Columbia folk rock duo Prettier Than Matt have followed up last year’s “Play Pretty” with a self-titled EP that once again showcases their forays into poppy acoustic rock territory. Produced at the always quality Archer Avenue by Kenny McWilliams, the five songs clock in at under 14 minutes, mirroring the short-but-sweet, in-and-out aesthetic of the arrangements themselves. Jeff Pitts (vocals and guitar hero) and Jessica Skinner (vocals and ukulele heroine) are still pushing out great little pop gems, with a little help from Brendan Bull (drums) and McWilliams (bass) in the studio.
EP opener “Play Dead” is a clean electric blues number with great fills and a perfect solo, courtesy of Pitts. Jessica’s singing is honey smooth as usual, with no rough edges. “I Spilled My Drink” with its lightly rolling movement belies its slightly somber subject of someone relieving a day of boredom with a liquid refreshment. With mood help set by melodica (!) accompaniment from Jessica, Jeff gets the listener involved in an ordinary moment in someone’s life. I am taking the song title “Jim & Pam” at face-value as a reference to the famous couple from The Office, but the love song, buoyed by gentle strings mixed with a determined but sweet piano part, could be about any lovers. During the chorus, the lines “When you fall apart/ I’ll hold you together” surmounts any of its commonplace lyrical currency by the great wrapping of the traded vocals over each other like a pair of lover’s arm themselves. “Clouds” is more acoustic rock with a bit of a dark cast. Jessica’s singing has that almost-country feel, and her clean technique shines through here. “Parental Advisory” is light-hearted (yes, that’s a kazoo!) and gives her a chance to entertain us with suggestions from her Dad. The songs ends with studio applause, giving it the vibe of a live show, something the two are becoming quite used to with all the gigs they have been playing, honing the Prettier Than Matt sound.
Any record that starts with “My mama told me” on the first song and then closes with “My father always told me” on the last one could definitely be construed as an endorsement for learning from your forebears and PTM have obviously been paying attention in the songwriting and musicianship departments. While I wish for more songs, this short set should satisfy fans both new and old until we can get them back in the studio again.
Recommended if you like: She & Him, Alison Krauss, Iron & Wine
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.