Matt Costa - Mobile Chateau Album Review
There's an almighty retro feel oozing through Mobile Chateau, the self-produced third album from Californian-born singer-songwriter Matt Costa. Moving on from the more contented, happy-go-lucky material found on earlier releases and away from a style frequently compared to label-mate Jack Johnson; with Mobile Chateau, Costa ploughs '60's influences into his writing with intent and conviction.
It's regrettably near-impossible to listen to Mobile Chateau as a contemporary release because, bar a few exceptions ('Mobile Chateau', 'Painted Face'), it is so firmly rooted in the past; everything from the psychedelic organ tones ('Idol') and crunchy guitar sounds to the retro vocal backing harmonies harks back to the '60's. Though a bland, plod-along opener, 'The Season' establishes Costa's intent to reminisce to music of years gone by; glimmers of the likes of The Kinks and The Doors are immediately blatant in its' production, writing and instrumentation. Later, the piano-led easy, retro-pop track 'Drive' bears great resemblance to Brian Wilson's writing, especially in its Beach Boys backing vocals which also feature throughout the album. In an ambitious attempt to develop his work, Costa includes scratchy string backings but unfortunately they're barely audible over the echoing vocals and crunchy accompanying guitar and piano noise.
Title track 'Mobile Chateau', on the other hand, is one of the albums' few breaths of fresh air as a contrasting acoustic guitar-led ballad with much more of a folky and individual style harking back only to his former self. The laid-back folk fell is, however, immediately contrasted with the psychedelic feel of 'Can You Tell Me', which again evidences a more raucous edge to previous releases, though a more sparsely produced folk-feel is later heard in the gently lilting picked guitar of 'Painted Face' which comes much later in the track listing. Two thirds into the album Mobile Chateau lies its best track 'Bleeding Heart' which begins with timid vocals over a minimal percussion accompaniment and sparse guitar chords before building into a more determined and forceful sound with brass backings again contrasted by its successor 'Secret', a down-tempo track whose self-production and recording techniques reiterate the continuing retro feel.
All in all, giving much more of a musical head to the leading names of the '60's and more comparable to Richard Swift than to chilled out surf-folker Jack Johnson, Mobile Chateau has undoubtedly taken Costa in a different direction. Rather disappointingly, however, this blatant amalgamation of influences combined with clear, if intentional, rough-around-the-edges production places the largely bland, uninspiring and unoriginal contents of Mobile Chateau firmly back in the past it is so heavily inspired by.