Matt Duke arrived on the music scene a couple years too late. The debut album for this New Jersey boy hadn’t yet been released when Zach Braff made Garden State, an ode to his home state.
But had Winter Child been out, you might have heard at least one track from Duke on that film’s soundtrack, given Braff’s preference for the indie genre and Duke’s female swooning voice.
The latter is an asset in the music world, having heard plenty of girls talk endlessly about John Mayer and having seen an unhealthy number of his pictures tacked up on the dormitory walls of one too many girls. I haven’t decided if I am envious or jealous (perhaps both) of Mayer’s ability to attract the opposite sex, but it’s unquestionable that he has influenced his fair share of pop’s singer-songwriters.
To Duke‘s credit, he doesn’t lay on the come-here-to-me songs as much as other male vocalists do. While there is the obvious upbeat danceable sex track “Sex And Reruns,” I’m surprised there aren’t more sensitive tearjerker ballads like “30 Some Days” and “Opossum.” I mean seriously, these songs get you laid.
Surprisingly, the somewhat cheesy ballad “Rabbit” works well, especially highlighting the album’s halfway mark. The song, however, does hit a weird tone during the last stanza (“Try to break away from yourself / Throw your broken bones in a heap / All the blood and guts are exposed / Your spirit has been begging to leave”). It’s a little much.
Unfortunately, the latter tracks don’t help with Kingdom Underground tailing off near the end. Experimentation should be applauded, but “A Happy Hooligan” meanders through so many style and tempo changes that it feels like a drunken holiday medley. The angst-filled “Rose” might have worked better with deeper vocals, but Duke maintains his sympathetic ‘it’s my fault’ demeanor. The electric guitar solo doesn’t help either.
Duke’s sophomore album shows a lot of potential, displaying a versatile style and a promising ability to hit the right notes in a ballad and in more up-tempo fare. He just needs to get more focused and keep those off-the-wall ideas to himself. “I’ve Got Atrophy On The Brain” is a good song but the title could use a second opinion.