Sunday, February 5, 2017

Matthew Squires "Tambaleo" Is His Most Ambition Album Yet- A Masterwork To Be Treasured In This Life Or After

Matthew Squires popped up on my radar screen back in 2011 and I have been reporting on him ever since. At that time he was "Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders" and while he is now just Matthew Squires his penchant for writing lyrics that twist social conventions and ask big spiritual questions is still a large part of his allure along with the sardonic words that spill from his lips like ice cubes from a pitcher of ice tea on a hot day. His words are many. While a singer like Thom Yorke may uncomfortably stretch out a sentence, a word or a syllable, Matthew packs them in with the artistic deft of a beat poet or rapper framing his questions in a very diverse bed of music.

He crafted his current album "Tambaleo" over a two year period with a host of talented musicians splitting his time between a Buddhist monastic community in East Texas and creating the material for the album. While I do not know Squires influences to me his songs inhabit this space between progressive indie with an alternative folk tone. I thought of a psych rock Dr. Dog but on some of his more jammy rock tracks like Grace's Drum and Dead or Dying I thought of Neil Young, not folk Neil but rock Neil. These songs still ask important questions but the rock guitar flourishes are head banging and infections (especially on Dead or Dying).

On the track Shining which feels like ambling through a psychedelic forest. the musical break down at one point (like the band is rolling down a flight of stairs) is brilliant. The song swells and then gets chill as Squires sings, "the voice of God comes muffled through a beat up radio, it sounds a bit like Elvis... Presley not Costello".  Hosanna is a beautiful swaying folk orchestral piece in a Kishi Bashi sort of way. Squires lyrics spin in many directions. He sings of meth heads, deep roots of time and "only one path for our world" as the mantra-ish chorus "Hosanna" embraces you it asks questions about the material world and that other world. He says the song is bout "pretending  you have something to say" and at one point says "if you be my Jesus I'll be your Crucifixion". It is heady evocative stuff and taken out of context can stir so many questions. Is he skewing "other" religions or all of them?

Debt Song for me is the most indie post rock track and in fact the bouncy tone, pretty guitar work battling the edgy guitar work, and somewhat silly meets serious feels so 1985.  I thought of Miracle Legion for whatever reason. Squires mentions Manhattan and sings, "and I saw the hole that those fuckers put in our sky" an obvious 911 reference. The song is cagey and will take me days to decipher lyrically. The music is almost always surprising like the startling and quite amazing tempo change that happens during Shape Of Your Heart. When the shift happens from a very upbeat jagged psych rocking tone it is so goddamn beautiful and trippy. Squires hooks you with perfectly placed drums and touches of glam and Beatle-esque watercolors as it almost veers into Mott The Hoople ballad-ish emotional tones. So so good.

Speaking of ballads. There is a great ballad on this record that feels classic but earnest. Forget about a manipulative pop ballad like Lady Gaga's Million Reasons. If you want one for the ages listen to Bird Song. In fact, Lady Gaga should record this song. In the track Silent Worlds there is the concept of the space between notes, "some will call it God... others will call it boring" and I find it so intriguing even for someone like me who early on classified myself as an agnostic and now consider myself an atheist. Despite my inclinations all the spiritual questions and talk of life, an after life and maybe even a before life is a philosophical pool I like to float in.

"Tambaleo" is Matthew Squires 7th studio album and his most cohesive work yet. It should be listened to all at once, all 15 songs because the album very much feels like one solid masterwork. The poetry and dynamic sounds from song to song connect up like chapters from the same glorious book. The lyrical content can be baffling but is always interesting, word puzzles to be put together over time. As someone who write songs I understand that some lyrics just happen from the pull of the music and may not mean anything at all to the one who writes them but all lyrics do mean something to those who yearn to listen to them. In this way lyrics have a thousand meaning to a thousand people and that might be at play here. Whatever is the case, Tambaleo is an album to be treasured in this life or after.

Robb Donker

You can stream Tambaleo on Spotify or download for any price you'd like from Matthew Squires Bandcamp Page.

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