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Friday, April 1, 2011

Matt Duke - One Day Die

Matt Duke - One Day Die
2011, Rykodisc

Sometimes we need a re-set in life.  Singer-songwriter Matt Duke's came in the form of a hand injury so severe he thought he might never play guitar again.  The injury forced Duke to look inward, deepening the connections between heart and mind in his songwriting.  Under the firm guidance of producer Jason Finkel, Duke has created his most subtle and poignant works to date in the form of the eleven tracks on One Day Die.  In spite of the dark title, One Day Die encompasses the hope that serves as the backdrop to mortality.

One Day Die opens with the swaying sensibility of "MLT", with its wave-like chorus and hopeful melancholy.  "Kangaroo Court" is an extremely catchy, angular pop tune about injustice in a culture where perspectives are skewed and the moral floor is always shifting.  The chorus is a bit awkward, but Duke delivers it with real pizzazz nonetheless.  "Love You Anymore" is a bland duet about the occasional duplicity of love.  "Needle And Thread" is a catchy pop/rock number about picking yourself up and carrying on when you fall down.   Great songwriting and an unforgettable melody mean that you'll be hearing this one in your head days later. 

"Lay" is an introspective, chant-like number with superlative vocals.  This one may seem more sound than substance, but if so, you're not listening closely enough.  "The Hour" is a pretty ballad exploring the sorrowful end of a relationship and the first, tentative steps of moving on.  The simple arrangement Duke crafts here allows the lovely melody to shine forth.  In "The Bench On The Hill And Tom Ramblewood", Duke comes off as aimless and undirected.  There's an ambience about this tune that's appealing, but the story and song get a bit lost in the woods. 

"Psycho-Babble" is a catchy alt-rock number built around a snappy hook.  The sort of pop/rock number that gets your attention the first few times you hear but quickly fades from fancy.  "Seriously, Indulge Me" is edgy with an urgent feel.  Duke offers up a highly emotive vocal line here that works wonderfully well.  "Shanri-La" allows Duke to let go and unbridle his amazing tenor voice, showing off a range of which the term impressive is an understatement.  Unfortunately the song itself is a bit bland, but the voice is worth sticking around for.  Duke takes a bow with the meandering and dreamy "Abandoned".  This one is a bit anti-climactic as a closing track, but is a solid effort nonetheless.

Matt Duke seemingly has it all.  Amazing voice, intriguing songwriting skills, and a charisma that's subtle and surprising.  The difficulty on One Day Die is that he rarely seems able to put all three together at once.  Some of this may be the atmosphere of performing in a studio as opposed to onstage, and some of it may be in the production, but it's clear that One Day Die is both more and less than it could be.  On the whole it's a very good effort, but you can't help but wonder what Duke will do if he can learn to consistently harness and integrate his talents song after song.

Rating: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Learn more about Matt Duke at or  One Day Die is available from as a CD or Download.  The album is also available from iTunes.

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