Vern Matz – Minnesota Dancing (Spotify)
Earlier this year I stumbled onto Vern Matz, and their melancholic folk sound resonated with me. The production is always straightforward and simple, which works really well for Daniel Belgrad and Michael Lituchy. Daniel’s crooning vocals touch on a level of sadness, inner restlessness and isolation that pull from personal reflection. Recently, the band released Minnesota Dancing, an album that I don’t want to stop once I put it on.
“Cracks in the wall that nobody’s seen.”Vern Matz – Lethe
Much of the album was produced by TOLEDO, close friends of Vern Matz. You can hear their touch on these songs, and they complement the sounds really well. Acoustic guitar drives a majority of the songs, with swooning guitars, gently fuzzed out, with subtle licks that elevate the songs yet without distracting, slide guitar drenched in reverb, synth pads that fill spaces but don’t overwhelm.
These songs have the cohesiveness of a live band, with added layers after the foundation was laid. They have an energy that allow the slower songs to breath. It provides a well structured flow through the album, making it feel as though you were in a small venue with the band on stage.
Minnesota Dancing opens with Pretty People, a beautiful ballad where acoustic rhythm lays the foundation. The highlight of the song is the distant guitar work buried in ambient reverb, soothing synth pad mixing with the guitar, all placed far behind the vocals, acoustic, and bass. This song sets the tone for the album.
Vern Matz – Burnt Coffee (Spotify)
The gentle doubling of the picking acoustic guitar panned hard left and right open the second track, Burnt Coffee. Daniel’s vocals are passed through a high pass filter at around 400Hz and running through a spring reverb (at least it sounds like this to my ears). The Rhodes piano adds a really nice touch to this song.
Second Step brings the tempo up, and begins to lift the album in hope. The drums and bass become more prominent, and vocals shift from songwriter approach to an added element to the song.
Rabbit God is another highlight and a crowd favorite. A song about falling in love, the chorus pull from the texts, “what if i luv uuuu? would it fix us tooooo?” Vern Matz describes this song as, “a throw back to playing loft shows in new york and drinking bad whiskey with good people.”
Mall of America has a bit a throwback feel, a song released previously by Nice Guys. The bluesy guitar work is so warm and nice. Earthboy is appropriately spaced out, with the vocals calling down in a thematic way of David Bowie’s Space Oddity. The layers of slide guitar make this song for me.
Bssh is the most emotive song about a breakup; the melody is so thick with pensive sadness. “She won’t ever change her mind,” Daniel sings. “Trees of grey, nights of blue. I lost myself while thinking about you. She won’t ever change. Falling through the clouds for someone I used to know. All those times you’ve said, it’s better now. It’s only in our heads. It’s better now, my friend.”
The album closes with Daydream, an upbeat song that is the most complex of the tracks. The analog synths sound so nice in this song. Everything about this song drives forward, from the faster tempo, the driving drums, layers of guitar, and ambient vocals.
Minnesota Dancing deals with the loss of a friend, fragile relationships, deep contemplations of life, and recognitions of loneliness and feeling hollow. I have a soft place for sad songs and honesty, so these songs evoke strong emotions in me. This is a great album you’ll want to traverse through while intentionally listening. All in all, the album feels intimate and vulnerable, and though the songs span two years of recording, it feels complete.
Vern Matz links: