AltSounds Official Seal Of Approval, Tastemaker Recommended

Matt Wertz - Under Summer Sun

Matt Wertz - Under Summer Sun

Universal Records

Review 1747 Views
Last Edited by: Chris MUG5 Maguire September 22nd, 2008.

Every so often an album comes along that makes you smile. It makes you smile because it reminds you that there is hope in a dark world, a light at the end of the scary tunnel and a comforting arm around your shivering shoulder. 'Under Summer Sun' tries very hard to be THAT album. After nearly eight years of life as an independent, US singer songwriter Matt Wertz has made an unsteady leap to a major label. Curiously the album is a collection of previously released songs plus a few extras. If you don't know the back catalogue, you would not know the old songs from the new - such is the blend of styles and sounds. Even though everything fits together, at times this feels like an anthology of songs and not a free-flowing piece of work. But Matt Wertz is at home writing small punchy breezy pop rather than huge rumbling epics, and this style is present throughout.

The highlights of 'Under Summer Sun' are undoubtedly the more upbeat songs. Opener 'Everything's Right' is wonderful bouncy guitar pop enhanced with distant electronica. The simple joyous chorus is perfect. Even a blast of busy banjo late on is a toe-tapping moment. 'Carolina' kicks off with hillbilly guitars and transforms into a comfortable slice of country-pop. It sounds very like early Ryan Adams. Likewise 'Marianne', a more acoustic offering has the same effect with added guitar break. A vocal montage breaks things up before a solid ending. The title track (of sorts) 'Summer Sun' is more funky; an upbeat love song complete with big drums and cheesy chord changes. These songs all have the desired effect - that warm fuzzy feeling that music can be as deep and meaningful as it is empty-headed. The key is finding the balance. 'Red Meets Blue' does this well and gets by thanks to a guitar and keyboard melody, especially at the end.

The few problem areas arise when Wertz strays from his boundaries. There are no real bad moments that make you demand a return to the goodness - things simply get too safe and predictable. The songs are too short to get truly mind-numbingly boring and tedious. The jazz-funk 'The Way I Feel' almost works but the vocals get rough and dirty. Elsewhere Wertz has a magnificent voice. Then there are too many handclaps and too much ending. '5:19' is too light and airy, a middle of the road take on Michael Bublé with a chorus that never gives the lift it promises. One of the worse moments is the slack and obvious 'Keep Faith' summed up by the lyrics: "When the days drag on and you're barely breathing..."; it echoes the slow lazy guitars, handclaps and harmonies. It is too nice. The late organ gives a lift but it is too little too late.

There are a few interesting attempts at something different. 'I Will Not Take My Love Away' is a gorgeous hymn; a prayer with a simple arrangement. The delicate 'Waiting' is also good but would benefit from being much longer. "I'm the only one here growing old...growing old but not quite growing up" is a great line but the song never lives up to early potential, choosing not to build up but to drift away. Closing song 'Back In June' could be good, with a pleasant duet for lead vocals but it never gets going. And 'With You, Tonight' suffers terribly from overuse; a big dumb chorus creeps up on you and then explodes with a fizzle, like a wet firework. The boring guitars are more prominent than some of the more subtle arrangements.

Wertz says in his biography: "I love being independent...If I succeed or fail, it's not based upon someone else's decisions, but my own. I like the freedom and ownership that comes from keeping things small and in-house". A move to a major label can be a big deal, or it can be as if nothing has changed. Given that so much of 'Under Summer Sun' is recycled, this is obviously a promotional record designed to bring in new fans while trying not to cheat current loyal supporters. It is unclear if the latter has been achieved. This means that for Wertz, and for now, his important major label debut is not 'Under Summer Sun', but his next album.

Social Love:

You Might Also Dig...

Have Your Say

Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO