Located in Spokane, WA Matthew Sonntag is an artist who just released his second album entitled Learning Blocks and a Bottle of Gin. The first thing you will notice when listening to this album is his distinct voice. It lays on top of the music and sounds a bit like a young Tom Waits. Sonntag has a crackle in his voice that seems rustic and it’s not the type of voice that will be winning any American idol competitions. I’m sure that’s probably ok by him because his voice fits the music he plays pretty well. The music is acoustic-based and contains a large variety of instruments including acoustic guitars and harmonica at the forefront. There are a couple things that are very enjoyable about the music. First the production is top notch and sounds professional due to Noisefrog Studio. One of the things that separate the boys from the men when it comes to recording is getting a good drum sound and that’s something that was achieved on this record. Production alone can't carry a record so it doesn't hurt that there are nice unexpected moments on this album. There are changes on certain songs that are original and inventive. Take for example the song “Hunting Butterflies” where there is change around the 2:40 mark where the song goes from sounding like a Neil Young song that morphs into a verse that Passion Pit may have come up with.
There are also just some straightforward songs that feel as timeless as the wood that was used to make his guitar.The opener “Circles and Scars” starts with delicately picked notes on guitar and harmonica. The song feels like it is going somewhere as it progresses and a slight optimism exudes as it intensifies. Sonntag also shows restraint on some of the songs such as “Oh Son Its Okay To Play Outlaw As Long As Its Just Pretend,” which is a song that revolves around his acoustic guitar and voice. There were however some other cool elements that sounded like electronics and bells that added to the song.
While I didn't mind his voice there are some moments where he doesn't exactly nail it. His delivery sometimes sounds forced and causes him to sound off key. Besides this slight issue there wasn't much else I didn't like about this album. This being Sonntag’s second album it clearly show he’s an artist that has an ample amount of talent as well as potential.
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