New and Nostalgic
Posted February 18, 2015
By ChristopherThiessen_NRT, Staff Reviewer
April 22, 2005, I was ten years old and on my way to my very first concert. It was the only time I would see the Furler-fronted Newsboys. But before they took the stage, a new artist came on the stage and blew me away with his rhythmic guitar playing and his smooth rap-singing combination. That artist was a young Mat Kearney, who was about to blow up and be heard on pop stations across the country.
February 2015. I am now nearly twenty years old, and I still love the catchy hooks, melodic flows, and upbeat lyrics produced by Mat Kearney. Writing this album review makes me nostalgic. It has me thinking about the artists and songs that have carried me through the last ten years and created the soundtrack of my life. And it's fitting that I feel nostalgic about this, because Just Kids is Kearney's sentimental look-back at the places he has called home on his journey through life.
Kearney commented that Just Kids "is written almost as a love letter" to the stage of life spent in his home state of Oregon. The letter begins with a shout-out to his hometown of Eugene on an emboldening anthem to keep on keeping on through the tough times ("Heartbreak Dreamers," which has a sweet spoken word outro by poet Anis Mojgani).
"Shasta" delivers an intimate look into the innocence of simpler days and the pain of venturing into the uncertainties of life: "We got miles left to go to a place that I don't know, they told me the ground was gold but I can't see it / One last time through the woods and my old neighborhood / it tastes so bittersweet I can't believe it."
The lyrics are not the only things that ooze nostalgia on Just Kids; much of the sound is a fresh take on throwback elements as well. These elements come out strong on the lead single "Heartbeat," complete with synth samples straight out of early Madonna, drum fills that sound eerily like Phil Collins and the funky groove of a Michael Jackson hit.
Another highlight of this album is the fantastic production. Mat Kearney finds this place in his sound between feel-good pop and hipster indie rock that appeals to many different music lovers. Soaring vocals are a main theme, making appearances on songs like "Let It Rain" and "One Heart" (my personal favorite).
In contrast to this is the stripped down and vulnerable "The Conversation (feat. Young Summer)" which came out of a real conversation Kearney had with his wife: "If our love is a hurricane of broken phones and broken doors, / Baby you know I can stand the rain, let it lift us off the floor."
Mat Kearney delivers nostalgia perfection on Just Kids. His lyrics are intimate, his emotions are infectious and his feel-good pop will make you dance. Just Kids reminds us of the good times we have come from, helps us through the heartbreaks we have had and encourages us to push on through the unknowns. I think Mat has created something special with this album, and I am glad to be able to add it my personal musical journey.
Song To Download Now:
"One Heart" (Get it on iTunes here.)
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