If you don't like Mat Kearney
then you're just trying to be radical. There's nothing inherently unlikeable about this Christian pop song slinger, he's about as mild as chamomile tea. He's just that: mild. His fifth album Just Kids
is out this week on Republic Records
and it's got the same sense of naive innocence as his earlier stuff.
Kearney's songs are simple and they tell stories with coherent narratives. It's been about 4 years since his last album. He has since married the lady he describes meeting in the song "Hey Mama." Much of this album seems to mull over the issues of commitment and the power of love. It feels like electro-pop tricks designed to get your heart-rate pumping, but upon closer listening it seems to lack a level of emotional depth. He has said that he recorded much of it on the road in a homemade studio in the back of his tour bus. The lightness of being that this record suggests is in direct opposition to most artists' accounts of being on the road. I find myself wondering more about Kearney and his new bride, and the apparent gusted lift that union and success have blown under the feet of this man.
The song above, "Heartbeats"
, is so optimistic and upbeat that I feel almost jittery just listening to it, like I've had too much coffee or I'm waiting to press "skip" on a computer ad. The first song opens the album with what sounds like a loud kazoo and breaks into an quickly paced wide-is-the-open-road song. It breaks into a spoken word bridge, Kearney staying true to his roots, and essentially dedicates the album to the dreamers of the world, the lovers, the underdogs. I like it in theory, but I don't feel what's at stake.
I was braced for something different. The cleaned up grit suggested in the album cover teased a record about strengthening a bond through some kind of turmoil, and I was listening for the brightness between stressors. There just aren't any stressors. This album is a good album, it's easy to listen to, and it passes through the ears like a California breeze. This record has a place on a truly carefree day, when the stars are aligning behind the warmth of the sun. I don't know about you, but that isn't a day I can relate too very often.
A few years ago Mat Kearney stopped by Baeble HQ and played through some his then new stuff, including a beautiful and emotional rendition of "Ships in the Night," watch it below and get to know a more relatable Kearney: