It would be unfair to compare singer/songwriter Matt Rodela to Dave Matthews, although that influence is easily apparent, especially on the “Crash Into Me”-like acoustic embrace of “Thinking of You.” If Matthews were to have merged with Elvis Costello and then fronted Chicago, that would be accurate. In the hands of a lesser artist, such an odd group of musical inspiration probably wouldn’t work. However, Rodela manages to stitch together his equal affection for jam bands, smooth jazz, and adult alternative rock into a cohesive and engaging package.
The stirring trumpets on the opening track, “Better Days,” recall vintage Chicago immediately, simply because horns were an integral part of their sound and we haven’t been hearing them on rock & roll records for decades now. But Rodela’s funky guitar riffs take them out of the easy-listening chamber they eventually got locked into. Furthermore, Rodela’s voice has an edge to it, much gruffer than the crystalline tenor of Peter Cetera. There are times when Rodela sounds eerily like Costello, especially on the post-breakup sneer of “Look Away.”
Rodela’s combination of the hard and soft is a key component in his style. On “I’ll Remember You,” Rodela’s brittle acoustic guitars in the intro subsequently give way to sizzling electric riffs. However, this isn’t a Nirvana-ish loud/quiet seesaw; Rodela employs a more subtle approach. One of the best cuts on the album is “SWM,” which finds Rodela searching for true love on the Internet. Rodela surprisingly tips his feet into hip-hop here or at least the quirky folk rap of Beck and G. Love and Special Sauce.
For a debut album, this is a remarkably self-confident and filler-free affair.
Matt Rodela: www.mattrodela.com