Another musical monster from Mat Kerekes.
Have you ever sat back and wondered to yourself: “hey, I wonder what it would sound like if Queen made an indie folk album in 2019?” No, odds are you’ve never thought that, but now you no longer have to. As Mat Kerekes has done just that with his stellar new solo album, 'Ruby'. His new LP is thrilling from start to finish, with a great mixture of poppy songs, acoustic songs, ballads, and ever slower, sadder tracks that all intertwine to create a roller coaster of sounds and emotions. This release has awesome touches of everyone of Mat’s own musical influences, from the iconic Queen to his own band, Citizen.
However, due to his last album being quite a pleasant listen, I am not personally surprised by any of this. Upon hearing the first single and the title track, I knew that this new album would be something special. So I dived headlong into his new full-length with a positive mindset, and can confidently say that this release exceeded so many of my own expectations.
[caption id="attachment_1106885" align="aligncenter" width="760"] Mat Kerekes, smiling politely. [/caption]
While Mat Kerekes is most known for his vocal work in Citizen, he is certainly no stranger to writing and playing instruments. The immediate stand-out here is the guitar work, and how it brilliantly highlights Mat’s melodies. Tracks like 'Ruby' and 'Young' use the the acoustic parts in a stop-start fashion, helping to push the drum beats forward and add some bounce to the songs too. A track like 'Diamonds', however, utilise the guitars in a more classic rock style, with beautiful leads and solos making for highlights across the album. However, as much as I love the guitar work on 'Ruby', some parts do feel a little dull, seemingly because they are played on an odd pick-up setting. Regardless, most sections are fantastically written.
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These are the songs that showcase the massive Queen influence that runs through the veins of this album, which is part of what makes 'Ruby' so brilliant in my eyes. It's really no stretch of the imagination to envision the likes of Freddy Mercury himself singing some of these songs, which is a fantastic thought, honestly. Another massive thing of note to this album is the drumming. While simple, the beats are extremely catchy and lend a giant sense of energy to proceedings. The titular cut and 'Spider Silk are real hip-shakers, containing huge rhythmic grooves that imprint themselves into your ears.
Solid percussion notwithstanding, the best element about 'Ruby', and the reason why I love it, is the great vocal work. from Mat himself. The guy just has such an impressive range, truly shining through on moments like the huge bridge in 'Young'. His falsettos high notes and shouts are absolutely enthralling; he really is a stand out for vocalists in this alt-rock scene. He uses these parts sparsely, but when they do happen, they really blow you away. What's so great about Mat’s singing is that he can go from the soft and intimate melodies of ballad 'They Appear At Night' to the energetic yelling that drives 'Diamonds', always sounding fantastically cohesive. He's definitely one of my favourite vocalists right now!
The lyricism underneath the dulcet waves of 'Ruby' are stellar; all shrouded in beautiful metaphors and honest pourings of Mat’s heart. 'Autumn Dress' is a slower ballad that feels like a love song, with lines of “I know you’re a child at heart/You’re a match, you’re thunder in the dark.” Elsewhere, “Do you ever miss it? The things you loved when you were a kid? Your parents love that spread too thin?” on closer '(An Ode)' is perhaps the most hard-hitting lyric, creating dwellings of nostalgic childhood. The album is crammed full of lines that deliver all kinds of moods; from happy and nonchalant, to nostalgic and depressing.
As much as I have praised this album, there's one thing that bothered me. Which is that the album loses momentum by having a few too many ballads and slow-jams for its own good. 'Autumn Dress' and 'Welcome To Crystal Cress' are victims of this, growing a little boring and skippable at times on repeat listens. These tracks are still good, but nothing in comparison to the gripping energy that 'Spider Silk' and 'Hawthorne' bring to the album's table. The higher energy parts are almost too great for their own good, perhaps making the more restrained moments feel slower than they actually are, creating a small imbalance in the album's overall pacing.
Despite the slower tracks dragging their heels a bit, Ruby' is an absolute monster with just the right touch of outside influences and heartfelt lyricism to make it easily relatable; it brings a world of emotions to the forefront. It's wonderfully happy and joyful, whilst also being emotional and also quite cold. Head-bobbing and jubilant high moments mesh with lower, sadder parts full of welling tears. Personal favourite tracks like 'Hawthorne' and 'Spider Silk' set down some incredible the incredible tones that they set, and the energy that keeps me hitting the replay button over and over. Certain moments also just keep you coming back for more, like the screaming bridge of 'Young' or the fantastic second half of 'One For The Wildflowers'. 'Ruby' is easily Mat’s best solo project, no doubts about it. In fact, these songs might just be some of the best creations that Mat has offered in any of his musical works.
4. Autumn Dress
5. They Appear At Night
7. Welcome To Crystal Cres
8. Spider Silk
9. One For The Wildflowers
10. An Ode
'Ruby' is out April 19th.