Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles Music Review

Tal Norvell/Sun Star Reporter
Nov. 19, 2013

Matt Hopper. Photo courtesy of Matt Hopper

Matt Hopper. Photo courtesy of Matt Hopper

Matt Hopper & the Roman Candles are a three-man rock band whose unique sound sends you off on a wild tangent, mesmerizing in nature. They’ll be performing at the Blue Loon Dec. 13, and at the UAF Pub on Dec. 4. They have a new album just released this month called “High Hopes.” Recorded last winter at Tri-Tone Studios in Anchorage,  it has an instant, intoxicating effect on the psyche.

Click the play button on track one out of 11, titled after the album, and a man with a grungy  voice starts singing away. You begin to wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into. As you keep listening however, you start to feel strange. Slowly but surely, as you get used to hearing his voice, accompanied by an upbeat mixture of piano, guitar, bass and drums, your perspective changes.

You start to realize, “Hey, this ain’t so bad!” Especially halfway through the four-minute song, when you catch on to his lyrical message: “At least you believe, believe in music.” It’s almost as if he has subliminally persuaded you to give it a chance, and enjoy the song. The opening track makes for a good lead-in, as it captures the essence of the album as a whole: decent vocals, exceptional instrumentals, overall invigorating experience.

The tempo slows a bit in track two, “Happy Girls.” An airy, groovy electric guitar along with a rhythmic piano steal the show, as the loopy vocals swing all over the place.

Track three, “The Absentee,” shifts into a sluggish psychedelic pace with echoing vocals, steady resonating piano and eventual solid drum beat with ambient guitar. The grand vocal finale in the last 30 seconds again sounds wild.

The next two tracks, “Getting Over You” and “My Bible,” play around with grungy, distorted guitar riffs and vocals, along with an organ-sounding keyboard. These songs are nice to listen to when you’re in need of a mental push to be productive.

“Wailing Songbird,” the sixth track, is something you should definitely check out. It’s truly a roller coaster of rhythm, starting off with fast paced electric guitar, eventually hitting a climactic point two minutes in, which drops off into a smooth, relaxing atmosphere.

Cover of Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles album, "High Hopes." Photo courtesy of Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles' Facebook Page.

Cover of Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles album, “High Hopes.” Photo courtesy of Matt Hopper and the Roman Candles’ Facebook Page.

The follow-up to track six is a bit of a train wreck, honestly. “Stick it to Your Man” has a nice piano melody, but the vocal harmony is shaky.

Fortunately, Hopper makes up for it with track eight, “Watch me Cry.” His voice hops back to its usual decency, and the Roman Candles bring the modern rock edge back to the forefront.

In those moments when you just need to relax, kick your feet up by the fireside, enjoy the snowfall outside your window and listen to “Holding On.”

The ninth track has a calming beat, soothing guitar and low- to mid-range vocals. The end of the song picks up a bit, containing perhaps the coolest instrumental section of the entire album; the guitar, piano and drums work together extremely well to create an awesome sound.

“Schizophrenia” and “Missing the Mark” are the final two songs, leaving you with a sense of closure, along with curious wonder as you try to discern their lyrical messages.

“High Hopes” is a good album for people who want to listen to something different, and I highly recommend it.  It is available for purchase online through matthopper.com.

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