Matthew Squires’ Visions of America LP
Matthew Squires’ pained vocal finds a little bit of comfort amidst the glowing strings that comprise the instrumental backdrop of the familiar “Lonesome,” one of the cornerstones of his new album Visions of America, but the elegance of his emotional wail isn’t limited to the three minutes that this song lasts at all – quite the contrary, in fact. Numbers like this one and the progressive title track highlight the remarkable skillset that Squires brings with him to the microphone and every element of his immensely engaging sound, which is available to us in its most muscular form in this latest collection of studio recordings.
Though the title track plays out like an anthological tribute to The Long Winters-era style of alternative folk/rock that has had such a huge impact on the music of artists like Matthew Squires, other tracks here – like “The Sentinel,” for example – take his songcraft in a totally different direction that is rooted more in psychedelia than it is post-punk reverence. “Silence, Now!” is probably the most straightforward song to be heard on Visions of America, but even at its most barebones, it never feels even slightly spindly or lacking in emotional depth.
“Perfect Eye” has some really killer fretwork lining its stately introduction and self-aware verses, which just might qualify as the best set to grace a Squires record since those of The Great and Empty Sea’s title track. “American Fever Dream” gives the song a run for its money, but to be perfectly honest, the latter’s hypnotically mind-bending guitar patterns are far more dominant an element than the substance of its lyrics are. This is actually a pretty diverse group of compositions when we compare this tracklist to those of the mainstream LPs topping the charts at the moment, and yet it doesn’t flirt with inaccessible sonic territories for even a second.
Despite its name, “Joke Song” has one of the more torturously affective hooks of any found on Visions of America, and much like “Strange Day,” relies on a couple of really effervescent harmonies in making an impression on anyone who happens to be listening. All of the material here sounds genuinely inspired from beginning to end, and I think it’s fairly obvious that Squires was particularly invested in this material going into the studio. He’s wearing his heart on his sleeve with us in tracks like “Fire Song,” and though he’s exhibited a willingness to do as much in the past, it’s never felt quite like it does in this nine-song selection.
While I came into this review expecting a lot out of Matthew Squires and his acclaimed crew of Austin-based players, I definitely didn’t think that I would be as taken with the content in Visions of America as I was. Squires’ latest album is an exceptionally emotional experience that demands a lot of introspection on the part of the listener to fully appreciate its incredibly provocative nature, but for those who have been looking for something a little more involved than the status quo this September, it’s a homerun if I ever heard one.