Release Date: February 24th 2015
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
- Heartbreak Dreamer
- Moving On
- Just Kids
- One Black Sheep
- Let It Rain
- Los Angeles
- Miss You
- The Conversation (feat. Young Summer)
- One Heart
- The Air I Breathe [*]
“…It’s been a really challenging year of external things, things with family and life and business, things that you can’t control and they’re just the challenging moments. I think there’s kind of like a surrender in the middle of that. Some of the songs you hear like “One Heart” are just kind of a prayer at the bottom of the pit kind of deal…” Signed to Republic Records and Inpop Records; singer/songwriter and pop/rap artist Mat Kearney is back with his 5th studio album JUST KIDS this week, releasing on the same day as RED’s highly anticipated new album of Beauty And Rage. Though myself not being an avid fan of Mat’s, this new album may just change my opinion, and persuade me to check out the rest of his discography. Songs like “Ships In The Night”, “Undeniable”, the very first single “Nothing Left To Lose” and the heartfelt melody “Closer To Love” remind us how much of an intricate and meticulous songwriter Mat is, and this new album is no different from the gems and treasures that his has recorded in the past, of which I have started to also listen to more in depth. So is JUST KIDS, which examines Mat’s roots as a songwriter, as well as delving into personal experiences and his reflection on the past; worth the plunge if you’re not a fan already? Yes of course, this album is the perfect place to start!
Mat’s music has crossed over into mainstream quite a bit over his career, with many of his songs being played in TV shows and movie soundtracks. The lead single of this album “Heartbeat”, a relationship themed song about Mat’s love for his spouse and her love for him being so strong that he can feel her heartbeat wherever he is; is most likely to follow in the same vein as well. Catchy and thoughtful, as it makes me look into how I would like a spouse to be like, Mat’s artistic abilities extend past songwriting here, with a clever one shot music video filmed via a drone created. Driven by electronic keys and hand claps, this pop tune has me moving my head and dancing, and though it is not a Christian song, we are reminded that the love we share for our loved ones is only a fraction of the unending love God has for us. As Mat relays that ‘…I feel your heart beat, beat, beat, beating right next to me, the heat, heat, heat got me feeling like I believe all things baby that we could be…’ I am inspired to dwell upon the people in my life that I cherish and treasure, and pray that God keeps them safe and happy. Well done Mat for a compelling first single that sets the tone up for the rest of the album.
The album opens with the catchy and introspective melody “Heartbreak Dreamer”, including a refrain of a spoken word song from Anis Mojgani. Employing some nice and catchy electronic effects in between the verses and the chorus, Mat raps and sings about his past, and reiterates how God got him to where he is today (without overtly alluding to God at all, which is a clever ploy to garner buzz and attention from all listeners!), a sort of testimony song. Driven by piano and programming, this 5 minute melody has Mat proclaiming in the chorus that ‘…for all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light, looking for just one reason to get through the night, every long lost believer caught in the fight, all the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright…’, and we are provided with hope and assurance that God will guide us through that tough times, which is exactly what He has shown with Mat’s life as a gifted singer and songwriter!
On this 14 album tracklist, there’s so much musical and lyrical diversity here, and I believe that this album is where Mat shines the most as a singer and songwriter. Tackling a difficult subject of heartbreak and moving on from a relationship, Mat deftly delves into our feelings when we end a relationship. The music continues to be upbeat, and Mat employs many electronic effects, layered vocals and synth, and though the lyrics invoke a sense of sadness as we lament with Mat the loss of a relationship for whatever reason, there’s a sense of hope in this song as well, as we learn from our mistakes and instead ‘…forgive and let live and move on…’, because we are all human, and whatever mistakes we have made in our past are in our past, and we can only move forward.
The title track takes the tempo of the music down a notch, with the piano only track being another melody that speaks overtly about Mat’s life and the trials and difficulties he overcame when he was young that allowed him to be where he is right now, where Mat asks the question ‘…for crying out loud I wanna know how the waves keep on crashing down the doors, feel the weight of the world and they keep on bringing more…’. While pop songs “Billion” and “One Black Sheep” are superb musically and thoughtful and inspiring lyrically as well- the former track is an African inspired unique melody where Mat sings to his wife about how she is the only one for him (and throws in some pretty quirky metaphors and comparisons as well for fun and to be cheeky, outlining that ‘…seven billion in the world baby, I only wanna be with you…’, and the latter melody yet another autobiographical tune filled with handclaps and driven by acoustic guitar where Mat sings about being an ‘alien’ in a world where he doesn’t belong, a feeling we should all relate to as Christians, how we all are in the world but not of it. Even though Mat asks the question ‘…won’t somebody tell me what’s wrong with me?…’, we realise that this question is rhetorical, and something not meant to be asked, as we all know that we are God’s children and He loves us immensely. Mat rounds out the first half of the album with the electronic pop inspirational piece “Let It Rain”, where he speaks about the message of perseverance, and trusting in God during the hard times, when all we can do is cry out to Him, and ask Him to rain down on us. Well done Mat for a though provoking first half to the album.
