Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Match by Match: American Crowbar

A few weeks ago, Damn Arbor received an email from Match by Match inviting us to download and listen to its latest album, American Crowbar. Before I begin my album review, I would like share a little background on Match by Match (MxM). The band was born when Gary Bouchard and Melissa Coppola met each other on Chatroulette. After talking for a few months the musicians clicked and started MxM last winter. This is noteworthy, not just because the sheer improbability of the two artists meeting on the site, but also because this might be the single most productive thing that has come out of Chatroulette.

Back to the music. American Crowbar is MxM's first full album after their 2010 EP Books. It's a concept album inspired by the life of 19th century railroad worker and brain injury case study, Phineas Gage. While there are no overt references to Mr. Gage's life, themes of loss, change, injury, and a longing for the past are present throughout the album's lyrics. Though American Crowbar is musically diverse, the album is unified by these reoccurrence of these themes. The album builds from the first track Prologue and moves through some upbeat then moody territory before fading out at the end of the last track, Names. The album ends quietly with Bouchard and Coppola repeating the lyrics "all we've got is one another." I'm not really sure what it all means, but after listening to American Crowbar in its entirety, I'm left with a strange sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. It's as if I've just finished reading a short story or novella.

As a novice music reviewer, I have difficulty classifying MxM's music. I want to say it's "kind of poppy, classically influenced folk rock" but that seems both cumbersome and imprecise at the same time. Coppola is a grad student studying classical performance and her talent shines through in the musical complexity on the album. She also has an incredible voice. I am hesitant to describe emerging artists in terms of established artists, but in this case I think it's OK to say Coppola's voice, at times, reminds me of Sarah McLachlan. Bouchard's smoky voice blends well with Coppola's as they exchange lyrics and harmonize throughout the album. Here are a few tracks to check out:

American Crowbar is much more polished both in terms of recording quality and musical content than Books. That said, the album is not perfect; you can tell MxM is a young group that is continuing to grow and develop. MxM is good and it will be rewarding to see where they go. You can listen to their whole album or download it for $5 on Bandcamp. You can also catch them live at Woodruff's on the September 7th or at the Ark on September 27th.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I always thought Phineas Rage would be a great name for a punk band that sings songs about the railroad.

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