Matt Wertz isn’t from LaVale, Ma
ryland. Trust me, I asked him.
Matt is the kind of guy that always seems willing and eager to talk. He wears the same humility on his sleeve on stage and off stage, much like that guy at your college played guitar in the middle of the frat quad to get laid. It’s benevolent, sure, but girls melt when they hear it.
I picked up the disc at last night’s show in Pittsburgh, where I got a chance to catch up with Matt after the show. Wikipedia claims that Matt is from my tiny little hometown, LaVale, Maryland. So of course I wanted to exchange some banter about the oddity of such a small world. “Nah, man, someone keeps putting that there on Wikipedia, I’m from Missouri.”
I blink stupidly. “That’s like the worst vandalism ever…”
Matt cracks up. He genuinely laughs, and it is this sort of authenticity that really seems to bubble out of his music.
Deep in to his prime, Weights & Wings is Matt Wertz’s newest release. With 11 solid tracks, this disc is ripe with Matt’s signature brand of innocent pop ballads, hand-clap infused soul pop, and multi-layered acoustic and electric harmony. It may be a bit sheepish for some, but when condensed to it’s basic elements, its genuine and honest. This isn’t John Mayer trying to confuse pre-teens for a profit, this is Matt Wertz – a strong vocalist, talented instrumentalist, and ‘that’ guy at the party.
Dare I say that Weights & Wings is a little more reserved than the previous catalog – or at least a little more ballad-driven. This is for better or for worse, depending on your taste. I’m a huge fan of Matt’s more raucous songs that incite foot-stomping like The Way I Feel but I’m sure that the hoard of 20-something blond girls that populated the show last night are just fine and dandy with a little more sensitivity. Maybe I should add a few pages from Matt’s book in to my scouting strategy.
The album feels very… personal. Names are used in songs, emotions are described in great detail, and maybe this is the most ‘human’ disc Matt has ever released. Songwriting takes a front seat as he describes family ties and falling in love in a hundred different ways. My favorite track is Someone Like You because among other things, I’m a sucker for a bobbing drum line, high-reaching chorus’, and dual-part antiphony – there is a cool buy cialis polychoral reprise that Matt taught the audience to sing that was a blast to sing along with. Also, although subtle, a banjo and organ in the backing track are two elements that are unavoidably fun.
In fact, participation might be the key to this disc, and there are definitely songs best enjoyed live. I’m not knocking this disc at all – it’s solid in just about every way – but perhaps I experienced things in the wrong order. I wish I would have bought the disc before the show because Matt is such a talented, dynamic performer that it’s hard not to see the recorded tracks as more of a shell. In other words, Matt is a live musician,
and seems to only release music to pay the bills. And for that, I salute him. All of the more upbeat songs have a very memorable chorus that is bound to have even the most insipid of listeners singing along by the end of the song. And of course, every Matt Wertz song has 3 choruses, the last one repeating twice, so you already know the formula.
I got to meet two new friends, Brittany and Liz, and they’ve been coming to Matt Wertz shows for years now. Pittsburgh is a common stop for him, and he’s developing a small but rabid fan base (of apparently, wonderful people). He is the real deal, and makes Gavin DeGraw look like a sell out in every single way.
Long live independent, frat quad, acoustic soul rock! It is a genre that hasn’t gone anywhere in a decade because of its infinite repeatability and innate ability to melt a college co-ed’s heart.
The Good: The disc is solid instrumentally, with warm organ beds, intricate guitar picking, and Matt’s strong tenor voice.
The Bad: It’s more of the same formula that Matt has been producing for a decade… but…
Verdict: It’s a damn good formula. Go pick it up, but more importantly, catch a live show. If you only have $10 to spend on Matt Wertz this year, it’s better spent on a concert.
Side Note: Matt was promoting the Mocha Club charity last night, and it’s a really awesome initiative. Please sign up here and help someone in need.
Here are some pictures from the show: