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Matthew Good – Lights of Endangered Species: Review

On May 31, Matthew Good‘s latest album was released. Lights of Endangered Species is the fifth record to be released by the artist since his departure from the Matthew Good Band. It is different from much of his other works, yet its quality is still at a respectable high. With this wonderful release, Matt Good proves he is that good!

The Music (rating: A)

  1. Extraordinary Fades
  2. How it Goes
  3. Shallow’s Low
  4. What If I Can’t See thee Stars Mildred?
  5. Zero Orchestra
  6. Non Populus
  7. In a Place of Lesser Men
  8. Set Me on Fire
  9. Lights of Endangered Species

The number of personnel is large regarding Lights of Endangered Species. So as one can expect, the orchestral element is overpowering, albeit not to the point which compromises the alternative rock sound. The balance between the two is remarkably level, and the natural mesh is even more impressive. The symphony side of music has a consistent presence throughout the duration of the record, but the more standardized rock instruments (guitar, drums, piano, etc.) are not at all overshadowed. And the coming together of the two is unseemly. Think of this release as a predestined marriage of rock and symphony.

In fact, the bondage between the symphonic and rock styles is the most standout aspect of Lights of Endangered Species. It is as though the music had been laying dormant, waiting for a face to cling on to. Such pieces as “Shallow’s Low” and “Zero Orchestra” demonstrate just that. Also, Good never tries to force one of the two dominant styles onto the other. Sometimes it favors the rock side (“What If I Can’t See the Stars Mildred?”); other times it sides with symphony (“Zero Orchestra”). Though there may not be anything too technical in the musicianship, the choices made regarding layering display the artist’s respectable natural affinity for music. In “Non Populus,” for example, the partnership between the symphony and rock styles allow for mutual growth as well as individual flourishing based on whichever is warranted in the moment. All the subtleties in the layering and amalgamation of such dissimilar styles truly highlights the commendable musicianship underlying this record.

As mentioned before, Lights of Endangered Species contains very little upfront technicality in its composition. Most of its quality is based on its overall feel and presentation. With Good’s patience and unforced song structuring, one can only expect a great album. There are many instrumental passages which put forth a wonderful web of melodies accompanied by a heavenly atmosphere, such as in “Shallow’s Low”. The track sequencing is very well done also. As it stands, it has an appropriate intro with natural ups and downs which lead to a proper conclusion to the 45-minute journey. But also, the unorthodox song structures themselves flow extremely smoothly, as is the case with the dynamic but fluid “Non Populus”. None of the songs are particularly wowing in the sense that I am dumbstruck as to the blatant display of talent. This is more the type of album that aims to touch one’s heart, and undoubtedly does so.

Lights of Endangered Species is an album of beautiful melodies, large musical webs, dense layering, gentle flow, and emotional atmospheres; all of which constitute a great album. In a sense, it has a sort of pop-ish feel, but it is far from the typical pop album. It is more than an orchestral alternative rock album; it is a well-written, well-presented piece of art. Without doubt, it will join the elite ranks of quality records that 2011’s best has to offer.

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  1. Rita
    July 15, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    To be honest the first thing I thought of when I heard this was post-rock: a couple of the opening tracks and the instrumental passages, especially in “Non Populus,” remind me of Explosions in the Sky, in that they’re pretty stripped-down, and expansive and reverberating (add in a bunch of other similar feeling-words there, etc.). It’s a mood thing.

    I love the marriage of symphonic and rock music in this album, too. It’s a pretty seamless interplay of opposing styles, and I’m surprised it works as well as it does. The horn sections give “Zero Orchestra” an almost dramatic big band feel, but it’s ultimately a rock song — but nothing about it feels like it doesn’t fit.

    I also agree about the track sequencing: definitely unorthodox, natural ups and downs, though I actually feel like it gradually builds to a climax in “Zero Orchestra” and then tapers down again, which means the burst of energy in “Lights of Endangered Species” feels out of place to me — I was expecting it to end on a quiet note. That’s my only complain about the album, though.

    Have you listened to the rest of Matthew Good’s albums? Thoughts/favourites? I love Avalanche and a lot of stuff off of the Matthew Good Band albums. If you’ve listened to them we should talk about them sometime, if not I should force you to listen to them. :)

    • CJ
      July 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Yeah, the powerful mood is the strongest point of this album and does wonders for it. And in a sense it ended on a quiet note, though “Lights of Endangered Species” undoubtedly kicks off fairly strong; I definitely see what you mean.

      I really love Avalanche as well! I’d put these two on the same level. On one hand, LoES has so much power with its orchestra. But on the contrary, Matt’s undistorted voice in Avalanche sparkles beautifully, much more so than it does here. I tried listening to a bit of the Matthew Good Band stuff but didn’t really get into it. Perhaps I will try again some time. But yeah, lets chat sometime! ;)

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