Matt Costa | Yellow Coat | (Dangerbird)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
Another week, another heartfelt breakup album.
It’s hard not to feel like we’re in a Groundhog Day time loop when the concept of writing songs about a messy romantic upheaval keeps returning with almost clichéd predictability. There are nearly as many breakup albums as there are falling in love ones. Unfortunately, perhaps more.
Regardless, the painful process usually cuts to the depths of most artists, which often makes these some of the most honest and emotional releases in their catalogs. That’s the result in Matt Costa’s case.
The California raised singer/songwriter has always had a knack for sweet, never saccharine melodies and it’s that talent, combined with his innocent boyish vocals, that makes even the saddest moments of his seventh full length effort go down easy.
Even if you didn’t know the idea at play, song titles such as “Let Love Heal,” “Sky Full of Tears,” “Last Love Song,” and “So I Say Goodbye” point the way. Still, it’s Costa’s effortless way with songwriting, meshed with sympathetic production from Alex Newport– who adds strings and background singers or strips the approach down to barely strummed acoustic guitar and voice as on “Last Love Song”– that raises the bar on these dozen songs. The tracks are compact (only one breaks four minutes) but never feel rushed or edited for time.
While the retro influences that typify Costa’s previous work are evident in the dreamy Zombies feel of “Let Love Heal” (his breathy approach is similar to Colin Blunstone’s) and “Jet Black Lake” with its 60s-styled backing vocals, the overall sound is more attuned to an early Cat Stevens’ influenced folk pop. But when the songs open up like blossoming flowers as on “Sky Full of Tears” which, with its full orchestration exudes the drama and sweep of the Go-Betweens at their most expansive, the melancholy mood becomes sweeping and almost epic.
“There’s nothing like staring at the ceiling/There’s nothing like thinking what could have been,” sings Costa on “Make That Change,” as he realizes his life needs to adapt to the situation he finds himself in. Some may hear echoes of Emitt Rhodes or Harry Nilsson in the ease with which these songs float along, especially on the closing piano based “So I Say Goodbye.”
We may not need another audio treatise on the dissolution of a relationship. But with Matt Costa’s emotional Yellow Coat, his feelings are expressed in songs that draw out the best in his talents.