At first glance, Matt Duke looks really young. But looks aren’t everything, and the songs on his latest Ryko release One Day Die tell a completely different story. The record gets at what the title suggests—that we’re mortal, that one day we will die, and how all the days that come in between can be a struggle but we get through them anyway. The 25-year-old south Jersey native possesses a sense of poetic lyricism and an understanding of human nature that indicate anything but the musings of a twenty-something, and the record could ride on his words alone.
Sonically, the album is as unpredictable as Duke professes life to be and, for the most part, that spontaneity works. Opening track “M.L.T.” starts slow and builds into an angular rocker about growing up and going home and that weird time of life where everything just starts to feel different. At his best, Duke echoes singer-songwriters like Jeff Buckley (“Shangri-La,” “Lay”), and he especially benefits from the unexpected arrangements present in many of the record’s tracks (“Kangaroo Court,” “Seriously, Indulge Me”), leaving a couple songs (like “The Hour”) to suffer from coffee shop syndrome and pale in comparison to their more intricately composed counterparts. Overall, though, it’s a promising second record from a talented songwriter that begs multiple listens.