Matt Mays & El Torpedo

Matt Mays + El Torpedo

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Matt Mays was originally in the Guthries, a roots-cum-alt.country band that enjoyed some success with a few albums. On this, his sophomore solo album, the singer has utilized an almost pristine balance -- fusing at times the jagged, loud garage rock of Neil Young into a tighter, more polished Tom Petty format. This gorgeous combination makes it easily one of the more impressive albums you'll hear, exemplified to a T on the rollicking opener, "Stand Down at Sundown." The nearly six-minute track grabs you by the throat and dares you not to hit the replay button time and time again, mixing Young's flair with a crunchy opening groove that is a distant cousin of Sheryl Crow's "If It Makes You Happy." "Travellin'" takes the tone down a notch with its midtempo roots feel as Mays nails the chorus. It's not quite Petty-esque, but producer Don Smith, who previously worked with Petty, produced several tracks on this album, including this one. However, nothing sounds more like Petty than the light but delectable "On the Hood," resembling something cruelly omitted from Into the Great Wide Open. "They're all looking for hits/I'd rather lay on the hood," he sings. He also delivers "St. George's Lane" and the world-weary "Good People" with a pretty country-rock flavor featuring some organ and pedal steel accents. However, the first single, "Cocaine Cowgirl," is a full-bore rock tune, one that hits the ground running and continues to shift into a higher, lovelier gear with great work from Mays, guitarist Jarrett Murphy, and bassist Andy Patil. But just as pretty is the softer Americana feel of "The Plan," with sweet give-and-take harmonies from Kathleen Edwards. There are also some pure pop nuggets, especially the melodic "Ain't So Heavy" and the slightly deliberate but powerful payoff during "Move Your Mind." Even the tracks that have the feel of coming down resonate, particularly "What Are We Gonna Do Come the Month of September?," with its slow and methodical roots vibe that sounds like a young and sneering Blue Rodeo or Wilco. Another plus is how the songs aren't anywhere near the cookie-cutter variety, often going five, six, or even seven minutes deep. Mays gives one of the better of several Grade A performances with "It Don't Matter," a tight, melodic party tune that winds itself around a country guitar arrangement. The anthem-like closer, "Wicked Come Winter," caps off this album perfectly. "The northern lights in the skies at night/Making music with my friends," he sings on a simply stellar offering. An hourlong album that will take you three hours to listen to.

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