Review Summary: Drifting towards the horizonlast 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.