Monday, March 27, 2023

Matt Speedway - Cold Friends And Lemsip/Sunday Morning Acoustic Covers Vol​.​1

Following a fruitful 2022 that yielded seven collections of home recorded solo demos in addition to a new Speedways album, Matt Julian has returned with two more free EPs this month. Cold Friends And Lemsip was recorded the week Julian returned from Spain. He was miserable with a head cold and not in his finest singing form. Ironically, this is his strongest collection of homemade demos to date. "A Trip Down Enemy Lane" finds him at his cleverest and most cinematic. This is vintage Matt Julian widescreen drama featuring an unshakeable guitar hook and vivid lines such as "I saw you standing/waiting, stealing kisses in the rain." The song fully lives up to its title, which is saying something. If you're in the mood for a slightly twee-ish rainy day bummer love song, this one will hit the spot. "Sarah I Dare Ya" is a stone cold hit right off the bat. It finds Julian digging into his classic '60s pop influences and delivering an ace sing-along chorus. What makes Julian such an interesting and relatable songwriter to me is that he's not one-dimensional. Sure, he writes about heartbreak and love lost like a champ. But there's also that side of him that's hopeful and fearless about the possibilities of love. "Sarah" explores that side of Julian's songwriting in the most wonderful way. If a proper Matt Speedway solo album is forthcoming, this song needs to be on it. With its acoustic guitars, harmonica, and slide guitar effect (facilitated by a bottle of Vicks First Defence!), "I Remember How Close We Used To Be" finds Julian as far removed from power pop as he's ever been. There's something so raw and powerful about this song that really hits me. It's all frayed voice and despairing sentiment with nothing to hide behind. I would describe the song as beautifully dismal. This one has potential. Plus the line "Being alone is hard on the nails" is too good to not appear in a print ad for a record someday. 

Sunday Morning Acoustic Covers Vol​.​1, just released yesterday, is exactly what the title suggests. It's made up entirely of cover songs, all recorded live in one long take. There's no real theme to the cover choices other than these being songs Julian loves. A couple of the selections are deep cuts from established Julian favorites (Tom Petty's "Square One," Roky Erickson's "For You'). The true gem of the lot is a rendition of Lana Del Ray's "Yes To Heaven" that has the feel of a Julian original. The EP concludes with Alison Kraus's "The Lucky One" and "Grow Old With You" from The Wedding Singer. I'm sure half of you thought Julian would have been more likely to cover "Somebody Kill Me," but he does a wonderful job with "Grow Old With You" — tapping into the sincerity and sweetness of the song without making it over-sappy. While Julian promises he won't make a habit of recording acoustic covers EPs, I certainly hope that he at least does another volume or two. It's fascinating to me when extraordinary songwriters reveal the songs that they love — especially when they're not obvious choices. 

As we get deeper and deeper into this Matt Speedway free demos series, the separation between The Speedways and solo Matt Julian is becoming clearer. And that's certainly the point. Even as The Speedways push the boundaries of power pop, they remain a power pop group fundamentally. Writing and recording at home, Matt Julian brings to life the songs in his head without any regard for how they fit a particular band or even a particular musical style. Some of these songs will never make it past the demo stage, but others will eventually be fully realized, properly recorded, and fondly remembered. If you're not yet following the Matt Speedway Bandcamp page, I highly recommend doing so. Free music from one of the best songwriters out there is simply too sweet of a deal to pass on.

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