Matt Kivel
last night in america


4.2
excellent

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
May 10th, 2019 | 36 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Drifting towards the horizon

last night in america is a still frame of Matt Kivel at his absolute zenith. As an artist already renowned for his lo-fi work, Kivel’s fifth album sees him further dissipating – achieving buoyancy and freedom through purposeful detachment. Rather than assuming a bolder, sleeker form, last night in america relaxes its muscles, drifts towards the horizon, and cathartically exhales. It’s something to behold; a natural evolution from his previous records that is both aesthetically beautiful and lyrically evocative.

Matt recorded this album in his Texas home, with a focus on contemporary minimalism and the serenity of rural Americana. He plays all of the instruments himself, lending last night in america something of a purist folk vibe. The artistic brushstrokes here are warm, embracing listeners with airy acoustics and vibrant textures that submerge them within a dream-like ambience. Every piece of this album feels smoothly interwoven, a cohesive listen that’s bolstered by the presence of instrumental tracks – ‘they live by night’, ‘under glass air’, ‘challenger’, ‘tiptoe america’ – each of which splashes a unique color onto the metaphorical canvas. It’s easy to see that Kivel wanted this to be a singular experience: eleven songs, all tranquil and seamlessly bound together.

The best junctures of last night in america are defined by subtle little accents: a swelling string in an otherwise barren soundscape; an unexpected flourish of synths; a vocal melody that suddenly rings with clarity. Each facet of the music has a chance to shine, which is a credit to Matt’s songwriting and production. Two of the most beautiful moments here are ‘tyrus’ – the album’s logical opener – and ‘wendy and roxanne’, which hails from the midsection. Both songs combine earthy, pastoral aesthetics with sprawling ambience, transitioning from softly-spoken vocals and pristinely picked acoustic guitars to strings, woodwinds, and droning atmospheres. Kivel’s melodies are but a meek hum most of the time, and it’s better that way – not because he’s a subpar vocalist but because it fits in better with the album’s entire dynamic. It’s about creating a sense of unity between vocals and instruments, not having one attempt to outdo the others. Here, Kivel achieves that enviable level of balance.

last night in america is the perfect album to lay back and stare into the clouds to. It’s the kind of record that makes you want to slow down and take the scenic route. The way that it downplays itself and forces each instrumental contribution to mean something brings out the best in every second of its runtime; and with Matt Kivel at the wheel, every songwriting decision comes from a place of creative insight. If Matt’s career to this point has been a snowball effect, each successive album improving on the previous, then last night in america should be considered his magnum opus – if only the term didn’t by definition contradict every fiber of his lo-fi artistry. So we’ll just conclude with this compelling but very true statement: it’s everything Kivel has ever been up to this point, only better.



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user ratings (8)
Chart.
3.2
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

One of those albums that really caught me offguard with its superb quality, and I just wanted to wax poetic about it for a bit. Not sure if this review really tells you all that much about the music, but it should give you an idea of the overall feelings and impressions I got from it. It's a beautiful dive into minimal folk.

Digging: Tyler, the Creator - Igor

dmathias52
May 10th 2019


338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Sowing, are you from a rural area? I’m from a town of 500, just finished my undergrad capstone on rural adolescent suicide, and am getting my MSW with a focus on rural schools. So with all that said, I absolutely love the attention you’ve been giving to “small town America” music. This sounds beautiful, definitely will check it out.

Digging: Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties - Routine Maintenance

Observer
Staff Reviewer
May 10th 2019


6819 Comments


folk week (year) on sputnik continues.

great read sowing as usual, wish i had your prolificacy when it comes to rolling reviews out.

Digging: Belle and Sebastian - The Boy With the Arab Strap

Lucman
May 10th 2019


2516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another day another great folk album. Beautiful review.

Digging: Shiina Ringo - Shouso Strip

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Nah I actually grew up in Philly lol. But I've always had an appreciation for rural life, and I love to escape to the mountains and/or countryside whenever possible. There's just something peaceful about it.

I don't think this will get as hearty of a reception as some of the other big name folk releases this year because it's obscure and lo-fi, but it definitely deserves to be in that same conversation.

Hellscythe
May 10th 2019


3637 Comments


pretty much guaranteed not my thing but that's some pretty album art

Digging: Bethlehem - Dictius Te Necare

Slex
May 10th 2019


6636 Comments


This really takes you to another place

Digging: Charly Bliss - Young Enough

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

nice Slex, you listening? it's very minimal but it's so gorgeous

Slex
May 10th 2019


6636 Comments


First listen now, it's so tactile and warm, under glass air is my favorite so far

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 10th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

yeah warm was a word I found myself having to refrain from using over and over in my write-up

it just feels so inviting, embracing.

luci
May 11th 2019


10939 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

didn't get anything out of this unfortunately

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 11th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Disappointed it didn't resonate with you more, I found it quite charming. A respectable score nonetheless and I appreciate you giving it the time!

dmathias52
May 11th 2019


338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This was certainly super pleasant. Listened to it first thing when I woke up, it’s a great morning album. “Wendy and Roxanne” is a favorite after the first listen.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 11th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Nice dmathias. Totally agree about this being a morning album. Wendy and Roxanne is my favorite too, although Tyrus is a close second. I just love how organic and earthy this whole thing sounds. I'm absolutely hooked.

dmathias52
May 11th 2019


338 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

“Organic” seems like such a good descriptor. Being from the middle of nowhere, a lot of the time music that tries to capture that feeling comes across as forced or overly produced. This just feels very real.

Lucman
May 11th 2019


2516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I really like what this album tries to do but I wasn't clicking with it yesterday. Gonna give it another go before I decide on a rating.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 12th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Glad to see you came around a little, Luc. Maybe this album just hit me at the right moment. I had my laptop outside, got a break from the craziness of work & family, and just let this thing play while I grilled and watched the sun set. Ever since that first impression I can't shake how pretty this is.

Lucman
May 12th 2019


2516 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It's a beautiful record. Reminds me a bit of Glen Hansard vocally. The second listen definitely revealed a lot of captivating moments and I love that it uses a lot of minimalism and ambience.

SowingSeason
Moderator
May 12th 2019


30656 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

Oh I didn't even pick up on the Hansard similarities. I'll have to go back and listen for that. Lo-fi/minimal is very hit or miss for me in general, but I like how he accents the mundaneness of rural life (bare acoustic picking, sparse drumming, hushed vocals) with its natural beauty (synths, woodwinds, strings). Another thing I really liked was how the dark lyrics contradict the music. AllMusic wrote that it sounds like spring but reads like winter, which I thought was pretty astute.

CaliggyJack
May 12th 2019


2817 Comments


Sowing writes good reviews

in other news

water is wet



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