly ("Sweet Rose") and The Beatles
("Oh Dear"). It's nice to see that kind of daring, but the
effort here is at times too earnest. The transparency with which Costa
invokes his forebears robs Songs We Sing of its own identity
and leaves it sounding more like a multi-artist compilation than a
cohesive full-length debut. A lack of stylistic unity shouldn't be
a deal-breaker, though, and for those looking for a singer-songwriter
who sings more than one song, Matt Costa is likely worth a listen.
1. Cold December
3. Sweet Thursday
5. These Arms
6. Ballad Of Miss Kate
7. Sweet Rose
8. Songs We Sing
9. Yellow Taxi
10. I Tried
Check out more
e-mail the chief
Like this article?
it to a friend!