Matthew Milia - Alone at St. Hugo - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Matthew Milia - Alone at St. Hugo

by Nathan Fidler Rating:6 Release Date:2019-05-03
Matthew Milia - Alone at St. Hugo
Matthew Milia - Alone at St. Hugo

Slightly less Americana than his frontman gig with Frontier Ruckus, Matthew Milia’s first solo album Alone at St. Hugo still contains a lot of familiar traits and is more polished and produced than his “mixtape” Even Fuckboys Get The Blues.

He begins with a sunny slice of California pop on ‘Alive at the same time’, full of Beach Boy backing vocals and a sense of thankfulness for the here and now. It’s a hopeful opening which isn’t quite backed up anywhere else. Other tracks show his true poetic motives more clearly, peppering easy-going melodies with slightly doubtful and melancholy lyrics. ‘Why is it?’ is a prime example of this mixture: “I signed some 25 cent cheques, I forged my neighbours name for the guy from FedEx, then I went back to bed, why is it?”.

Milia gets the age we’re in. It’s hard to weave lyrics about old internet messaging systems and a reliance on coffee as a young adult into songs, but he does it smoothly and intelligently on ‘Schemer’ and ‘Abruptly Old and Caffeinated’ respectively. The latter adds much-needed pep into proceedings, with one wonderful chord progression inspired by Elliott Smith.

For a broader comparison, Milia feels like a less dramatic Conor Oberst, which is both a positive and a negative really, since he has the prowess with words, but lacks a little emotional impact. He’s very much a normal individual with plenty of background and education in writing and it shows here.

For the most part, the tempo stays laid back with guitar strums, the occasional picked acoustic riff, an organ, and the classic pedal steel guitar. Over the course of the album, along with the harmonies in the vocals, the formula can feel a little thin if you’re not fully invested in the lyrical wordplay.

Given the years he’s been at this, to step out of his comfort of the band you would think would yield something a little less straightforward. It’s easy to relax to the sound of this record in the background, but it’s not going to break a haze or stand out from the Frontier Ruckus stuff. A middle-class malaise settles over by the time you reach ‘Karen’s Just a Kid’ with talk of microwaves, televisions and Milia’s measured drone.

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