Year of the Album — #062
Matthew Good – “Lights of Endangered Species” (2011, Universal)
Matthew Good has never become much of a force in the US, despite his music being legendary in Canadian alternative music circles for two decades. Much like fellow Canadian rocker Raine Maida, of Our Lady Peace, Good’s music has had to find more of a niche audience in America, but the music above all else has maintained an incredible depth of quality through the years. On Lights of Endangered Species, his fifth and potentially final solo album, the varied strains of his musical genius have come together in an act of total sonic combustion, and the result is nothing short of phenomenal. This is a budding mid-year contender for my favorite album of the year, and it’s Good’s best work to date.
Good has always been a lyrical beast, the background music taking a backseat to his indelible bend of cultural commentary and raw vitriol. With Lights of Endangered Species, he has shifted his focus to the music itself, and these arrangements burst out of the speakers as the most incredible arrangements he’s ever had to back his vocals. Fully orchestrated in a way he’d attempted to achieve since forming the concept during the mid nineties, these are complex, fully developed sonic palates on which he can paint subtlely with his words. The result is his best-developed album, providing long-term listeners with the perfect album he’s frequently hinted at but never quite managed to deliver.
From the opening drum and piano strains of “Extraordinary Fades,” it is monumentally clear that this, if it is sadly to be his last album, is certainly Good’s masterpiece. His haunting vocals work their way in and out of the tense strings and thundering bass: “Lie and say to me extraordinary fades,” he begs, and the music swells to envelop him with open arms. He sings of his battle with bipolar disorder on “What If I Can’t See The Stars, Mildred?” spitting the words with raw power over bass and piano, building to a thundering climax. “If I look crazy, wonder what the fuck’s with everyone?” he snarls. “Do you walk out the door? Baby you gotta do what you gotta do. I end my day, picture a house on fire … on fire … on fire.” It’s a raw, blistering cut to the quick, and Good’s up to the challenge. The result is an example of concept meeting perfectly with execution, forming a track I personally won’t soon forget.
If I haven’t sold you on this album to this point, it’s not going to happen. Move along, rejoin your quiet existence and forget that Matthew Good was ever spoken of. The rest of you reading out there should immediately find a copy of this album as quickly as you can. Dig into it voraciously, listen to the songs up close and personal, give the music a chance to assert itself and prove the true depth of this magnificent album. Matthew Good has outdone himself with Lights of Endangered Species, an album which is going to prove for years to come why he’s been one of the few true musical geniuses of the last twenty years. If this is his last, it is worthy exit music and one of the best albums you’ll hear from anyone in 2011.