RiYL: Natalie Prass, Father John Misty, Wilco
Recommended Tracks: 1- Take Care My Baby, 2-Rock and Roll is Cold, 4- Holy Moly, 5- Circle Around the Sun, 7- Feeling Good is Good Enough
If you had your eyes closed and someone put on Matthew E. White’s Fresh Blood, you might think you somehow fell asleep and woke up in Detroit at the height of the Motown Era.
Too often, artists going by just a first and last name are swept into to the singer/songwriter category. Though that intimacy and honesty are apart of the project, Fresh Blood is so much more.
White’s not afraid to venture into traditional blues form, dabble in horn punches and orchestral swirls, or to yield vocals to choral backups. But he’s still a bearded southern rock singer. His vocals are raw and yearning, and thankfully are left alone in production.
He doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. He lets his abilities as a jazz arranger speak and the songs shine themselves, drawing out the gold from his vocals and lyrics.
He’s lyrically pointed on Fresh Blood, criticizing the church for its sexual abuse struggles, “Holy Moly/ What’s wrong with them?/Don’t you ever give me false hope.”
He dedicates “Tranquility” to Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The lyrical substance makes this one of the most reflective R&B records you’ve ever heard.
“Circle Around the Sun” is an almost desperate sound where White’s vocals take on a near whisper underneath piano chords and light rhythm section. A song about the passing of a friend’s mother, his voice subtly swells as it reaches higher, crooning, “Keep my son and daughter/Now put your arms around me, Jesus/Like a circle around the sun.”
But the album doesn’t stay dark for long. Fun songs about love and sexuality surround the deeper songs. “Feeling Good is Good Enough” is sexy enough to stand by anything from the Motown era. The squealing horns simultaneously captivate and carry the listener dreamily away.
“Take Care My Baby” is as catchy as any song you’ve heard this year. As the Leon Russel-esque piano bobbing crescendos into a full orchestra instrumentation, White sounds his most engaged, raising his voice an octave into a smooth but intense muttering. He never really opens his voice entirely. There are certainly no Sam Smith explosions, but there’s something refreshing about a songwriter who knows his limitations and lets the songs speak for themselves.
White also produced Natalie Prass’s new self-titled, so it’s safe to say that White has already brought more soul to 2015 than we could ask for