Matt Costa

Songs We Sing

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Songs We Sing Review

by Marisa Brown

It makes sense why Brushfire Records co-founder Jack Johnson signed Matt Costa to his label. Costa's debut album, Songs We Sing, is acoustic guitar-based music, that, even when talking about sadder things, retains its lighter, happier character; music that could only be made in the Pacific sun, a lot like Johnson's. Costa's lyrics are all about love, either lost or found or forgotten, and he is particularly connected and drawn to the natural world, which often acts as the mediator between him and the object of his affection. This kind of imagery works well with his instrumentation. Costa is interested in delving into the roots of American music, exploring country, folk, rock, and blues while keeping the modern singer/songwriter sound. Though he is able to effectively incorporate all of these styles into his record, he does run into some problems. For one, he doesn't seem to be completely sure of his own sound, waffling between ideas from song to song. Almost every track could be directly attributed to a different artist's influence: "Sweet Thursday" sounds like Stephen Malkmus, "Oh Dear" like the later Beatles, "Ballad of Miss Kate" has a stunning resemblance to Fleetwood Mac's blues, and "Sweet Rose" is pure Buddy Holly, vocal hiccups, and all. Costa has also, sadly, fallen into the habit of changing his accent according to the feel or inspiration of the song, switching from his usual American pronunciation to a British one, in "Songs We Sing" for example, possibly in attempt to sound like Stuart Murdoch. He also has the unfortunate indie rock vocal affection of singing "back" like "bach," which just seems out of place. Yes, this is being picky, but only to a certain degree, because if Costa wants to play in so many styles -- which isn't a bad idea, he's clearly inspired a lot by them and has some written some nice songs -- he's going to have to be very careful to not go so far into them so that he loses himself and his own voice in attempts to honor his idols.

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