Matthew and the Atlas: Other Rivers – This album is a metaphorical exploration of what’s possible in life. Matthew and the Atlas often use nature as a stand-in for the complex emotional trappings that they feel in everyday life. With elements of bluegrass and synth pop, they weave their stories in a dream-like haze that is all their own. Lead singer Matthew Hegarty’s deep and sorrowful voice takes you by the hand and gently guides you through this world.
‘Into Gold’ begins the album, and like any journey, they are choosing not to look back. The song seems to be about moving on and not being afraid to burn the bridges behind you, which many might agree is at the very least a courageous choice.
Perhaps the most striking thing about ‘Pale Sun Rose’ and much of the rest of the album is how seamlessly the banjo is incorporated into the music. The instrument is prominent, but it is but one aspect of a larger style that has some synth as well as more contemporary elements. It is by no means a folk song as one might think. In fact, the synth strings in the final act of the song almost overtake the vocals along with everything else.
‘To The North’ is steeped in metaphor. It’s unclear how much of the nature imagery is meant to be literal and how much is figurative, but in any case, the song does feature a powerful mix of the synthetic and the organic in terms of instrumentation.
Later in the album the theme of debate begins to arise. ‘Out Of The Darkness’ is a diatribe against Hegarty’s own self doubt. It’s basically a break up song for the aspects himself that hold him back.
“Everyone you know one day will surely die, but everything that dies in some way returns” is the sentiment that kicks off the argument in ‘Everything That Dies’. It’s the point/counterpoint argument between pessimists and optimists that will go on forever. The instrumentation makes it clear that our hero prefers the latter.
The album concludes thematically with the concept of ending and loss, beginning with ‘Nowhere Now’, which is a fight against death. Moving on from the funeral, we jump to ‘A Memory Of You’. Unlike the context might suggest, this song is not about someone who has passed away. To the contrary, this song is about a relationship that’s in the past and this has moved the vocalist to lament, “We’re older now, and yes, we’ve grown apart”. This song is one of the most organic-sounding on the album — there are no synthesized aspects, no keyboards. It is simply a song where a man sings about a relationship that was difficult and is now done.
The album ends with the procrastinator’s anthem ‘Another Way’. In this song Hegarty tells us that, “someday soon he’ll live as he should have lived”. The song does not sound like a lament; it sounds aspirational. This song puts it clearly out there with no metaphor and no allusions. It’s simply the way things should be, and he is the one who needs to change. It’s a powerful message to go out on…7.2/10
‘Everything That Dies’