Album: Matt Costa – Yellow Coat review

by Chris Hatch

Like an aural scrapbook, Matt Costa’s latest album is somewhat of a personal affair, as the California native subtly shifts from genre to genre in an attempt to sate his hunger for exploration, and to document his feelings

When an artist shuns expectations and chooses to write solely for their own creative satisfaction, there’s a danger that a record can become unfocused, but in the smaller moments, such as the restrained bedroom pop of Avenal, the delicate intimacy of Let Love Heal, or the softly comforting thud of When The Avalanche Comes, Costa is clearly at home; excelling as he hones in on these more personal, understated moments.

And despite some of the bigger moments on the record falling a little flat, or the unusual musical sidesteps (like the ska/rocksteady-light of Savannah) not sitting neatly next to the rest of the album, there are elements of Yellow Coat that deserve to have been explored further too. The synth melody that comes in for a few measures midway through Make That Change hints at a sound that could have enhanced the intimate feel of the record, while Broken Eros (Interlude) threatens to develop into an intriguing piece of ambient music before it comes to a slightly untimely end.

Ultimately, though, Costa has a real knack for classic songwriting, and on the songs where he lets this shine, his talent is unquestionable. The aforementioned Avenal is far more affecting than it should be – considering its economical production – while the haunting Jet Black Lake is a slow-burning sway that’s elevated by yearning strings and doleful backing vocals. Indeed, the four songs that round off the record after the interlude are a perfect snapshot of cohesion, which make a nice point from which to work back.

Yellow Coat is essentially a collection of letters to the writer – a series of memories and reminders, or notes to spur the author on – and in this regard it’s an insightful window into Costa’s world. And while many of his contemporaries may look back ruefully, it’s heartening to see that he often takes an optimistic view of his past, and trades hopelessness for hopefulness as often as he can.

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