January 31, 2008

Sweet Like a Cupcake

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Upon listening to Matt Costa’s soothingly smooth voice, one would never guess that until he injured himself in 2003, he was on his way to becoming a pro skateboarder. Although it’s unfortunate for Matt that he couldn’t skateboard during his recovery period, it is difficult to feel sad about this turn of events because it was caused him to seriously explore the guitar. It is hard to imagine that his skills on the board were more impressive than his skills as a singer and songwriter.
Costa’s second full album, Unfamiliar Faces, is simply enjoyable to listen to. His voice may remind listeners of Jack Johnson, for whom Costa has opened for and with whom he has collaborated. The album is extremely satisfying in its diversity of sounds, a diversity that includes alternative, or Indie, qualities as well as folk and even country sounds. This unusual combination of different music genres sounds like it would be strange and uncomfortable, but somehow, it works. There is no point in trying to explain how Costa makes it work; he just does.
Perhaps the true gem in the album is “Miss Magnolia,” the track that is most suggestive of folk music. The lyrics also evoke influences from the blues, with Costa describing a man parting from a former love: “You know I been here way too long/ You had me working all day long.” He sings about this age-old theme in a fresh and enjoyable style.
“Emergency Call” is upbeat and catchy and appears to be a cute, although arguably cliché, declaration of love. Costa croons, “Doctor Doctor can’t get no relief/ This losing sleep is misery/ Won’t you come and rescue me?” His claim “my broken horn’s lost the tune” contrasts with the horn solo that is skillfully juxtaposed next to the continuing beat of the guitar. Side note: the track’s opening is strangely reminiscent of the beat of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Mr. Pitiful” is similarly upbeat, although with lyrics that do not appear to make much sense: “But, please come down from that cloud/ Don’t make me feel bad that we’re still friends/ Started it all over in my bed.”
Tracks such as “Downfall” and “Bound” are slightly sadder and more foreboding, but Costa manages to not keep the listener down for too long. This is demonstrated by such notably “feel good” tracks as “Lilacs” and the previously mentioned “Miss Magnolia” (which may already give you good feelings by simply reminding you of Magnolia cupcakes.…). Point is, Unfamiliar Faces is an album whose minor fault of occasionally murky lyrics can simply be washed down with, say, a glass of milk to achieve perfection, not unlike a Magnolia cupcake.