Been meaning to do this for awhile, but just trying to find the time. First great idea for a thread it's very interesting to hear what really stood out to people and how certain things stand out or left them cold and their reasons for why. I know for me this list probably has changed throughout the years, some albums that I held in a certain regard resonated differently with me throughout the years, some initially I felt were some of his best work and then later they didn't have as much impact, others that I felt weren't his strongest efforts, later grew on me more, so it's interesting how the material and what it means to me is in a constant state of flux, as I suppose is my life and feelings, which is one of the most impressive things about art. Also I should point out that I very rarely cherry pick songs from Matt's albums. If I am in the mood to listen to him I almost always listen to the entire album at once, so I don't really skip tracks on any of them. Basically what it comes down to for me is how often I find myself reaching for the albums, so my feelings about them may vary alot from someone who looks at the albums as individually separable songs.
8. Something Like A Storm (2017)
This was one of my most anticipated albums from Matt's solo career. I had seen a ton of shows on the BM Revisited tour and had the chance to chat with the band alot and they were very excited about the new recordings, in addition obviously Decades was previewed on that tour, so I was eagerly awaiting this one. Ultimately it just didn't resonate with me much. Bad Guys Win was very topical at the time and initially I really enjoyed it, but repeated listens it didn't hold the same impact for me. I usually find the biggest single off an album is a track that doesn't really do much for me, and Decades is no different here. But unlike other albums, many of the deeper cuts also lacked some appeal for me leaving me a little underwhelmed with this album. The high points are still pretty high for me though. Men at the Door, Something Like A Storm and Bullets in a Briefcase are top tier songs for me. Actually those songs, sadly suffer more than any other in Matt's catalog for me because of my decision to not just listen to individual tracks, so unfortunately they don't get very much play, despite being great songs. This album took some inspiration from 1980's style music and production, which I am not a huge fan of, so it doesn't surprise me that some of the songs just aren't to my usual taste.
I wonder if I would feel different about this album if it was properly toured? Later on in the list I'll talk about albums whose ranking was improved after I saw how the songs translated live, which these songs never really got a chance to. As mentioned earlier in 2017, only Decades was played on the BM Revisited tour. Matt's next major tour was the 2018 Co-Headline with OLP. Obviously this kind of tour resulted in truncated sets and things more hits/nostalgia related so many of the shows only featured a few of these tracks, and in addition I never had the chance to see this tour. Then by the 2019 acoustic tour, only a small amount of this material was featured. I've had the privilege to attend multiple shows on most Matt Good tours since 2008, and as such I have seen the majority of the songs from most of Matt's albums played live since Hospital Music, yet with Something Like A Storm I've only heard two of the songs live, and one of them is my least favourite on the album. It's unlikely most of this material will feature in future live sets so there is little at this point that will probably change my evaluation of this album.
7. Arrows of Desire (2013)
In the lead up to Arrows there was a lot to be excited about. Matt was with a new label, an independent label that I had hoped might give him some freedom to do what he wanted. In addition Matt talked about wanting to write something more commercial, and I thought we might be in for something a little more hard rocking than his last few efforts. Like usually I was a bit off put by the initial single of Had it Coming/We're Long Gone, and still feel Had it Coming is my least favourite song in Matt's solo discography. I was worried it might preview a trend to sacrifice some of his usually amazing lyrics for something more generic and radio friendly, so I hoped that wouldn't permeate throughout the album. The album definitely has some harder rocking songs, and I feel as a whole it hangs together pretty good. Unlike Something Like a Storm, I feel this album is more consistent. The highlights on SLAS are higher for me than the peaks here, but the album also has deeper lows. Guns of Carolina is a beautiful song and Via Dolorosa has great lyrics. The title track, Letters in Wartime and Garden of Knives, which really stood out to me after seeing it open one of the live shows are other favourites.
I was able to see every song off this album performed live, and I think only Garden of Knives benefited from that setting. The shows I saw were at the end of the tour, and more so than at any other time Matt seemed pretty exhausted to me, so that may have played in to why nothing else was really elevated through live performance. I know Matt was unhappy with this label and that may have resulted in this album not being all that it could have been, but it is one that gets rare playbacks from me. I definitely think this is an example of an album I liked more at first, but over time it has worn a little thin for me. Also, I noticed that the material from it quickly vanished from the live set after the 2013 tour and that nothing has really been played live from it since.
