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Matt Costa - Songs We Sing

Matt Costa, Songs We Sing

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TWENTY-three-year old Californian Matt Costa looks to be following in the footsteps of Jack Johnson, on whose label – Brushfire Records – his debut UK album, Songs We Sing is released.

The amiable former pro-skateboard hopeful turned to music following an horrific accident that shattered his leg at the age of 19. Faced with 18 months of rehabilitation, he redirected his energy, passion and talent towards the guitar, conjuring a series of life-affirming, uplifting and melody laden tracks that eventually found their way to No Doubt guitarist, Tom Dumont.

The duo worked together on an early EP, before uniting again for this album (Dumont serves as producer), which has also benefitted from the support of Johnson (himself a surfer). Costa has even supported Johnson on his recent US tour and will shortly follow him to the UK for the British leg.

Songs We Sing is therefore an extremely engaging piece of work that works on the same sort of formula for success as Johnson’s In Between Dreams. The acoustic guitar is to the fore, although some of the melodies are less acoustic and owe more to the fuller sunshine sound of bands like Fountains of Wayne.

It ambitiously draws on elements of ragtime, folk, psychedelia, country and classical music, yet consistently delivers the goods.

Opening track Cold December couldn’t be warmer in vibe, packed full of jangling guitars and sing-along style choruses, while second track Astair contains a lush acoustic vibe that is both heartbreakingly simple and defiantly pleasing. Sunshine, meanwhile, unfolds amid a playful ‘sha la la’ set of lyrics that genuinely recaptures the cool vibe surrounding the Jack Johnson sound.

Elsewhere, there’s a blues stomp/ragtime vibe surrounding the slightly more downbeat Ballad of Miss Kate, which features some really rousing guitar work that is effectively counter-ballanced by the sweet country folk of the very next track, Sweet Rose.

Title track, Songs We Sing is a joyful romp through the effervescent country pop of The Shins, complete with slabs of harmonica and a gentle, toe-tapping vibe, while there’s some spine-tingling piano waltzing its way between the lush acoustic guitar chords of the charming Yellow Taxi (a song that recalls the wistful melodies of Simon and Garfunkel).

Behind The Moon is another rousing foot-stomper, packed with strong riffs and gutsy, passionate lyrics (‘let me hold you in the way I used to do’), while there’s a distinctly psychedelic feel to the Beatles-esque Oh Dear, which continues to impress by exploring new avenues for the singer.

Needless to say, we’re big fans of Costa, whose music really ought to serve as an inspiration for any singer hung up on their own troubles. Given his injury and subsequent career change, the singer-songwriter could have delivered brooding, self-pitying songs that wallow in darkness and melancholy. Maybe it’s the Californian sunshine but Songs We Sing revels in bright hooks, gorgeous melodies and an easy-going style (even when exploring darker themes).

It therefore ought to be embraced by anyone currently basking in the warm glow of the Jack Johnson-style musical revolution.

Read our interview with Matt Costa

Track listing:

  1. Yellow Taxi
  2. Astair
  3. Oh Dear
  4. Cold December
  5. Desire’s Only Fling
  6. Sweet Rose
  7. Songs We Sing
  8. Sunshine
  9. Whiskey And Wine
  10. Shimmering Fields
  11. Behind The Moon
  12. Wash Away