Matt Simons: Pieces
Matt Simons released Pieces this week, a pop rock album infused with jazz influences. The result is akin to Gavin DeGraw, Jason Mraz, and The Fray, complete with piano and emotion-packed vocals. Intriguing lyrics set him apart from the many male vocalists hitting the airwaves at the moment; he captures the uncertainty of youth, budding relationships, and even death. This is the fourth release for the singer-songwriter, though this is the first full-length album.
Songwriting is at its strongest on “With You,” an emotionally-charged song that seems to come from a dying man to his survivors. Driving piano with backing from a cello provide a moving accompaniment to Simons’ vocals and insightful lyrics. This track brought to mind Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” due to the subject matter. Speaking of “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” Simons offers a cover of the song later on the album. Simons’ take on Death Cab features more instruments than the original (which just has guitar) including a piano and what I believe to be electric organ or keyboard effects. The vocals are more complex than those of the original with Simons’ personal take on the delivery. While Simons’ vocal style is a pleasing addition, the organ is distracting. Perhaps it’s from holding the original so dear, but I prefer simple instruments that let the lyrics stand out. These two tracks are the only ones to follow the theme of singing to loved ones about death, the rest of the album has more upbeat sound and coming-of-age topics like living through one’s youth (“Best Years,”) and the beginnings of a relationship (“Pieces.”)
Simons graduated from SUNY with a degree in Jazz Saxophone Performance and counts John Coltrane among his influences, so it’s fitting that there is a hint of jazz in a couple of songs. While Simons doesn’t grace the album with his jazz saxophone, “Fall in Line” is a live in-studio track with a little improvisation. Not being a fan of improvisation or jazz in general, it sounded like a toy piano was being tinkered with in the background to me. I’m sure the song is much more complex and enjoyable to those with an ear for it, but I don’t have proper appreciation of elements of this song. “Gone” has influences that I can appreciate; the organ, guitar and relaxed drums make the song funkier than the rest of the album, almost channeling Stevie Wonder. The combination is most similar to Gavin Degraw.
Overall, this album has some tracks that sound VH1-friendly. Unfortunately, “Pieces,” the title track, isn’t especially memorable except that it is on the album twice (the last track is an acoustic version.) The original non-acoustic version isn’t overly produced nor does it contain a large amount of electric instruments so the acoustic version isn’t all that different. However, I would be interested to hear an acoustic version of “With You.” Matt Simons will likely be one to watch as he can hold his own against other male singer-songwriters like John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and Gavin DeGraw.
MP3: Matt Simons “With You”
Matt Simons: Pieces