Matt Dorrien - In the Key of Grey

by Nathan Fidler Rating:8 Release Date:2018-05-18
Matt Dorrien - In the Key of Grey
Matt Dorrien - In the Key of Grey

Ditching his previous moniker, Snowblind Traveler, Matt Dorrien releases the first album under this own name, In the Key of Grey. The intimacy is cranked up a notch, as is the apparent heartache, but the boozy backing of his songwriting remains.

This album is built around the piano, every song features Dorrien walking his way across the keys of an upright piano. ‘Underwear Blues’ is seemingly chipper piano playing, addressing the bright admittal of a love which might hurt. A woozy clarinet offers a more baroque pop edge to this tune, as does the hungry, spare electric guitar.

Possibly the most maudlin song you’ll hear all year, ‘All I Wanted to Say’ is an ode to love lost. “You were the best thing in my life, that’s all I wanted to say” is the simple message, with hollow keys chiming. Never too specific about the affair he misses, you still sense this is a genuine experience, especially with the opening line of the track.

Elsewhere, a mild-mannered takedown of Dayton on ‘Dayton, Ohio - 1983’ feels like a throwback to further than the 80s. With an old-timey feel, the sadness of this song is derived from a yearning to be anywhere but your hometown. ‘Pretty Little Thing’ is similar in that it conjures the image of some bar in an old western movie, telling tales from the piano about a girl stealing from foolhardy patrons.

Some of the songs genuinely give you a lump in the throat, wallowing in the misery of times you've personally had to ask yourself “Where did we go wrong, how’d we even end up here?” as Dorrien does on ‘I Can’t Remember’. He doesn’t shy away from admitting to his share of the blame, but never gets bogged down in specifics. It’s purely self-indulgent stuff, and on ‘Mister Pour Another’ we’re stuck in the Manhattan bar with him, closing in on the end of the album, aware that the nights are long and lonesome.

This may not be what you’d expect to hear from the man who brought you Snowblind Traveler, but the similarities are there to see. Drawing on classic American songbook styles, this is an album which needs some whiskey soaked heartbreak to appreciate - you won’t want to sing such sad songs, but someone has to.

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