Matt & Toby

Matt & Toby

Written by: HES on 08/12/2012 19:49:20

Matt and Toby is the side project of Emery vocalist/guitarist Toby Morell and keys/guitarist Matt Carter. Following the release of their first album, a bit of an internet-spectacle arose from the solo-project's more Christian messages, eventually leading to Emery citing their last album title “We Do What We Want” as an answer to the criticism. Lyricist/singer Toby Morell has always made it clear that he is Christian and even though it hasn’t been the most prominent part of their lyrical universe, it has always been an underlying theme. The death of a friend made Toby contemplate his relationship with God and the song “What Plays In My Head” works as an account of this: “I pray that this will too pass and leave/That I could be a man of faith/In this quiet home that we both made/And tell our son and daughter that I believe in God”.

The first song “Life of the party” kicks the album off with a bit of welcomed tempo. The lyrics go “I picked up an old acoustic/Thought my hands knew how to use it/But these days aren't like the old ones”. Though things may seem different to Toby and Matt, a couple of the songs on this record bear resemblance to the acoustic versions on the re-release of Emery’s “The Question”. Matt and Toby also make heavy use of the cyclic call-and-response known from Emery’s releases. However this project is completely stripped from the post-hardcore elements; instead, Matt and Toby add new elements such as trumpets in “Come Home” where it’s successful. We also get a bit of violin on the track “Oh No” – in my eyes an instrument they could’ve used more of as it goes well with the contrast of the otherwise quite dense, gloomy soundscape.

On “The Last One” the guitar-motifs and mixing start bordering on camp-fire music – ending up in Toby singing an entire seven bar a cappella. Unfortunately the tracks I seem to dislike the most are the ones with the most apparent Christian motifs. Don’t get me wrong – it actually has nothing to do with the religious part of it; but in some way it seems to affect the bit of edge and skew that makes the rest of this album interesting. Instead of relying on the bombastic elements of religious music; choir, organ, bells – we’re left with the musical imagery of sing-alongs in the common house and an untrained boys choir. Especially the track “Take me Oh Lord in Thy hands” ends up extremely toothless.

But let’s get to the good part – ‘cause besides the aforementioned missteps there are some real gems on the album. “Prodigal Sons and Daughters” has an appealing, positive energy and as Toby sings “We ain't gotta listen to what anybody says/Cause we like to dance we like to sing” you get a rare break from the otherwise introspective, melancholic universe of Toby’s writing. The same goes for “You Will Sing” – a wonderful mix of pop-ish refrain and immediate moodiness of the following bars. One thing these guys have taken with them from former projects is the beauty of melancholy. Unfortunately – it becomes a bit monotonous in the long run.

Generally the album divides into a weird mix of new and old. Some numbers definitely go in a new direction (whether you like it or not), but the majority of songs actually simply remind me too much of Emery in a light version. Add distorted guitar to “What plays in my head” and “Oh No” and you wouldn’t notice that this isn’t an Emery-album. One of the things that made Emery so popular was their way of mixing the harmonious with the disharmonious. “Matt and Toby” is mainly a melodic album but without the edge. It’s obviously a matter of taste – but I end up missing the unique selling point in some of the songs. To truly differ from their Emery-past Matt and Toby should’ve explored the more rhythm-driven, pop-ish roads they almost walk down and left the banal worship-songs at home.


Download: You Will Sing, What Plays In My Head, Life Of The Party
For The Fans Of: Relient K, Emery (especially the acoustic versions on “The Question”), The Classic Crime

Release Date 20.11.2012
Tooth and Nail

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