Album Review: Matt Wertz – Heatwave

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Matt WertzHeatwave
Handwritten Records
August 27th 2013

Recommended if you like: Ben Rector, Augustana, Kenny Loggins

The love for music always originates from the artists we first hear performing it. Whether it was hearing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Boston playing on the classic rock station, or perhaps Boyz II Men and *NSYNC on the Top 40 station, these influential musicians permeate the sound of music still being written and produced today. For Matt Wertz, he took those influences to the next level with his latest release Heatwave.

Wertz, who is known for his acoustic guitar driven love songs, takes a different direction that has the potential to throw off first time listeners. For casual fans who may be more familiar with songs like “5:19” or “Everything’s Right,” this album may sound like it’s out of left field. However, those fans who follow Wertz closely see this album as both an outlet and a growing opportunity for his already stellar sound.

This release from Wertz is somewhat of a themed album, taking on the sound of the instantly recognizable 80s soft rock music made popular by artists like Kenny Loggins, Don Henley, and Bryan Adams. The lead single “Get To You” is a perfect mix of  Wertz’s songwriting and vocals with that great 80s electric guitar. The music video is a terrific parody of the former pop culture and features cameos from fellow Nashville singer-songwriters Ben Rector and Steve Moakler.

Song after song hits home with that sound he was looking to get from this record, including outstanding songs like “Last Good Girl” and the pop ballad “Whenever You Love Somebody.” The jangling guitars on “Shine” show heavy influence of Don Henley and his time with The Eagles.

While Heatwave is certainly geared towards being a themed record, Wertz shows off his spectacular songwriting skills with the closing song “Thing About Freedom” that takes a step back from the synths and drums. In the chorus of the song he sings, “I’m downright evil, deeper down I’m good. There are things I’ve done I swore I never would. The thing about freedom that’s so misunderstood, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Heatwave is certainly a fun record, but Wertz certainly doesn’t spend all this time working hard on it so that it may be taken lightly. This is a well written record from top to bottom and will undoubtedly be one that stays in your late summer rotation.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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Album Review: Ben Rector – The Walking In Between

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Ben RectorThe Walking In Between
Aptly Named Recordings
Release Date – August 20th 2013

Recommended if you like: Dave Barnes, Green River Ordinance, Jason Reeves

Ben Rector’s career has come a long way over the last 3 years. In 2010, his record Into The Morning received plenty of recognition by charting high on the iTunes Charts as well as Billboard’s Top Heatseekers chart. The next release, Something Like This, earned him the #4 overall spot on the iTunes chart and opening slots on tours with highly touted bands like Needtobreathe and Colbie Caillat. His most recent release out on August 20th has raised the bar even higher. After years of being the second-to-last act on tours, Rector is headlining a fall tour hitting some pretty large venues. Spanning from Los Angeles’ House of Blues to New York’s Irving Plaza, this tour is set to be the largest headlining tour of his career.

The Walking In Between is a record about the ordinary things in life and the beauty that lives in them. Throughout these 13 songs, we’re reminded of that unique sound that has made Rector a staple in his genre. His unmistakeable voice has a way of cutting through the layers of sound and blasting its way to the forefront. In the lead single “Beautiful,” the acoustic guitar and mandolin led song give the feel of a truly nostalgic song while Rector sings, “I was 16 with an open heart/ Windows down in a beat-up car/ When I was dumb and the world was young and she was beautiful/ she was beautiful.” He seems to sum up the feel of the album in the song “I Like You” when he says, “There are way too many love songs/ and I think they’ve got it all wrong/ ‘cause life is not the mountain tops/ it’s the walking in between.”

While this album is certainly a solid album, it doesn’t offer much growth from a musical standpoint. The songs tend to follow the same flow and feel that can be found on much of Rector’s previous releases. This should not be seen as a huge downfall, especially considering Rector focuses more of his attention on the lyrics and theme of the record and less on the musical composition.

