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Matt Costa - Unfamiliar Faces

Matt Costa, Unfamiliar Faces

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

MATT Costa is another artist – like ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra) – who has enjoyed deserved success by becoming part of Jack Johnson’s entourage (touring with him and joining his Brushfire Record label).

The former skateboard hopeful swapped sport for music after a life-changing accident left him in an 18-month recovery period and subsequently released a brilliant debut album, Songs We Sing, in 20006.

He now follows that up with the equally terrific Unfamiliar Faces, a collection of 13 songs that mine the depths of his vivid imagination and demonstrate a growing confidence in his own ability and diversity.

Costa said he wrote the album after taking his most treasured possessions and putting them on a shelf, before staring at them for some time and letting the memories flow. “That way I could see everything that I loved,” he explained.

The result is a rich collection of songs that explore themes of love, loss and fear. Opener and former single Mr Pitiful gets things off to a fine, upbeat start with some bouncing piano chords, a vocally adventurous “oh Mr Pit, oh Mr Pitiful” lyric and a keen sense of melody that puts you instantly into a good mood.

There’s an acoustic glow surrounding Lilacs, which immediately confirms that the album isn’t going to rest on its laurels, while there’s a touch of the Badly Drawn Boy on the stripped down, acoustic Never Looking Back – a heartfelt statement of intent that determines not to reflect on past mistakes.

There’s a strong sense of country rock on the vibrant Emergency Call – an album highlight – that recalls North Country Boy-era Charlatans, as well as classic Rolling Stones. And Vienna employs a really strong vocal over a song about love (“winter can’t ignore her… bring her to me”). It’s one of the more romantic efforts (so remember it come Valentine’s).

Further highlights come in the form of Cigarette Eyes, which showcases the slightly darker side of Costa’s songwriting; Downfall, with its acoustic roots and sense of hopefulness, and Trying To Lose My Mind, which incorporates some wonderful whistling as if to mask the memories of a darker period in his life, whilst recovering from injury.

Heart of Stone is a heart-on-sleeve moment that thrives on its intimate approach and some fabulous guitar work and Miss Magnolia uses some endearing banjo to bring back the smiles and sunshine glow, whilst soundchecking a classic song that shall remain nameless so as not to spoil the “what is it” fun.

The overall result, therefore, is an album that captivates from beginning to end and which overcomes that “difficult second album” syndrome in effortless fashion. It’s clear that Matt Costa is here to stay and his songwriting ought to command a wide appreciation society.

Download picks: Mr Pitiful, Lilacs, Trying To Lose My Mind, Emergency Call, Cigarette Eyes, Miss Magnolia

Track listing:

  1. Mr. Pitiful
  2. Lilacs
  3. Never Looking Back
  4. Emergency Call
  5. Vienna
  6. Unfamiliar Faces
  7. Cigarette Eyes
  8. Downfall
  9. Trying To Lose My Mind
  10. Bound
  11. Heart Of Stone
  12. Miss Magnolia
  13. Lovin’ – Matt Costa & Ane Brun