6. White Light Rock and Roll Review (2004)
In theory this should be one of my favourite Matt Good albums. Matt and I share an affinity for 60's/70's classic rock and this album is an obvious homage to that era of music. In addition much of it was recorded live off the floor which should capture more of the energy of the performance, which is right up my alley. Ultimately though the songs just aren't as strong as I've come to expect from Matt. So even though I love the way this record sounds, I don't play it through very often because not much of it is overly memorable to me. I will say however, in the right mood this album really can appeal to me, so every so often I dust it off and really get into it. After Avalanche this one came as a return to a much harder edged sound that is a welcome departure and continued to show that his solo career would have some variety. This one wastes no time announcing what kind of record it will be with Put Out Your Lights kicking the doors in right away. The album starts off with a punch in the nose, but then shows it's multidimensional appeal with the dynamics of We're So Heavy and the laid back country rock of Empty Road. Some here seem to really dislike Alert Status Red, I'm not one of them, its one of the few MG solo singles I really do like and I think it works live both acoustic and electric. My only gripe is that it so often is used as the only representation of this album on most tours. Sometimes on this album I find the energy level is there just for the sake of being there. North American For Life musically could be an outtake from Underdogs, but something about it just feels forced to me and it's never really been a favourite. Blue Skies is fantastic here, it just feels so genuine and heartfelt with some eye opening lyrics about the commonality of life, probably my favourite song on the record. It's Been Awhile Since I Was Your Man is one of the weaker tracks here, it seems rather generic for the sake of being generic, but the album closes with two of my favourite tracks here in Buffalo Seven and Ex- Pats before the hidden track of Hopeless, hidden because it was deemed to country for the record.
This was the last MG tour that I didn't get to see live, but a decent amount of this album has featured (albeit briefly) in other tours since, so I've heard half of this album in concert. I think live, many of these songs work better than they do on the album, the energy they provide in a concert setting makes up for and masks some of their shortcomings. Having just a song or two from this album in a setlist is probably not as impactful because the intensity of it is short lived. I imagine the 2004/2005 shows would have had a greater impact with the bulk of the material getting played. I've wondered sometimes if this album suffered from the fact that it was rushed out. Right from Ghetto Astronauts, Matt always had a 2 year cycle between albums. This album came right on the heels of Avalanche, and Avalanche is Matt's longest running album of his career so between the two of them you have to wonder if he was stretched thin on his songwriting muse. I wonder if he had taken a little more time with this one if he may have developed some songs further or written others to replace what is here. Oddly of all his albums, the outtakes from this are my favourite and I would gladly substitute a few tracks here for them. Of all of his solo releases I think this one had the most potential under different circumstances, but I can't judge it for what it could have been, so it finds itself in the bottom third. With that said, I think this album would still benefit from a vinyl release because sonically it is a very pleasing album, and in that medium it might really stand out. It's the only one of his albums to not have a release in that format.
5. Lights of Endangered Species (2011)
Perhaps no Matthew Good album is effected by my mood as much as this one. The reason this isn't ranked higher is because I am not always in the mood to really get into this record and get the most out of it, but when I am it is so effective and some of the finest music Matt has every produced. For one, it is different. While all of his albums to this point had the obligatory rockers, this one doesn't even try, at least not in the conventional sense. It has a real self awareness to it, and a peaceful yet calming pace like watching the first snowfall of winter. The songs are beautifully written and arranged and link together as an album perhaps better than any other record in his career. Extraordinary Fades and In a Place of Lesser Men are the only tracks here that do little for me, everything else is of a very high standard. Shallow's Low is absolutely haunting, while How it Goes is a beautifully intricate piece. Zero Orchestra is one of my favourite of Matt's solo tracks. The music is punchy, a mix of Jazz, Big Band and Rock that really packs in the energy and Matt unleashes a fiery vocal perfectly suited for the tone of the song. The title track is a perfect closer for the album as well. Non Populus is really the stand out here though. It is one of the tracks that if asked why I listen so much to Matthew Good, I would offer as an example. Its perfection. The entire way the song is allowed to breath and grow from it's subtle beginnings to it's climatic ending shows how mature and talented Matt is as a songwriter. It's just such an epic journey of a listen, but it's an inward journey one full of revelation and reflection. Sometimes as an artist you capture lightning in a bottle and to me that's what Matt has done here.
