Band Name: Matt Shaw
Album Name: Ghosts in the Concrete
Best element: Great flow throughout the entire album.
Genre: Indie electronica
Label name: Burning Building Records www.bbrecords.com
Band e-mail: matt’mattshaw.us
Call it a wake-up call. Call it a check-up. Call it OK Computer, Pt. II. But most importantly, call your friends, because Matt Shaw’s debut full-length is not only musically entrancing, it’s lyrically enveloping.
The first thing that hits the ear when “Ghosts in the Concrete” hits your stereo is an electronic ditty that instantly caught my attention. Having been a fan of the Postal Service since I got their album about a year ago, I’ve been snapping up anything that has to do with electro-indie, or as my friends call it, mellow techno. Whatever, guys.
Anyway, of all these mellow electronic indie popsters, I’ve never found one as good as the Postal Service- no one seems to be able to carry the melody, the instrumentation, the beat, and the mood as well as Tamborello and Gibbard can. Until Matt Shaw, that is.
After that little introduction, “Constant Movement” cues up- a paced little song with a highly downtrodden, highly indie vocal line and a rather simple backdrop. It basically establishes who Matt Shaw is and what he does- Take the Postal Service’s ideas, drop the corporate sheen from them, rub some dirt in the cracks, and show up at a coffee shop full of beatniks and disaffected college students.
“Transition” comes next- a continuing the lyrical themes of “Constant Movement” while placing more emphasis on the beat, creating a hollowed out sound that fits the forlorn vocals perfectly. The lyrical theme that runs constant through the first two songs as well as the rest of the album is life in the 21st century- rushed back and forth, feeling paranoia (“Android”) and frustration (“The Argument”), all the while becoming slaves to money (“Currency”), medicines (“The Remedy”), and memories (“The Fields”).
The tough part about this album is that after the first two songs, there’s really nowhere to go in this review. The first two songs that I showered praise on? They’re the least rewarding tracks on the album. The rest are segued together from song to song- creating a solid string of music in the listener’s mind, and imprinting both the message and the melodies. The most resonant statement is the poignant “The Argument”, which stretches the limits of syncopation and spoken word to create a genuine tug between the vocals and the instruments, accenting the internal chaos of our age. The genuinely inspired song segues out with Matt Shaw repeating the ominous portent of “repetition”- then fades into what can only be classified as an electronic hymn. The stark, jittery, regal presence of the ditty that appears is nothing short of mind-blowing- and it’s just one little electronic instrument! It’s tough to come away from Matt Shaw not feeling inspired in some way, whether it’s out of happiness after hearing “The Fields”, or out of paranoia after hearing the grave “Android”, or out of sheer awe after hearing “Descartes”.
The gravity of the experiment that Matt Shaw has pulled off here is fantastic- he’s managed to craft a mellow electronic indie-pop concept album that never alienates the listener, never freaks out into self-indulgent tangents, never languishes by inserting filler songs, and never loses the hummable qualities that make good indie-pop. This album can’t come along at a better time- we need to remember what living is all about, and what good music is. Matt Shaw gives some insight on both here.