At the center of every album is a musical thesis. This thesis can be the driving force behind the album, a theme that interweaves songs together, or a feeling you are left with after the very last song plays. With some albums, the thesis is easy to find. On others, it is hidden and requires you to be more than a passive listener. These reviews aren’t about rating an album. Instead, it is about uncovering a musical thesis.
Matt Kivel’s “Fires on the Plain” is one of those albums with a thesis buried deep within the music. It requires work. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just requires a type of intimate listening uncommon in the world of today’s music. On my first listen, I felt as if I was watching glass break in slow motion. I pictured a person, in the form of glass, breaking from the center and shattering throughout. To experience this level of inner-monologue, felt voyeuristic. Though, this feeling would fade on my second straight listen to the album.
The pain here is relatable in varying degrees. It isn’t uncommon. Instead, it is one of those things that ties together the entire human experience. Instead of feeling like a person watching a car wreck and the helplessness of that moment, I felt empowered by the music. Someone out there in the world understands what I am going through or have gone through and had the strength/talent to put that experience to song. No, I wasn’t a voyeur. I was a willing participant on a journey revealing how common pain is in this life.
On my third listen to this album, I was finally struck by how somber of an affair it was. Much like Sufjan Stevens, Matt Kivel isn’t hiding from his emotions. He is recording them and sharing them with the entire world. These songs could have been masked behind poppy beats and rhythms. Instead, they are brutal and honest. They are real and raw. They are you and me. They are real life. They are something we can cling to in our hour of need. For that relationship with a piece of music, I am eternally grateful.
Be good to each other,
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