Self-Released January and February 2016
It’s time to check in with the last couple songs from Matt Duncan’s now-monthly free song project.
“Chutes and Ladders” – Not many musicians would be able to incorporate the sound of a harpsichord into a pop song quite as effectively as Matt has with this one. “Chutes and Ladders” is propelled through its verses by a steadily pumping bass, swelling horns, and rolled harpsichord chords. By the time the chorus comes around, it’s more a bouncing arpeggiated sound from things, even with tuned drums outlining the chords – Matt accompanies himself here, singing the main chorus in an impressive falsetto and the backgrounds several octaves below it. It’s a tough song to unpack the lyrics on, but it’s terribly, infectiously catchy.
“The Jordan of Strange” – This song is marked with the note “It probably goes without saying, but this one goes out to Ziggy.” It’s a song that seems clearly influenced by Duncan’s recent time spent in on Broadway as a part of the on-stage band in the revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. “The Jordan of Strange” is bold and big throughout, perhaps most of all towards the end as Matt sequences the chorus of “there’s so much more” up and up and up before resolving it with a resolute “to do!” It’s definitely recognizable as a Matt Duncan track, but it seems like there’s been a distinct, gradual, purposeful evolution into this from the “AM radio soul” sounds of Soft Times and Beacon.
Two more great songs here from from Matt Duncan – it all makes me wonder what he’s got in store for his mentioned full-length LP. He’s made some changes to his sound, but if these aren’t the songs he’s holding onto for an upcoming album, it’s tough to know what to expect. Either way, we’ve been treated to some really good stuff these last several months.
Ben Southworth – February 7th, 2016 – Kenwick Place
Glorious Soul Pop
Self-Released November and December 2015
It’s been a little more than two months since I last posted about Matt’s ‘Free Music’ project here – I wanted to make sure to cover other music going on around the state, and found myself getting busy with all things involved in finishing up my schooling at UK. Before 2015 wraps up, though, I wanted to be sure to get all caught up with the songs I missed out on:
“Light Bright” – Not only is this song a really great example of songwriting on Matt’s behalf, it shows off some very nice skill and creativity in its production. The song enters with some digitally altered piano samples, plays through a funky verse, before reaching the first chorus – one propelled by some terrific synth bass. The string hits in the second verse are a very nice touch, as is the key change that leads into the bridge. The same piano samples are used towards the end – this time with Matt’s voice layered in on top – before reaching one final chorus.
“Waking Up” – This song has a completely different mood than “Light Bright,” or any other song in this series for that matter. Starting out with just an acoustic guitar and Matt’s voice, the track patiently picks up layers of texture – some vocal harmonies and tambourine are added by the time the first chorus comes around. Matt writes that “Waking Up” was “inspired by a poem of same name, written by Cate Peebles,” and that it was written as a part of “the collaborative art show “The Dreams I Gave Her,” curated by Kelli Burton and Yulia Topchiy.” It’s a really nice song, and perhaps my favorite of these three.
“Somewhere In Between” – Okay, maybe this one’s my favorite of the bunch – if for no other reason than the way it starts. The track was written, recorded, and pressed on a red 7″ as a part of the Lexington Art League’s 2013 ‘Community Supported Art’ project. The chorus reprises the feel of the intro, and adds layers of synths – between this track and “Light Bright” I’m really hopefully that Matt continues this trend of synths and inventive production for whatever album project he’s working on next, because it’s working very nicely. The outro adds a really subtle layer of the the chorus vocals (taken down an octave or two), that I mistook for just another layer of synths on the first listen, but it’s a really nice touch.
All three of these tracks are great, and when this project is taken as a whole, I’m pretty sure this whole FREE MUSIC project could have been released as a perfectly successful EP for Matt. He’ll be scaling back the frequency of his releases to once per month, but with his sights on releasing a “new (proper) album” – not a bad tradeoff, if you ask me.
Ben Southworth – December 28th, 2015 – Mount Horeb
Midnight Soul Pop
Self-Released – October 7th, 2015
Lexington-native, Matt Duncan, has delivered on the second installment of his ‘first and third Wednesday’ free music release. “Night Job” opens with an arpeggiated chord on piano and some whispered refrains of the song’s title accompanied by strings. When the song kicks into gear, it picks up a bit with some funky bass and drums, but retains the cool, breezy, driving-with-the-windows-down-in-the-dark atmosphere that a song called “Night Job” ought to have. The song is made out to ‘all the strange rock and rollers’ (according to his description on Bandcamp) – the pre-chorus is a comforting “no matter what goes wrong, you always know that you can still belong at your… night job.” What’s more, the production is pretty spotless here (I’m curious where he’s been recording since moving to NYC), and I’m happy to report that he’s found some good horns for a nice bit of texture laid in with the chorus. The track heads to a string-heavy bridge // break, picks up some more texture, and closes with nearly a minute of the chorus repeating “night job” and the very same arpeggiated piano chord that it began with.
It seems like Matt is only further perfecting the art of catchy, smooth, and pleasant three-and-a-half-minute pop songs, and that he’s slowly picking up more and more mature chord progressions and instrumental arranging. The song is free to download on his Bandcamp page, and you can stream it below – look for another song of his on or around October 21st.
Ben Southworth – October 7th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Funky Soul Pop
Self-Released – September 16th, 2015
Current New Yorker by way of Lexington, Matt Duncan, announced last Wednesday that he’d be putting out a free track twice per month – each first and third Wednesday at least “until he runs out of ideas or time, or the world ends.” The first of these tracks is the first new music I’ve heard of his since his widely-beloved LP from 2013, Soft Times, and it sounds and feels a lot like the Matt Duncan you may have heard before. It opens boldly with a few fairly bright chords before stepping into the first verse – “if I let it all go, what would there be left for you and me.” If there’s anything that I miss from this track, it might be due to the lack of horns, but it’s made up for with some really nice harmonized vocals that almost imitate horns at different points in the song. The electronic piano sound (maybe it’s an organ of some kind?) adds a nice texture and groove, and sits prominently in the arrangement. The opening chords are reprised in the bridge, allowing for some nice interjection of guitar before spilling back into another chorus – the chorus is simple on this track, but it’s a good one that got stuck in my head. The track as a whole is great, and while it certainly fits the feeling of music that Matt has released before, it seems to be a slight shift into an even more soul-flavored genre.
Best of all? Duncan has the music on his Bandcamp, and it’s free to download (as the single’s art might suggest) – you can stream it from the player below, or download it here. If Matt sticks to this whole ‘first and third Wednesday’ thing, you should be expecting another new track on or around October 7th.
Ben Southworth – September 24th, 2015 – Kenwick Place