The thrust of an alternative rock riff hitting us in one layer, a deluge of drums crashing into itself in another, “Down in the Hole” is as heavy a pop/rock song as any Matt Smith has written in his lifetime, but next to the other seven tracks included on his Being Human LP, it doesn’t overshadow the other material at all. Smith isn’t playing the typical pop games a lot of his rivals would in his latest release, the crown jewel of a collection of new albums debuting in 2020 (just when fans need them the most). He’s putting his poetry at the center of the action in “Down in the Hole” and the lustful “Sanctuary,” giving critics and fans a litany of reasons to stay tuned to his output through the new decade ahead.
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Contrast is a big element in Being Human, and you don’t need to hear “Everybody Wanna Do the Don’t” more than once to know exactly what I’m talking about. A perfect look at what circular compositional techniques can produce when a solo artist knows exactly what kind of a song he’s trying to record, “Everybody Wanna Do the Don’t” and the acoustic folk-rocker “How We Got to Hear” are the two most experimental tracks in this LP without debate, and they leave me with even more questions than I started out with when coming into this review of Matt Smith’s most recent studio work. He’s not done evolving, and that’s clear to even the more novice ears here.
“I Got the Girl” is a lone punker in the midst of this super-eclectic tracklist, but similarly to the soul-tinged title cut, it isn’t defined by its tempo at all. The cadence of the verses, the pushiness of the percussion, even the sluggishness of the strings in “I’d Do Anything for You” impacts how we’re supposed to perceive the narratives in this record, and though I won’t go as far as to say that Being Human is entirely about Matt Smith and a personal dialogue within himself, I definitely think some of the politically-charged innuendo here could be interpreted in a different way than the cosmetics would normally allow for. In a nutshell, this is his most grownup record, and yet also his most innocent.
If it isn’t the chime of the keys in “God is Watching Over You,” searing heat on the guitar harmony in “I Got the Girl” or swagger in the lead vocal in “Sanctuary,” there’s bound to be something capable of taking your breath away in Being Human this September. Matt Smith is far from a household name to those who aren’t familiar with the Austin underground beat, but to listeners who are in the know, he’s a lifelong professional whose new content deserves a bit of extra buzz when it’s about to premier. Being Human doesn’t leave its eager anticipators unsatisfied at the end of the day, but instead indicates another leg in the journey Smith started off on so long ago, and to me, it’s one of the best indie LPs you’re going to hear at the moment.