For better or for worse, Folk music (along the Roots genre in general) have earned a spot in today’s pop music. Thanks, perhaps to the advent of sub-cultures like the Hipsters and great bands such as Mumford and Sons and Of Moster and Men who have found the way to reinvent the genre by adding different tones and layers to both the music and the lyrics, going from the political and social criticism themes of Bob Dylan to a lighter and miscellaneous topics like love or any life events such as the birth of your child. There’s no doubt Folk music is one of those styles that helps expressing from the simplest to the most complex moods a human being can fall into.
In a time where many musicians (most of them mainstream) find themselves working as some sort of intermediary by performing and singing about other people’s feeling. And while they can connect to the song, it’s never the same when the songwriter express their feelings themselves. And that’s the beauty of being a singer-songwriter. Coming all the way from Northeast Wisconsin, Nathan Mathes proves once more why he’s a master on his craft. By seeking a new direction from the 60s pop and 90s Post-punk (though old fans shouldn’t be worry, as those influences still remains in little doses) for a modern, ambient folk/rock sound reminiscent of icons such as Elliott Smith to recent acts such as Death Cab For Cuties and Bon Iver, Anajune Rival is a journey through the life of a creative artist.
“An Offer I Can Take”, a song that deals with what sounds like loneliness to me. Following in, we have a most upbeat track, “In The Long Run”, where our hero keeps digging into the mind of either a newborn child or a youngster who’s starting to become familiar with the different corners and facets of this world. As the album goes through, we dive into the mind of both Nathan and -I’m guessing- his newborn child. The way the story it’s structured for some reason reminded me of films like Boyhood and Tree of Life and artists like Beck.
Honestly, there isn’t really any negative to tell. As previously mentioned, this is a musically dynamic album where every song is different and fits to the mood and the events and themes the lyrics deals with. I did, however, felt somehow confused. The writing style is so ambiguous that personally I find it hard to understand what Mathes was trying to tell. In a way they read like riddles to me, it’s like there were few words and sentences missing and you spend most of your time connecting the points than actually enjoying the great music in the background. So my suggestion would be to listen the album first, and later on try to understand the songs.
As a whole though, there’s no doubt this is an evolution for this great artist. We see him moving from one genre to the other in such a flawlessly way that’s hard to not feel a little bit of envy. An album for those who enjoy indie and folk music, one of those records that drown you into the world of their performers and the only way to come to surface is once you finish the material.
Rating: 4/5 Stars
by RJ Frometa