For many people, The Walking In Between may be the first Ben Rector album they have ever heard due in part to having the opportunity to play in front of a lot more people across the nation on this new tour. For those new found fans, this record will be a home run. For those who have been around for the last three records, the response may be a bit more mixed. Regardless of your own personal opinion, we can all agree that it’s exciting to see music like this getting its fair share of mainstream attention.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Album Review: Andrew Belle – Black Bear

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Andrew BelleBlack Bear
1L Music/Elm City Music
Release Date – August 20th 2013

Recommended if you like: Ben Rector, Paper Route, Coldplay

Very rarely do you see an artist completely reinvent their sound with tremendous success. Many artists grow their sound, showing maturity with a couple albums and countless tour stops in half-filled bars. But do many artists completely change their sound after just one full-length album under their belt? Andrew Belle is hoping to change that perception with the release of Black Bear.

Although Andrew Belle may not be a household name, it’s hard to imagine you aren’t familiar with some of his music. In fact, Belle has had songs featured in “The Real World,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Pretty Little Liars,” to name just a few. The favorite song for TV, “In My Veins,” was a piano and acoustic guitar driven ballad that set the tone for what was to come from his first full-length record The Ladder. However, a lot has changed since Belle wrote the debut album over 4 years ago. Now a married man, this coming of age has played a significant role in his maturity both emotionally as well as spiritually. In an interview with Noisetrade, Belle speaks about the new record when he says, “the most consistent and overarching theme found in this album is that of a God that pursues a man until he inevitably succumbs to his persistence.”

It should come as fair warning to former listeners that this album sounds dramatically different from anything Belle has previously released. Gone are the days of acoustic guitars, occasional banjos, and bare piano chords. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find a song that could have ever made its way onto his previous album. Belle has done some very precise surgery with the reinvention of his composition. Instead of wasting time trying to compare the two incomparable records, it would only be fair to Belle if we consider this record on its own merits.

It’s clear to see that this album is loaded with one catchy song after another. The lead single “Pieces” is an epic song, with its driving percussion and heavy synth bass leading you through each turn and guiding you into the new style. In the chorus, the song picks up as Belle sings in octaves, “There’s too much smoke to see it/ There’s too much broke to feel this/ Well I love you, I love you/ And all of your pieces.” Whether it’s the unexpected synth solo after the chorus in “Sister,” the driving drums in “Details,” or the ethereal backdrop of “I Won’t Fight It,” this record is brimming with songs you’ll be excited to put on repeat.

Even with the stark change in musical composition, you can definitely tell this was not an undertaking Belle decided on overnight. With four years of demoing and a methodical songwriting process, it’s fair to say that Belle has evolved and made a record to be proud of both musically and lyrically.

You can order the album on Amazon and iTunes. You can also like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

New Music Pt. 4

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Here are some artists I’ve been listening to recently. Go check them out.


In A Safe PlaceThe Album Leaf
MySpace
Recommended Track – Over The Pond


The LadderAndrew Belle
MySpace
Recommended Track – Oh My Stars


The Coward’s ChoirAndy Zipf (Album available on NoiseTrade for free)
MySpace
Recommended Track – I’d Sing Hallelujah


Into The MorningBen Rector
MySpace
Recommended Track – Loving You Is Easy


Barton HollowThe Civil Wars
MySpace
Recommended Track – I’ve Got This Friend


Out Of My HandsGreen River Ordinance (Album availbe on NoiseTrade for free.)
MySpace
Recommended Track – Out Of My Hands


The inevitable And IHarvard
MySpace
Recommended Track – French Girls


Highrises In BrooklynKelley McRae
MySpace
Recommended Track – Sparrow


We Have An ElephantMichael Claytor And His Friends
Bandcamp
Recommended Track – Hairpins


Young The GiantYoung The Giant
MySpace
Recommended Track – My Body

Please check these great artists out. And let me know what you think.

-matthew
3:09 pm