Song: Matt Costa – Avenal

by Chris Hatch

Matt Costa has this week released the first single from his upcoming Yellow Coat LP in the form of the wistfully low-key Avenal.

Avenal’s up-close guitars, and economical drum machine are a departure from Costa’s usually full-bodied production, but it’s a move that adds a humble intimacy to the track. There are shades of the heavy-hearted Americana of wandering-troubadours like Kurt Vile and Pete Yorn, along with the gentle, faraway-pop of Real Estate and early Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. But it’s Costa’s smoked voice that really sets the song apart – his timbre sitting somewhere between a world-wearied knowingness, and an innocent expectancy, as though he figured out long ago that life doesn’t turn out the way you plan, but that he has only just managed to accept it.

Written on a long, aimless road trip during a stop off at the eponymous town of Avenal, the song sits among the long shadows cast by the end of a relationship, yet somehow still captures the hopefulness of a new day’s dawn, or the sense of possibility that a change of season seems to bring. There’s a bittersweetness to Avenal’s refrain – ‘to look behind your eyes, to hear the things that no one knows’, sings Costa, in a chorus that seems to both lament that things may be over, while finding hope in the fact that it’s possible to know somebody so intimately.

Avenal’s nakedness, both lyrically and musically, make for a side of Costa that has only been caught in glimpses previously, and demonstrates the kind of openness that only really comes about when an artist is writing purely for himself – ‘I think every other record that I’ve written, I wrote knowing that the songs would have an outlet,’ Costa says, ‘And for this one, I really didn’t. It was just a process I was going through, clearing myself of these feelings and thoughts.’

‘In the dusk of memories,’ Costa ruefully sings during the second half of Avenal, ‘there’s a road I want to take you down’. – given the head-clearing qualities of his songwriting, it’s an invitation that’s hard to turn down.

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