Matthew Squires and the Learning Disorders - 'The Arcade'
After listening through Matthew Squires’s first full-length record a couple of times, I was inspired to go back to what must have been some of his most inspirational material. Of course I started with In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. I made my way into Bright Eyes’ Fever and Mirrors and then closed it out with Tallahassee from the Mountain Goats. When I finally returned to Squires’ album for a third listen, I actually forgot that I had switched away from the Mountain Goats. Squires’ voice recalls John Darnielle’s distinctive warble, throws in Jeff Mangum’s penchant for melancholy lyrics and tops it off with the melodrama of Conor Oberst’s musical arrangements. If any of those references appeal to you, then will probably love How to Combust Your Life from Matthew Squires. If you can’t stand any of those three musical milestones, then stop reading now, because Squires just won’t be for you.
Squires alludes to How to Combust Your Life being borne out of some great life tragedy, and the lyrics definitely speak to this idea. There’s a lot of mortality, insecurity and uncertainty permeating the lyrics across this record. The impressive thing, though, is that it’s not a dour album by any means. Partially this is because the arrangements manage to stay fairly upbeat, and partially it’s because all of the sadness is leveled out with some joy and confidence. “The Arcade,” for example, is a bouncy track that embraces the idea of growing into adulthood. “Your Mind is Fine” suggests what Quiet Company did a little over a year ago – that we are all where we belong. “(Not Quite) Cannon in D” uses the famous classical melody from Pachelbel to explain how music can make everything better, and “Deer Song”‘s “sha la la”s illustrate that quite plainly while noting that it’s okay not to have any idea what you’re doing with your life.
How to Combust Your Life isn’t a terribly polished record. Squires’ voice is sometimes off-key, and the music sometimes feels very lo-fi, which will undoubtedly turn off some listeners. However, it also has the effect of lending some authenticity to the occasion. Squires sounds entirely earnest throughout each song and lands some serious emotional punches. It’s an auspicious debut for a young singer-songwriter. We didn’t get this out in time for the album release show, but follow us on Twitter (@ovrld) for more information about Squires’ performances. The record is available to stream on Spotify, or you can buy it from Squires’ bandcamp page for any price you want.
– Carter Delloro