Saturday 28 June 2014

Matthew North - still THINKING? still DREAMING

Album review by KevW

In a career spanning over two decades, Matthew North has embarked on several musical journeys, from starting out as guitarist in goth-influenced band All Living Fear to more recently being a member of folk/prog/indie group Secrets For September. So when it comes to the various branches of the rock family tree, he's a well versed man. It was in 2009 that North began performing solo, and now he delivers his first album under his own name. It can be tempting, especially if you've covered full-band formats and more electrified set ups before, to strip everything down to just one man and his guitar, although the results of such endeavours are often far from exhilarating, so it's great to hear that there's more substance to 'still THINKING? still DREAMING'.

For the most part, although varied, this is a record that adheres to convention; structures, subjects and instrumentation don't offer many surprises, and this is something that leaves us with the songs on display, not hidden behind any smoke and mirrors. Writing about personal experiences (or at least that's how it feels) is bound to mean that some tracks are quite reflective, and this is the case with 'Blue Sky' which looks back on difficult times and a relationship that didn't quite work out, yet it still picks out positives, and this is a trait that we first heard on single 'Something Memorable' where once again both sides of the coin are shown. The arrangements to 'I See You' and 'The Future' work all the better for their simplicity, allowing the twinkling guitar and lyrics to take centre stage.

When there is a change in the format, such as folky numbers 'Just Can't See' and 'Fortunes Light', it offers a nice contrast and variation. 'Still Thinking' ramps the pace up and again shows another side to Matthew North, this time a more upbeat, indie type sound; sat at the centre of the album it acts as a highlight. 'Still Waiting Part 1' and 'Still Waiting Part 2' are obvious focal points and again deal with sadness and the times when life deals you a bad hand, especially '...Part 1' which is as close as we get to classic acoustic rock. The second part is starker, swapping guitar for piano and letting those vocals cry with more anguish than we've hear elsewhere on 'still THINKING? still DREAMING'. The electronics add yet another element and it's a curiously haunting way to finish off what is a confident, varied yet accessible first solo outing.

Matthew North's website

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