EP Review of Matt Westerman: Life Out Loud
Reviewing new music can be a bit daunting. Expectations are high, and you always want to stumble upon something that you love. Personally, I like to be grabbed when I listen to something for the first time. It is not always obvious what it is that sparks that interest; it may be a melody or a clever lyric or a mood or the rhythm that sweeps you up.
It’s the same with a film or a book. The narrative is key. I want to be interested in the characters, intrigued by the story. I want to be drawn in so I stick around to find out how it turns out.
The big question is, does the new EP from Matt Westerman make me feel this way? Let’s see…
Matt Westerman is a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter and Life Out Loud is his debut EP. His website says that he “writes upbeat acoustic pop songs with a positive, compassionate message meant to uplift and inspire listeners everywhere”.
In the last few years, Westerman has been carving out his dreams on stage, with gigs all over the Southern California area, from clubs to bars and even busking on the Santa Monica pier.
The EP features 6 tracks happily sitting in the popular mainstream with an easy pop presence. Lots of people will love this music, even if there are many other contemporary singer-songwriters competing for the same listener’s ear.
The opening song, “Don’t Give Up On You,” and following track, “One Fine Day,” are clearly the best of the collection with a smooth acoustic pop delivery.
“Don’t Give Up On You” starts a bit like a modern-sounding twist on a Simon and Garfunkel song but then grows through its positive vibe chorus to something more akin to Damien Rice or James Blunt. Matt Westerman’s voice is very much in the style and range of these singers.
“One Fine Day” has a Jack Johnson groove which confirmed my feeling that the EP had one foot in 2005, when a lot of singer songwriters were making an impact on the charts. Given their success, it is not a bad vein to mine.
The EP benefits greatly from the production of Brad Swanson, whose tracks can be heard in popular shows like Smallville, CSI and Ghost Whisperer. Matt is also joined by many notable session players including pedal steel player Marty Rifkin, a longtime Bruce Springsteen collaborator, and session journeyman Sean Hurley on bass, who has performed on John Mayer’s records.
There is so much potential for this debut release, and in this streaming age it won’t cost you anything to check it out for yourself. It would be worth doing just that, and then if you like what you hear you can commit to buying yourself a copy.
So whilst you all go and make up your own mind by giving Matt a listen, I still have to answer that big question I set earlier. How did it make me feel?
Well, here we have beautifully made music, with crisp and clean production. The songs are successfully populist in their themes of hope and love and deliver a pleasant FM radio wash.
I could argue that I felt it lacked an original edge and maybe I would have liked more narrative in the lyrics, but should this style of easy going, light touch, acoustic pop, really need to trouble itself with such ambition? Probably not, and I see from looking at Matt’s profile on Spotify he has a great many plays and monthly listeners, so it would seem his approach is, as I already said, a very popular one and I guess, at the end of the day, if it works for the many, who am I to doubt it?
Anyway, after any misgivings I had on first listen when it didn’t instantly grab me, I am glad to say that after many more, Matt’s debut release is definitely and positively a grower and worthy of your attention, so go listen.
Matt’s website currently list just a single show, a February 6th, 2018 data at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood, CA. See the “shows” page on his website for additional details and future shows as they’re added.
“One Fine Day” has made its way onto my personal smartphone playlist, the one whose first several shuffled-up songs during a breakfast or lunch out I periodically share with my twitter followers, dubbing it a breakfast (or lunchtime) playlist. One fine day (pun intended), since I carry “One Fine Day” on my phone, it’ll shuffle up this song from Matt. – Geoff Wilbur