If you follow music blogs at all, the headline of the past week (that didn't involve tub drowning) was The Return of the Boy Band. I've said it before and I'll say it again: However hideous a music trend, it will all come back. As a child of the '90s (OK, so I was in my 20s then. Piss off.), I saw that last wave come and go with some pretty awful results. Where there's a yin, there's a yang as well, and that yang of the '90s was a burst of real, quality singer/songwriters like Marc Cohn, kd lang, Shawn Colvin, Vonda Shepard, Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls and more. As the '90s gave way to the '00s and whatever we're in now, music has gone to two extremes: overly commercial and Zooey Deschanel preciousness/artiness, leaving the middle-grounders to make a comeback.
Matt Alber also came up in that era, and is really expressing this on his new CD, Constant Crows (not to be confused with Counting Crows, also from that era). Coming up on a steady diet of singer/songwriters, Matt told me recently, Emily and Amy of the Indigos were the biggest influence on Crows, "Sonically, I've always admired The Indigo Girls' albums for their beautiful textures that come across as quite simple in production, when in fact there can be 20-30 layers in there. "Swamp Ophelia in particular is an album that I've been carrying around in my ear for decades, and this was my chance to see if I could record in that ilk," states Matt.
If you saw Matt at his previous gig at Gary Ward's legendary Flesh Hungry Dog Show, you'd have seen not the ethereal, classically trained Alber from his debut, but more of a folkstar along the lines of his idols, and he tells me this experience really gave him a new direction. "I'd say the biggest influence on my approach to making these recordings was touring as a solo guitar/piano act for the last two years. I started each track by recording a simple vocal plus one instrument that I felt captured the heart of the song. Then I carefully built around that track adding only what I thought was necessary to accentuate the melody." Constant Crows, with its acoustic base and stripped down percussion will fit right in when he returns to the Flesh Hungry Dog Show at Jackhammer in next week.
So if we've learned anything from past mistakes, avoid the boy band embarrassment, and get with a real man. You won't regret it, but you will regret that The Wanted tattoo.
Matt Alber plays live at Jackhammer, April 14 as part of Flesh Hungry Dog Show. Go to www.fleshhungrydog.com for tickets. Constant Crows is available now at www.mattalber.com .