Album Review: Mat Kerekes- “Ruby”

Posted: by The Editor

Mat KerekesRuby is the product of starting new. For Kerekes, this meant building the studio in which the record was recorded, learning instruments he’s never played before, and on a more personal level, “recognizing one’s toxic behaviors and realizing the hurt they’ve caused in the distant and/or recent past.” It is a complete departure from Kerekes’ past solo work, a departure I can joyfully describe as a long highway with few turns.

Ruby is deeply rooted in pop melodies and instrumentation, lightly coated with the aggressive edge you might expect from Kerekes. The album’s beginning title track, “Ruby” starts with light acoustic guitar, broken up by a funky, tightly-tuned drum fill with the lyrics “You wouldn’t know, but I think of you often, it’s like a line I can’t finish, like I’m wishing for nothing.” It sets a warm tone for the album which fluctuates at the perfect times. It portrays the sensation of mooning over someone or something perfectly.

The album’s next track, “Diamonds,” is massive. It tastefully features boundless background vocals, catchy underlying piano, Queen-like guitar, horns, strings, and synths. This  expansive instrumentation is carefully calculated, with each part playing an incredibly important role, while leaving space to breath. It encapsulates the aforementioned “rebirth” of Kerekes’ sound in the most exciting way possible.

 “Young,” the album’s third track, sounds like early 2000’s folk-rock, reminiscent of Jack Johnson, or Jason Mraz, and I’m all about it.  It’s a perfect transition song into “Autumn Dress,” because it features some of the show-stopping instrumentation you’ll hear in “Diamonds,” but on a lesser scale, slowing the driving nature of the album down slightly. “Autumn Dress” is simplistic and mellow compared to the past tracks, until 2:13, when a bit-crushed drum fill spills into a simple lead guitar line; the energy changes. This track has one of my favorite melodies, in the descending line “if it’s right in front of you,”

 “They appear at night”  is a delicate piano driven song with Kerekes’ vocals resting in a much lower range than previous tracks. The energy remains from before, and it’s manifested lyrically, “picking bottles from the shore living life like a stray dog now.”

The next couple of tracks portray the same emotional heaviness from before. The juxtaposition of lighter more delicate songs, with heavier grit, vocals, and melodies, carries the rest of the album through its end. The guitar solo at 2:40, (which absolutely shreds) in  “Welcome to Crystal Cres” and roomy, gritty vocals at 2:47, up against the acoustic guitar and more swung feel of “spider silk” encapsulates this perfectly.

The record is described by Kerekes as “a triumphant record about self realization.” Triumphant is the perfect word to describe it. It touches upon themes that most can relate to, while providing an interesting soundscape as foundation for those themes to rest on. Its warmth is indescribably jovial.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Ryan Bartlett | @RyanBartlett12

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