The second half of the record picks up from where the first left off. “Ghost” is more of a mellow version of “Moving On” from earlier on in the album, with the guitar led reflective ballad about a failed relationship, and how Mat still feels anger and hurt from the heartbreak, and still lives with the love and loss every day, something that is hard to deal with. Singing a song about the pain helps sometimes, but this song reminds us that sharing our pain and hurts with someone will probably feel like a load is off our shoulders. Kudos to Mat for this therapeutic tune that will touch many people’s lives! Another song about heartbreak is “Miss You”, about someone who passed away, and though it is not known whether Mat is singing about himself or someone else, his heartfelt words sung across brilliantly played guitars and inspiring keys, is also sure to tug at listeners’ hearts as well!
“Los Angeles” is a kind of thank you to the fans, as Mat sings about his life and how he made it as a musician, against the backdrop of keys, guitar and hand claps, as we have more insight into Mat’s life and how God has been keeping his promises to him time after time; and “The Conversation” is an acoustic guitar led ballad earnestly and honestly sung with Young Summer, and co-written with Mat’s wife Annie about a heated conversation they both had as they discussed various things in their life that they disagreed on, and then became stronger people because of the ‘airing of their stuff’. In “The Conversation, Mat reminds us that love that God intended is worth fighting for, and it is these songs that I am really impressed with Mat about- that he uses his real life experiences in his songs, and overtly talks about specific events that brought him closer to God.
While the soft, contemplative and reflective piano ballad of “Shashta” has Mat singing about the simpler days in life, and longing for life to be less complicated than it already is (personally I thought this song was quite mellow and not as impressive musically and lyrically as others); the final two tracks are a blessing and a treat for me to listen to. The gritty and intense guitar led pop tune “One Heart” revolves around the inspiring message that life is more than the mundane, that we all need to be making an active difference in this life so that it provides us with meaning and purpose. As Mat eloquently proclaims that ‘…there’s got to be more than just this flesh and bone, tell me on more than just the scars I’ve known, if all that we’ve loved is all we’ve ever owned we’re more than one, more than one heart beating alone…’, we are met with a song posing questions, and a song that is sure to generate discussion and hopefully draw listeners closer to Christ. The album closer “The Air I Breathe” is as overt as Mat sings in terms of worship to God, as this guitar led pop melody, co-written with Seth Mosley, reiterates the eternal truth that Jesus is the air we breathe, and ‘…You are the song I bleed, You are the war that I can’t win, this is my white flag in the wind, every word You speak is the air I breathe…’. Well done Mat for an inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable pop album!
“…there’s some of that. I think losing some people close to me. You can sense there’s a real acknowledgment of the difficult things in life in this record, but then there’s this hand of redemption and grace that allows you to understand them. Some of my process in writing songs is doing that, dealing with the difficult things in life…” It’s time for me to listen to some Mat Kearney albums I reckon! Though apprehensive at the beginning, as I knew that the alubm wasn’t a Christian themed album but a mainstream album, I soldiered on, and found some gems and treasures in unexpected places. Mat truly is a gifted singer and songwriter, and in almost every track on JUST KIDS, he alludes to a part of his walk with God, without referring to God or Jesus by name, and that is quite clever given that his ministry is to ‘evangelise’ and share his story with the wider community, not just to Christians. Sort of like what needtobreathe, Switchfoot, Skillet, Owl City and Relient K are doing, Mat has given us an album full of heart, soul and passion, and double meanings in almost every song. Well worth the listen, you could not go wrong with Mat’s work, and this album is sure to bring a smile to your face when you listen!
4 songs to listen to: Heartbreak Dreamer, Let It Rain, One Heart, The Air I Breathe
RIYL: for KING & COUNTRY, Shawn McDonald, Tenth Avenue North, Jonathan Thulin