(Three and a half stars)
For a singer-songwriter emerging out of the folds of anonymity with only his second full-length album, Matt Costa is unlikely to be popdom’s next poster boy. That, of course, doesn’t say a lot about his evident faculty in songwriting. The California-based former skateboarder’ unconventional songwriting never sticks to a straight line and gives even seemingly winnable melody lines an impressive structural twist.
There are quite a few numbers in the 12-song album that does the balancing act between popular sensibility and impulsive creativity. Songs like the wonderfully piano-laced ”˜Mr. Pitiful,’ a merry-go-round of tempo changes and melodic shifts, and ”˜Lilacs,’ a drums and acoustic guitar-based romantic romp, just about meet the radio-friendly mark. With the acoustic guitar and harmonica combining to deliver the bare-boned ”˜Never Looking Back’ Costa sends out a fitting nod to the Oasis era of Britpop, while the delicate constitution of ”˜Vienna’ and the cushy charm of the title track are a reflection of Jack Johnson’s influence on Costa’s musical career. ”˜Cigarette Eyes’ can be faulted for inflicting a faux sense of distress that seems to be at odds with the mood of the album. And while ”˜Emergency Call’ begins with an easy guitar hook, the pace turns frenzied, climaxing in an avoidable din. Costa is at his best when dealing with the lazy numbers, where gentle harmonica lines, foot stomps and handclaps complement the meditative outpourings of his mind.