Deceptively simple music from a friend of Jack Johnson...
Harry Holgate 2008-01-09
Unfamiliar Faces marks California-via-Tennessee troubadour Matt Costa's first full commercial release, following a self-titled EP and two further independent albums since 2003. A gifted multi instrumentalist Costa is also an ex-professional skateboarder who turned to music full-time after a serious accident left him laid out for 18 months. A friend of Jack Johnson's, UF is out on Jack's Brushfire label and the two have played together quite a few times, most recently in a BBC Radio session early this year.
Strangely enough for a man with an all-American pedigree, Costa's voice sometimes seems to betray a bit of a Liverpool or Manchester twang, especially audible in the choruses of the title track. In fact there's a distinctly British tinge to the whole album, from the Belle and Sebastian infused ''Vienna'' to the Beatles-esque title track ''Familiar Faces'' and first single ''Mr Pitiful''. To his eternal credit though Costa dodges the wilfully meaningless lyrics of swaggering mop-top mini-me's, Oasis, in favour of beautiful 4-4 descending piano, quirky choruses and a dash of well-applied clapping. ''Heart of Stone'' shows Celtic influences crossed with a good dash of mid-phase REM and the album is rounded out by the good-time harmonica and gee-tar of ''Miss Magnolia'', a great song which, if you met it late at night, you might just think was Mungo Jerry's ''In the Summertime''.
If it sounds like this is a derivative effort then it's only because the influences are worn the sleeve rather than craftily hidden behind musical rhetoric and, given the standard of those who he has borrowed from, you don't mind being reminded of others while sampling the nicely varied imagination and musicality which is all of Costa's own.