When I first popped in my copy of Matthew Good's debut solo album, Avalanche, I had some pretty high expectations. I've heard countless people rave about the man's music (and that of his band from the 90's); I've read about how he was one of the better writers in the Canadian alternative scene, and how his music was similar to the likes of Our Lady Peace, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, and the like. So, expecting a healthy dose of energetic rockers as well as a few softer, yet distinctly grunge influenced ballad-esque tracks, I was quite pumped when the album came in the mail a good month and a half ago.
Of course, I didn't get what I had initially hoped for. The album was not particularly heavy in the least, and the Cherub Rock/Superman's Dead moments I had expected were pretty non-existent. But that isn't to say that I was disappointed with Avalanche. Oh no, Matthew Good makes up for the lack of a catchy, hard hitting single with a carefree, laidback sound. Crafted through careful orchestration, tranquil melodies, and jangling guitars, the music, Avalanche presents listeners with a very accessible, yet artistically pleasing product as well. Quite simply, it's chill music at its finest. Seriously. Listen to this when you're pissed off and you'll forget why you're so angry. Listen to this when you're depressed and you'll forget that you're depressed. Listen to this while you're happy and, well, you'll enjoy yourself at the very least.
Over the course of the 69 minute album, Matthew Good generally sticks to a similar sounding formula throughout the record's thirteen songs. That isn't to say that each song is a carbon copy of the previous, however. Avalanche is home to a variety of tracks, each of which maintains their own identity. Two of the album's most accessible tracks are Song For the Girl and In a World Called Catastrophe. The latter, though somewhat long at just under six minutes, utilizes a very memorable guitar line which takes from the very best of Our Lady Peace. Not to be out done by…well, his guitar work, Matt Good also presents listeners with a very moving vocal effort. While he isn't the strongest singer in the alternative scene by far, his mostly low key, at times crooning delivery matches up with the lush, tranquil emotions that Avalanche stresses.
Offering a more energetic, bombastic atmosphere are songs such as Double Life and Lullaby For the New World, two tracks which are among the shortest songs on the album. With that said, they use their briefer runtimes to their advantage. Similarly to the poppy, radio friendly Song For the Girl, both of these tracks are upbeat and cheerful, yet at the same time impose a more fast paced, rock influenced feel to them. Double Life thrives on simple, yet infectious chord progressions which inject liveliness into the flow of the album. This provides the record with a welcomed change in pace after calmer, acoustic based songs such as the title track or Bright End of Nowhere.
If I was forced to pick an element off Matthew Good's solo effort which impressed me the most, it would be aforementioned light orchestrated sections which he puts emphasis on throughout the record. Tapping the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on several of the tracks, the orchestration doesn't so much stand out in the spotlight the way Good's vocals do, but instead take on a more background approach which suits the general flow of Avalanche rather well. Perhaps the song which exemplifies the effect of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra the strongest is first single, Weapon. One of the album's darker songs, the layers of symphonic elements compliment the stripped down musicianship perfectly, creating a peaceful intimate atmosphere. Essentially, Weapon paints an exceedingly tranquil, soothing painting in ones head, without sounding excessive and overwhelming all the same.
Through Avalanche, Matthew Good shows why he's definitely one of the more talented members of the Canadian alternative scene. Through his sparse, yet well thought out instrumentation, superb song writing, and unique atmosphere, Good provides listeners with a complete album void of any filler and rather short on weak points. As it displays excellent flow, Avalanche is one of those albums you'll make the most out of by listening to it as a whole (rather than individual tracks), and despite its nearly seventy minute runtime, it feels quite concise and to the point. Fans of alternative rock, or just rock in general should definitely give this a shot. It's definitely worth your while.
In a World Called Catastrophe