When former skateboarder and Huntington Beach, CA native Matt Costa released his first album, “The Songs We Sing,” in 2005, music lovers looking for this generation’s James Taylor or Jim Croce jumped for joy. Passionate, mellow and inspiring, Costa first album was a rag-tag compilation of songs, that could be listened to from start to finish. With tracks like “Sunshine,” “Astair,” “My Sweet Rose,” “Cold December” and “Desire’s Only Fling,” there was no need to press the skip button. It was, without a doubt, one of the most compelling acoustic rock albums released in the last decade.
His new album, “Unfamiliar Faces” however, doesn’t quite live up the high expectations created by the success of his first release. Nonetheless, it is far from sophomore jinx. It just doesn’t have the same levity that made his intro album so gratifying.
Drawing inspiration Johnny Cash, June Carter and the Beatles among others, Costa’s sound is completely different than the type of music you’d hear on the radio. His songs range in feeling and topic, but are mostly about his relationships with his friends and loved ones. This in itself isn’t the type of music that many may find ultimately intriguing, but Costa’s voice and catchy guitar riffs draw you in and it’s almost impossible to not find something you like on the album.
One track on the album, “Trying to Lose my Mind,” will remind music aficionados of the Beatles version of “With a Little Help From my Friends.” The Beatles influence doesn’t end there either, as “Mr. Pitiful” also has a “Life Goes On” kind of feel to it. In addition, “Emergency Call” has the feel of a Velvet Underground track teetering in between “Sweet Jane” and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” With that being said, “Unfamiliar Faces” is not an album that you will be banging your head to. Instead, it’s an album that would best be served in a coffee house in the West Village. Simply put, Costa’s vocal range and soothing guitar riffs is the kind of music one can relax to. In a day and age where you’d be hard-pressed to find serious acoustic musicians, Costa is still a breath of fresh air in a music scene encompassed with unoriginality and mediocrity.
The only problem is aside from the aforementioned songs, there is nothing that doesn’t separate itself from the average. That’s not to say that there are any really bad songs on the album, because even the worst song, arguably “Bound,” is far from horrible, it just doesn’t have the same sing-a-long characteristics that made Costa’s first album so enjoyable.
In the end, while Costa’s newest sacrifice to the musical gods is an enjoyable and listen-able one, it doesn’t captivate and mystify. Instead, it merely suffices.