HGR CD Review: Matt Otis & the Sound

MATT OTIS & THE SOUND – MATT OTIS & THE SOUND (no label) After three solo albums, Bedford-based singer/songwriter Matt Otis returns with a full band, Matt Otis & the Sound, and their self-titled album. Now flanked by keyboardist/bassist Sean Cogan, violinist/bassist Johnny Bayush and drummer Charlie McClanahan, Otis explores a range of folk-based rock/pop flavors over the disc’s dozen tracks. The full band’s impact is immediate, as both Cogan and Bayush generate additional texture and mood with their timely flourishes and fills throughout the album. As with his previous work, Otis muses about a variety of thought-provoking and observational themes about the human condition, utilizing clever wordplays to drive his philosophical and spiritual messages home. A number of songs touch on different aspects of human behavior, with Otis offering his own takes on them; on the upbeat “Make,” for instance, he tells listeners to find love within themselves instead of searching for it from external sources. The leadoff track “Take Me Home” addresses the desire to reboot one’s life and start over, while the disco beat-toned “Down, Down, Down” celebrates finding a personal passion. Other songs involve rebounding from life’s pitfalls; “Darkness” comes to terms with sudden heartbreak, “Disease” proposes letting go of internal negativity and hatred to escape the loneliness it produces, “Bones” displays empathy for others experiencing emotional pain, and “You Will Know” with its gang shout choruses celebrates that moment of self-realization and personal healing. On a more playful note, the whimsical “Karma” warns of just rewards for infidelity, and the album finishes with a fleshed-out update of “The Most Important Thing” from Otis’ previous album, Life Love Death. Otis again displays his knack for elaborate yet catchy song hooks, and arrangements that most effectively bring those melodies to life. He gives his most passionate singing performance yet, running the gamut of emotions from gentle to intense. The musicianship is strong throughout the disc and serves to support each melody, and the overall mix and production allows that musicianship to shine. Matt Otis & the Sound is Otis’ next step forward, as he again raises the bar on his blend of songcraft, imagination and creativity. (The CD can be obtained through the website www.mattotismusic.com.)