• Jonathan Widran

MATTHEW SQUIRES, Visions of America

On Matthew Squires’ bandcamp page, where you can start digging in to the seven critically acclaimed releases the Austin based singer/songwriter’s released since 2010, he has a pretty trippy quote that speaks to his confidence as an artist who resonates and penetrates: “I think, all things considered, the songs I write are much more listenable than the songs I don’t write.”

Bold, yes, but after you listen to his latest work, the raw, and edgy Americana/rock collection “Visions of America,” you’ll be urging him to add “provocative” and “insightful” (for starters). And when an artist is bold enough to open a mid-tempo rocker like “Joke Song” with the line “Lincoln and Hitler and Donald Duck walk into a bar,” we can add “hilarious” and perhaps “cheeky” to the mix. Ditto on the alternately dreamy and raucous “Visions of America,” which has one of the coolest lyrical couplets ever: “I listen to Christ The King/I listen to Homer the Simpson.”

With references to Melville, Emerson, Throreau – all in sequence on the blistering opener “Visions of America,” Squires sets the stage for a literate, sometimes whimsical, often biting reflection of our country in this age of crazy. While he doesn’t consider himself a political artist – and makes sure to leaven the heartbreak with tinges of hilarity – there’s an overall spirit of trying to get past the modern day chaos and use tinges of melancholy as a tool to let shards of spiritual sunshine (also rooted in American life) into the moment so that we feel just a bit better, at least as we’re listening to these nine compelling songs.

Stylistically, he eases from wild garage rock rave-ups to a sweet form of mystical folk (especially on the lush, vocal harmony laden “Fire”) and, to give us a sense of American history through the eyes and ears of music, creates new verses on “Lonesome,” his steel-guitar driven fuzzing up of the Hank Williams classic, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

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