First Listen: Matthew Good – Lights of Endangered Species

Courtesy of the Explore Music stream, an ‘as I hear it’ reaction(aside from previously released tracks) to Matthew Good’s latest disc, Lights of Endangered Species, which drops May 31st.  Ready, set…. BLOG!

(Upfront:  Kid in candy store right now.  Matthew is not only one of my absolute favourite artists, but he is my inspiration in terms of his social activism and awareness-raising actions concerning mental illness.  He’s largely informed my personal politics, broadened my horizons, challenged my brain and is a continued inspiration to me in my social work endeavours.  Obviously, I am fucking excited.  Hitting play now.)

Extraordinary Fades:  The drums that are our solitary introduction to the album and the track?  Hell and yes.  I love the time signature on this one.  Immediately, I’m thinking of Pledge of Allegiance evolved for this one, sonically and lyrically.  The birds are a gorgeous and eerie touch.  Haunting, on some levels simple and others complex… and just as suddenly as the drums arrived, the strings slide us out in dramatic fashion.  Wow.

How It Goes: This one right away reminds me of the Matthew Good demos – very folky, in a more obvious way.  The vocals are upfront, demanding attention; it feels very intimate, like a coffeeshop gig.  Even when we transition into the second verse, it still feels earthy, grounded – like wandering a forest trail, reflecting.  Seems befitting the song’s message.  This will be an excellent road trip song, blazing down the back roads in Autumn.  “Baby you know I bruise, but being polite never got me nowhere.”  Best line in the song, hands down, because man, do I know that feeling.

Shallow’s Low:  Matthew has a habit of employing children as backing atmosphere, to great success; his daughter’s haunting loop definitely continues the tradition.  The guitar kicking in conjures up the live jamming of Empty’s Theme Park which, considering my Twitter handle, is a very good thing, indeed.  In fact, the tune’s primarily a fuck-awesome jam, and I am completely enthralled.  Every layer swells into a blend that at once challenges and collaborates with its opposing instruments/players.  This will be amazing live, perhaps nestled alongside Vancouver-era material or even Hospital Music‘s sombre moments.  My dad is going to love this one.

What If I Can’t See The Stars Mildred?:  Matt mentions bipolarity in connection with this one in the Explore Music video, and I immediately relate.  “If I’m the crazy one, then what the fuck’s with everyone else?”  Bipolarity is a goddamn nightmare, and it’s painted on a musical canvass with this one in such acute form that it almost hurts me to hear it.  The driving, relentless melody that kicks this off could easily be a soundtrack to one of my manic swings; the lower moments, both brief respite and fear of freefall encompassed.  This needs to happen at my next show, although it might simultaneously be cathartic and killer; it’s definitely a five-star track for me, and I’d love it to be a single, even, to ensure as many people as possible are privy to its genius.  Musically slain and in awe – Matt at top form.

Zero Orchestra:  Matt tweeted me that this one was the hardest track to nail down for Lights, so I’ve been eager to hear it.  Sweet Home, Chicago bluesy sensibility meets White Light Rock and Roll Review, at first impression, and damn, it’s sweet.  The horns… Fucking hell, the horns are gorgeous.  Matt’s already struggling with the live execution, but on behalf of myself and my father, this needs to be on the setlist.  I’m speechless; I honestly am not registering the lyrics as much as I normally do (I’m all about words) because the sonic tapestry is BLOWING MY MIND.  This, people?  Moments like this where Matt comes out of left field and knocks me out mentally?  This is why I will insist he is a legendary musical mind, a Roger Waters for our country who goes wherever he pleases with his music, speaks his truths… and I respect that a hell of a lot.

Non Populus:  I’ve heard this one before via Soundcloud, and am already deeply in love with it.  I’m always drawn to Matt’s more piano-driven work, and his more ‘epic’ pieces (Near Fantastica; While We Were Hunting Rabbits; The Vancouver National Anthem), so this one’s a natural fit with me.  The guitar riff… Spot on, perfectly timed – but I expect no less from Good.  This album, I’ve noticed, is very much about ‘less is more’ lyrically, more so than previous outings.  The music is the storyteller; Matt’s words are merely the annotations, the extra clarity.  More than any other track, this one feels symphonic:  it has movements, mood shifts to a degree, but ultimately brings us to a core truth.  Another song that blows me away, and segues very nicely from Zero Orchestra – that shift in itself another ‘movement’ within the album sequencing.  “Done something different…”  We could have… but we of course did not.

In A Place of Lesser Men:  Another one previously released, but one that’s grown on me more over time…  The eerie appropriateness of a fool on the news saying the world’s going to end in the first verse?  Um, wow.  Matt, do you listen to Family Radio, or is it synchronicity via invitability?  The theme of oppression as viewed by the dominant ally is poignant.  Musically, this one isn’t a stand-out – but the lyrics matter greatly.

Set Me On Fire:  Immediately, I’m looking to juxtapose this with …Mildred? given the lyrical link – and I think it’s a fair comparison.  While the earlier track is an exploration of bipolarity and medication vs creativity (do I sacrifice my sanity or, potentially, my art?), this one explores fame, and the eternal battle between image and self – both image as artist portrays and the image the public thrusts upon celebrities.  Sonically, it evokes Hospital Music for me, and would fit within its conceptual framework in terms of content; however, it works here as well, and solidifies the album as an exploration of humanity itself, and the ticking clock boding our inevitable extinction.

Lights of Endangered Species:  If Empty’s Theme Park was a rendering of one being frozen in time, wondering if one would ever evolve from a child-like self or spin in endless circles, Lights… is the demand to examine our families, to examine our future through those who inherit the wreckage of the world.  Action/inaction…. Face the reality, or remain oblivious.  Present and future collide, as opposed to past and present.  It feels like a natural continuation of it, a missing ‘movement’.  It’s entirely too brief in some ways and yet somehow, it seems fitting, foreboding in a propos fashion.

Album Grade On First Listen:  A

For more on Matthew Good, including access to his Soundcloud full o’ goodies, click here.

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