Joining instrumentation that is as cutting as it is supple with a powerhouse vocal’s epic melody can be a challenge for any singer/songwriter, no matter how talented, but in the new album Be, Matt Zaddy makes it look all too easy in seven of the most understatedly charismatic pop tracks released out of the underground this season. From the piano balladry of “Little River” to the blues guitar dirge that is “Busy,” Zaddy shows off a rare talent for marrying gargantuan sonic forces together with a seamlessness not often found on the mainstream side of the dial, and although he doesn’t have the most elaborate discography under his belt, he sounds anything but amateurish or unprepared for the spotlight in this soulful LP.

BANDCAMP: https://mattzaddy.bandcamp.com/

The vocals are always in the eye of the storm throughout this tracklist; in both the layered slow song “A Dear Friend” and the up-tempo swing number “Brighter Days,” Zaddy’s command of the lyrics is always the most potent element in the mix (though it’s worth noting that he never minimizes the evocative tones of his backing band for a second here). Some tracks – like “The Truth,” “Greater Things” and “A Tiny Spark” – utilize a more familiar style of composing than the others in Be do, but I don’t believe there’s a single instance where the music sounds predictably constructed or even somewhat disingenuously emotional. It’s sad to say, but that’s partly why I think Zaddy’s new record is such a find; it’s legitimate, to a fault in some respects, and never afraid to bear a lot of heart to us in its exceptionally vulnerable moments.

Singer/songwriters have been having a so-so year in 2019, but Matt Zaddy’s Be is definitely a standout among all of its best contemporaries this December. We get an up close and personal look at the introspective nature of his poetry in this album, and while I doubt that it’s going to serve as the only decent LP we hear from this artist over the course of his career, it sets a very high standard for him to live up to in everything that he records from here on out.

Nicole Killian 

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