It’s a Beacon, It’s a Bell

Austin’s Matt Sever — aka Matt the Electrician — calls his latest album It’s a Beacon, It’s a Bell, but it’s really much more of a whisper. Granted, Matt’s never been a particularly high-voltage (pun intended) kind of performer; the charm and charge of his songs and stage manner has always been that of the quietest guy at the party who naturally proves to be shrewdest, wittiest, and ultimately most likable cat in the room. But It’s a Beacon, his sparest album to date, is so reserved that on the first spin, it all sounds like a lot of admittedly great lines adrift in a strummy acoustic sea with little in the way of memorable tunes to hold onto. But as one of those great lines (from “Muddy Waters”) puts it so well, “muddy waters flow clean when they settle down”; give them time to really sink in — and Sever’s eloquent lyrics alone are enough to warrant such patience — and one by one, songs like “The Family Grave,” “Shivering,” “John Elliot,” and “Under the Wire” reveal layer upon layer of subtle but subversively insistent melodies. It’s quality stuff, especially the opening title track, a clear-eyed reflection on the ones that got away with yet another line that effectively captures the hiding-in-plain-sight beauty of the record: “When my heart got bigger, I could see you better.” In other words, It’s a Beacon, It’s a Bell wins you over the same way Matt the Electrician always does; he may take a little longer than usual to really open up this time, but once he does, he’s got you. — RICHARD SKANSE

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