Singer/songwriter Matthew de Zoete’s third album, Colour Film, is a deep player that’s an equal share of sharply crafted lyrics and atmospheric pop rock.
The Hamilton, Ont. vocalist gives his music indie/folk overtures that he delivers in a warm, friendly style that belies the incisive wordplay of his lyrics. He’s got presence but it’s not in your face. Instead he opts for the low key delivery akin to that of a crooner.
On Colour Film he’s backed by a sympathetic, tasteful band that gives the songs a sense of mutual restraint. They play into the material, never charging ahead while building wide tracks of billowing keyboards and crying steel guitar. The production is warm and spatial, courtesy of Les Cooper (Jill Barber) who also plays in the band – a connection with benefits.
De Zoete’s songs have a dreamy haze but they’re concise and melodic – they don’t meander. They build on the contained atmosphere. Anything is Possible is a lovely Beatle-esque number that drifts over and through a big trancy chordal loop. The clincher is de Zoete’s spare delivery and inviting melody; they could go on much longer than they do.
Colour Film has an ambient soundtrack character (Mexico the Free). There’s a shimmery background feel to the music but de Zoete’s lyrics capture attention. Going Nowhere is a deceptively breezy cautionary tale referencing drag-butt redneck bars and their empty cycle in clear terms.
Some of these darker moments are cleverly muted. Nothing Special is a blunt commentary on one night stands that could be alternately comforting or jaded. De Zoete’s vocal isn’t obvious and the music is dark and restrained.
A big contrast to the mood of the album is Who Do You Think You Are?, a rocker that grinds away steadily, reminiscent of Metric’s dark pulse. This track jumps out and de Zoete’s ambiguous performance works perfectly with the robotic groove. But it all fits together, as this is a subtle album that’s a definite slow burner.
Matthew de Zoete will be playing a concert at The Talkin’ Donkey coffee house in Vernon on Monday, Oct. 29 as part of a four-week Western Canada tour in support of his new album. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and admission is pay-what-you-choose ($5 suggested.)
–– Dean Gordon-Smith is a musician and freelance writer who reviews CDs for The Morning Star.