"...many of the ditties on Unfamiliar Faces bring us right back to the golden age of singer-songwriters."
Rating: 7 / 10
Adrienne Murphy, 21 Feb 2008
Smashing his leg skateboarding at the age of 19 turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Matt Costa. Laid up for 18 months, the Californian beach boy shifted focus from professional skating to his other great love, and began writing and recording songs in earnest. His second album – called Unfamiliar Faces and released on Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records label – follows Songs We Sing, Costa’s acclaimed 2006 14-track debut.
A rising star in the folk-inspired US indie scene, Costa’s got the cute boy looks and clear talent that should take him far. With their country-infused melodies, banjo, shimmering keyboards and Dylanesque harmonica, many of the ditties on Unfamiliar Faces – particularly ‘Lilacs’ – bring us right back to the golden age of singer-songwriters. The spirits of greats like John Lennon, Donovan, The Carter Family, Neil Young, Nick Drake and Joni Mitchell keep flitting in and out of his folksy pop tunes, with the album’s production adding to the sense of going back in time. As a songwriter, Costa’s picked some legendary role models and he wears their influence well. (He was thrilled and overwhelmed the last time he was in Dublin to run into the aforementioned Donovan, one of his all time heroes.)
Lyrically thoughtful and heartfelt, the songs on Unfamiliar Faces have a sweet and touching melancholy, lit up by the sparkle and warmth of Costa’s sunny Californian sound.