Quoth Cracker, long ago: “What the world needs now is another folk singer like I need a hole in my head.” Let that not discourage us from doing the best we can—Matt Costa certainly hasn’t, but his challenge is severe. You have to wonder if he feels the uncertainties that might be hanging in the minds of modern folk-folks: Am I just adding to the pile? Are my experiences worthy? His latest, self-titled LP calls forth full ensembles of instrumentalists for a highly-polished collection of big-band pop folk, and the pressure’s on for packing in some individuality and flavor.

Trouble is, I felt that this disc occupies blindingly-vanilla territory, and may just be part of the greater glut. The polite Costa never really seems to open up—nondescript lyrical clichés fail to match the production’s feeling of closeness throughout, especially on hushed songs like “Clipped Wings,” “Laura Lee,” or “Eyes For You.” If he’s attempted to dilute personal experience into broad, relatable verse, he’s done too good a job. The boy-to-girl zingers, especially (“Ophelia” comes to mind), highlight the glaring need in songs like these for a compelling central figure, or at least some concrete storytelling… the pleasant arrangements would have made for a solid backdrop.

A couple tracks do register as lively: “Early November” sounds a bit like a lost cut from If You’re Feeling Sinister, with lazy brass and Murdoch-esque melodies making the lyrics an afterthought. The nautical vibe of “Silver Sea” is a neat diversion too, once we’re past the operative life-as-voyage platitudes strewn throughout. And “Loving You,” the album’s first track, celebrates a functioning relationship for what hits me as the album’s realest moment. Even if they were chronicled earnestly, the moments sung of on Matt Costa feel like they were hardly lived through, contemplated from a distance—it’s not enough to make him stand out among his contemporaries.

In A Word: Unremarkable

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