Saturday, January 19, 2008

CD REVIEW: Matt Watts' "The Ever-Seeing Bird"

Label: Self-Released

Imagine you are settling down for an evening with your girlfriend, some popcorn, and the latest chick flick to be released on DVD. You’re not too excited about the movie, but you figure hopefully things will get fun after it’s over. Or maybe, if you’re REALLY lucky, before it ends.

On the best of these evenings, the movie won’t be so bad. Heck, you might even remember some of those early scenes. You know, the scenes before your girlfriend stopped paying attention to the movie and started paying attention to you. You’ll DEFINITELY remember that part of the evening.

There are two things you won’t remember though. The first is the bland popcorn. I mean, come on, no matter the brand, microwave popcorn is not exactly the most enticing food in the world. The second thing? The movie’s quiet, non-offensive, non-intruding soundtrack. When listening to Matt Watts’ The Ever-Seeing Bird, listeners will be reminded of such a soundtrack… for both better and worse. While Watts’ folk album is obviously a romantic, heartfelt ode to his love, his family, and his friends, it’s as quiet as a lamb, and like the soundtrack of a romantic comedy, it’s easily forgettable.

The most glaring problem that damns The Ever-Seeing Bird to mediocrity-ville is that all of the songs sound identical. The melodies are slow, and while there have been plenty of great slow, solo-acoustic folk songs, by the fifth or sixth song of Bird, I was losing interest. Had Watts done things a little differently, could have this been avoided? Well, yes. He could have made a bigger attempt in writing more diverse guitar parts for the songs, and he also could have broken the shackles that seemed to be restraining his vocals on the album. While it is pretty safe to say that Watts is not Freddie Mercury, one can tell that he has greater vocal potential than what he displayed on this release. Whispery vocals are fine for a song, or two, or three. Ryan Adams pulled this off on his remarkable Heartbreaker very well by mixing such tracks with a few outstanding upbeat numbers. Such vocals, however, do not work for an entire album, especially on one that lacks melodical diversity like Bird.

However, this is not saying that there aren’t any positive notes to be made about The Ever-Seeing Bird. The album features good (and, on occasion, great) lyrical writing. Matt Watts obviously knows how to pen some great lines. Anyone that can develop a line like “too drunk tonight on conversation that stings” has talent. There are several other similar instances of pure poetry on the record that will catch a listener’s attention. On the album’s best tracks, the beautiful folk poetry flows from start to finish. These include the serenades to a lover “Hurry Please Hurry” and “When Sunlight Hits Seattle,” and Bird’s greatest highlight, “Twigs and Leaves.” This song, Watts’ inspiring and heartfelt tribute to his father, features a wonderful metaphor and solid imagery. No, his poetry will not always leave listeners awestruck, but overall, it is a well-written album from a lyrical standpoint.

So, is there potential in this States-born young folk singer now living in Belgium? Well, sure. Bird proves that he can at least hold his own as a lyricist. On future releases, Watts needs to maximize his vocal ability. He also should think about incorporating more instruments into his music. After all, he can play several instruments, and he can use this talent to create truly memorable folk music. A chance for the future is there. Unfortunately, the future is not now, and the chick flick soundtrack that is The Ever-Seeing Bird provides only a vision of what could be for Matt Watts. Hope you remembered to buy Milk Duds…

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