Matt Hammon - Silver Suitcase
When different outlets start compiling their lists of 2017’s best indie releases, Matt Hammon’s Silver Suitcase will make the grade with many. This outstanding ten song set is played, mixed, and arranged by Hammon alone, but the strain of such a heavy load never shows on the performances or writing. There’s a crackling baseline of energy Hammon maintains from the first song through the last and he’s obviously been able to draw from the best material he’s written in his years playing a supporting role to artists like Bob Mould and as part of bands like Mineral, Verbow, and The Rebecca West. It results in a fistful of barn burners, anthemic style guitar rock with some unusual textures and instrumental additions that spin it in an individualistic way. Stylists are often some of the most well regarded musicians and songwriters working in popular music and, despite the influences on Silver Suitcase, you’ll finish it convinced that no one else really writes a Matt Hammon song. There’s a distinctiveness to how he pulls things off that’s subject to influence but, ultimately, under no one’s spell.
“Pictures” introduces listeners to Hammon’s writing style, among its other qualities. His songwriting has a natural penchant for seizing on imagery that lodges itself listener’s memories rather than strictly trading in generalities and clichés. The musical template for much of Silver Suitcases is set with this song as well, though don’t mistake Hammon as a songwriter afraid to mix up his approach. “The Table” has less of a focus on his vocals and lyrics, but the music more than makes up for it as Hammon grabs onto a full on post punk rock guitar assault, but Hammon never deserves style entirely in favor of pure energy and attitude. “Never Say So” is one of the album’s more naturally commercial numbers thanks to the vocal melody and the way he orchestrates the guitar work in a balanced and appealing way. His vocals are, once again, one of the best qualities of the performance. “Silver Suitcase”, the album’s title number, shows Hammon’s ambition stretching some, at least in terms of the lyric, and his grasp proves to be the equal of his reach as it all holds together in a vivid and accessible way.
“Colorful Regret” is one of the album’s quirkier musical numbers and twists his influences in a highly individual way that recalls the collection’s base sound without mindlessly repeating it. The thoughtful sequencing that went into making this album a reality peaks with the choice of its final two songs – “Sleeper’s Town” is one of the album’s most interesting lyrics and an acoustic driven performance while the finale, “Name Game”, is a departing blast of guitar and sports another biting lyric from Hammon’s pen. The artfulness involved in this release is real, but Matt Hammon is a musical performer and writer who burns with passion that shapes any technique in a powerful new direction. The sense of anything goes here is palpable and makes Silver Suitcase all the more memorable.