The New Amsterdams

At the Foot of My Rival

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The songs on the New Amsterdams' second 2007 offering, At the Foot of My Rival, may be of a searching and pensive nature, but the album is infused with a sure and steady confidence. Even if Matthew Pryor is unsure about life, it quickly becomes evident that he is secure about his songwriting ability, as well he should be. Punctuated throughout with freewheeling, rollicking tunes, At the Foot of My Rival bears a similarity to the soft, breezy sound of Fionn Regan and gentle playfulness of Simple Kid, albeit with more ornamentation. The common denominator, however, comes not from the sound of the album, but the feeling -- like albums from the Irish songsters, At the Foot of My Rival is upbeat but relaxing, featuring warm, intimate performances that are calming and pleasantly enveloping. While the lyrics tend to be somewhat melancholy (though never overly brooding), Pryor's delivery is free and easy, as if he's confiding in a trusted friend as opposed to scores of anonymous listeners. After opening with the soft and scratchy "Revenge," which acts more as a prologue than a grand introduction, At the Foot of My Rival truly opens up with "Wait," whose rolling, expansive nature calls to mind blue skies and wide horizons; it's a tailor-made road trip song. The delicate touches of a backing string ensemble bring some depth to the album on "Without a Sound (Eleanor)," and touches of pedal guitar on the following track, "Silverlake," introduce a vaguely alt-country vibe to the proceedings. The album's real charmer is "Long Lost Shot," a song that begins with stomping clangs and clatters and blossoms into a surefire live show singalong.

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