Based in what is arguably the North American music epicenter, Blue Matches have been slowly and confidently carving out their own rightful spot in the Nashville scene since 2013. Fronted by the spirited vocalist Michelle Marston, Blue Matches is completed by Steven Edwards on guitar and vocals, Stephen Smith on bass and vocals, and Phillip Brown on drums. Characterizing themselves as a “melodic approach to 90s alternative, 2000s pop-punk, and modern indie rock, with the maturity and complexity of veteran song writers,” the Tennessee rockers have refined a sound that blends catchy choruses and harmonies with a unique edge in both attitude and sound.
Center of the Universe was released on March 17th, 2017, as a follow up to 2015’s Fear The Truth EP, in which Blue Matches claim to have ventured into more expansive territory and grown as song writers. However, I also find “expansive territory” to be an apt summary of Center of the Universe. The ethos of the album is a pop-punk vibe that wields clean chord progressions, tight riffs, and calculated harmonies with maximum effect, but it is with this solid and comfortable base that Blue Matches are keen to make use of the depth of the 13-track form.
While tracks like “Watch the Sun Explode,” “Pear of Anguish,” and “Above the Water” synthesize a grunge-alternative edge with melodic commitments in a manner that is executed flawlessly, Center of the Universe doesn’t stop here, and explores a few more distinctly different styles. “Hey, Get Another Beat” breaks significantly from pretty much every other track, carrying an industrial tone laid on top of a drum beat that never threatens to break tempo, probably causing you to dance the whole track through. Tracks like “Prophets and Paramilitaries,” “Dickerson Pike,” and “Left Out” are reminiscent of the grunge-alternative era, but successfully push the envelope a bit further in a manner that is reminiscent of a more melodic version of The Distillers.
For me, however, the brightest moments on the album come in two forms. The first sees Marston letting go of the calculated tone (such as that in “Vanity”) in favour of rougher, grittier vocals, like in “Upward Arms” and “I Swear We’re Not an Emo Band, but this Song is Called ‘Until Our Hearts Stop’.” Coupled with satisfying hooks and unpretentious lyrics about drinking until you die, these tracks channel unrelenting energy in an authentically infectious manner. The second bright moment of Center of the Universe I speak of is the track “Fatty Gets Off.” The only track to feature brass instruments, “Fatty Gets Off” embraces what had before been subtle elements, coming together as a gentler ska rendition. This totally unexpected track is both their best synthesis of a broad range of influences, and the best on the album.
For those of you who happen to be in Tennessee next month, the album release party for Center of the Universe will be at Radio Café in Nashville, on April 28th.
Written By Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson