First and Foremost
Matt Costa has a good following going into his debut, Songs We Sing. He spent the summer opening for Jack Johnson, who signed the California native to his Brushfire Records. Costa also lent his voice to Johnson’s Sing-A-Longs & Lullabies for the Film Curious George. Songs attempts different musical styles while maintaining the simplicity that Johnson possesses. Costa sets the pace with “Cold December,” an easy and enjoyable alt-acoustic piece. The light and romantic “Astair” follows, where Costa displays good instrumental judgment as the components fill out flawlessly . “Sweet Thursday” is the first, and one of the only, plugged pieces, while “These Arms” displays a darker, richer piano based lullaby.
The middle of the album is a journey through country and Americana. While none of these pieces prove disastrous, this is where the album falls short. “Sunshine” begins with a blues pickup into a stiff guitar beat. The chorus is hokey with harmonic vocals steering into Costa singing, “Sha la la la la la la la.” “Ballad of Miss Kate” and the darker “Behind the Moon” are uppity to the point of distraction; it’s difficult to enjoy any melody or harmony. “Sweet Rose” contains clarity in the vocals providing an innocence reminiscent of Woody Guthrie. It’s a great track until the chorus, “When the seasons cha-a-ange/And the sky turns gra-a-ay/When the leaves turn bro-o-own/I’ll be arou-ou-ound”
Costa’s debut is a solid hit. While at times a little rough around the edges, Songs motives remain clear, especially as Costa retorts in “Songs We Sing,” “These are the songs that I sing to make the day better.”