Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Even with three previous albums, it has never been easy to understand Matt Costa. Signed by Jack Johnson to his Brushfire imprint, the West Coast born and raised Costa seemed to be infatuated with a Zombies/Searchers styled Brit Invasion sound one moment only to shift into a Donovan folk picker the next. His retro/UK approach and production was so convincing, you’d have to read his bio to know he wasn’t born and raised in England. Not much has changed on his fourth release, except that he recorded it in Scotland with producer Tony Doogan (Belle & Sebastian) making its Brit pop qualities even more prevalent. The sumptuous production on songs such as the Bacharach /David styled “Early November” with its cheesy horns and strings and the T. Rex thump of “Good Times” really seem transported from an early 70s era Costa is too young to have experienced firsthand. His twee side is evident on the lovely ballad “Clipped Wings” that, with its fluttering flute, sounds like a pretty good Donovan outtake circa “Wear Your Love Like Heaven.” The frisky strings and high vocal harmonies of “Shotgun” are straight out of the ELO catalog of ear candy hits. Everything is meticulously arranged, often with strings, horns and layered backing singing. They effortlessly capture a sweet, innocent, truly captivating folk pop whimsy that never seems forced, pretentious or outdated, even with its obvious reverence for an earlier time.