Monday 4 May 2015

LISTEN: Matt Owens - 'Songs For An Empty Room'

After a successful run and four brilliant records, indie rock band Noah & The Whale announced a split of sorts a month ago. I'm a huge fan of their music, particularly favouring their second album The First Days of Spring, and naturally I was pretty gutted, but glad to know that the band were all continuing to make music. Lead singer Charlie Fink has hinted at solo work with a new website and Soundcloud, while Fred Abbott is working on a solo record, and Tom Hobden tours with Mumford & Sons.

Matt Owens (AKA Urby Whale) is also releasing a solo record, which I was lucky enough to get my hands on and absolutely adore. He’s currently playing tons of London gigs with an impressive band (interestingly entitled The Delusional Vanity Project) comprising of Tom, Fred and Michael of NATW, with George Leigh on bass and Tom Figgins on guitar. Last weekend I went along to a show at Proud Camden (a slightly surreal club experience but I won’t go into that) and they played a superb set, showcasing the range of the record, which goes from rough rock (think I made that up) to stunning violin solos within moments. After the set I introduced myself to the band who were all lovely guys and pretty shocked that I’d travelled from Oxford for the show, and with whom I got to chat with before dashing for the last train.

Matt’s record is titled Songs For An Empty Room, a hint at the difficulties involved in starting over again, though I must admit that I admire that he hasn’t chosen to use the NATW social platforms to get an instant, large response to his music, instead building up a new following in his own right. In our discussion last weekend he told me about the interesting process of recording the album live over a couple of days, with much of the album being authentic to its original recording. This comes across on the record in a fantastic way, allowing for the brilliant songwriting and arrangements to be foregrounded without being overshadowed by fancy effects. For me, a highlight of the record is its range, going from the slow Everything’s Got It’s Place (listen on the album sampler above) with it’s beautiful violin solo two minutes in, to the lively The Harbour In Kinsale. A particular favourite of mine is Jack Does Hollywood, which is what you might call a murder ballad, sung from the perspective of Jack the Ripper, which sounds strange admittedly but works and is catchy in its own haunting way.

Overall, the album is refreshing and a favourite of mine so far this year, showing promise for the other upcoming post-NATW releases. You can listen to a sampler of the record above and take a look at the upcoming gigs here (mostly in London) - can’t recommend enough that you go and see the guys live if you get the chance!

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