the Buzz for August 15th, 2009


Gone altogether are the irritating quasi-raps that kept his otherwise terrific 2006 debut Nothing Left to Lose from taking full flight, and in their place, the confident strains of a supremely gifted young artist who has finally found his true musical voice and is smart enough to let it stand on its own, unadorned by flashy, useless gimmicks. The man’s name is Mat Kearney, and if you have yet to discover his spectacular, wholly enjoyable sophomore effort City of Black and White, you’ve missed what might just be the finest album anybody released in the first half of 2009. (I’ll wager my buddy Isaac and his Fray compatriots could very well have something profound to say about that, however, so let’s not get too convicted too early in our beliefs.)

Teased by the flawless first single “Closer to Love” — which comes off as surprisingly glossy pop, given the wrenching unnamed tragedy the lyrics continually allude to — and anchored by “New York to California” — an effectively spare piano-based ballad so hauntingly gorgeous, it’s difficult to contemplate that it was penned by a mere mortal — there’s nary a bad apple to be found among City’s eleven sterling tracks. Kearney even earns bonus moxie points for daring to name one of his album’s songs “Fire and Rain,” considering that a classic James Taylor tune by that name just happens to be widely revered as the zenith of the singer-songwriter explosion of the early ‘70s, the one that troubadours the whole damn world over have been aiming to beat for most of four decades. Kearney has just made himself that club’s newest member, and the utterly fabulous City definitively proves that he has earned his spot outright.