I got to hear most of this album live and it really did enhance it for me, particularly on the title track and Non Populus where the guitar would just cut through the room. I remember no matter how many times I heard that song played I was left standing in stunned silence. It's unfortunate that the nature of this album makes it some of his less accessible material and as such it was very polarizing among his fan base, is there any other album that could find itself either at the top or bottom of a fans list?
4. Hospital Music (2007)
Hospital Music has the distinction of being for me the last album Matt released before I really became an obsessive fan. Prior to 2008 I into Matt and would add his singles to mixed cd's and playlists, but really hadn't bought all his albums, nor had I been to a live show. Starting with his 2008 tour I went out and picked up his entire discography and in particular paid close attention to Hospital Music, knowing it would be the feature album at the shows I would attend. It definitely has a more stripped back, open and honest approach, which was especially refreshing following White Light, which seemed the opposite to this record in many ways. It starts off with Champions of Nothing, a powerful song that strikes right at your heart and sets the tone for the album. Actually the entire first half of this album is some of Matt's finest solo work. There is so much emotion and feeling in these songs, and the pain is so evident, some times it can even be an uncomfortable listen because of that, party music this is not. Black Helicopter is a strong song, but feels a bit out of place on the album, and Born Losers (although I decry how frequently it gets played live) is a very strong song, and a perfect single for this album, there is little not to like in the first half. The second half is much more inconsistent. The Devils In Your Details is catchy as hell, but not much substance and Moon Over Marin is an interesting cover, but then it's followed by two kind of throw away tracks that really add nothing to the album. I'm a Window is a solid angry rocker, really the only one of it's kind of this album. The album closes out with a couple strong tracks, the final being a cover, but ultimately the second half pales in comparison to the first, leaving for an uneven feeling that peters out as the album progresses. If it wasn't for this this album would rank higher on the list, but all three albums ahead of it are more consistent throughout.
I've seen 2/3rds of this album in a live setting, and generally the songs work better for me in that format. There is something about hearing Matt play 99% to a live audience and being able to hear a pin drop throughout that is pretty memorable. Matt has wisely avoided overdoing it with instrumentation in live settings with these songs and many really benefit from solo acoustic renditions or with very sparse backing from the band. This era helped launch Matt as a solo acoustic artists as well, which has enabled several tours in that vein. While not to everyone's tastes it is certainly a nice alternative. Perhaps of all of Matt's albums this is expectedly the most therapeutic.
3. Chaotic Neutral (2015)
This one really surprised me. Coming off of Arrows I wasn't too sure what to expect next from Matt. He was signing with a new label, seemed to be having some issues in his personal life and I had a feeling I would either really love or really dislike the next album. Thankfully it was the latter. After several more mellow albums, Matt had a sense of urgency on this album, and a bit of an angry edge that had been so prevalent in his earlier music, that right away I picked up on and it carried me through this record. Oddly enough, it starts with an outtake from a previous album that wound up being the lead single off this one. But thats not to say this album is second tiered, it's just he hadn't been able to realize that song fully in the past and now here had perfected it. Moment seems like it could have fit well on Avalanche, and actually I think that's part of what I like so much about this album. It sounds like a culmination of all the different eras of Matt's solo career. You hear songs that sound like they could fit on all of his previous solo albums and yet all while maintaining their own uniqueness and flow. No Liars is my least favourite here, although it is pretty infectious. Cloudbusting is a really cool cover too, and I appreciate him bringing Holly McNarland in to do this one with him! The masterpeice on this album is Los Alamos. There is something just painfully heartbreaking about this song and the simple yet melancholic backing music is a perfect match for the lyrical content, one of those songs where the artist just hits an absolute homerun!
I was fortunate to hear all of this album live except Tiger By The Tail (damn Stu!) and it probably moved up a position or two because of the live performances. Most songs here were enhanced in the live setting, but in particular were Los Alamos and Girls in Black. Los Alamos because basically the lighting turned Matt into a silhouette and you could really see nothing so all your mind could grasp was the harrowing sounds of his voice echoing around the hall. Girl in Black meanwhile took on a whole different tone of vicious intensity live as at times MAtt seemed to be ranting and raving as he shouted the lyrics and stormed out into the crowd. Definitely some of the best shows I have seen of Matt solo were on this tour and a big part of that was because of the strength of the new material which always features prominently in Matts set.
2. Vancouver (2009)
This one doesn't seem to get nearly as much love as I afford it here. To me, like Lights it is a complete album, on their own very little here stands out, but listened to as a complete piece it has a great deal of merit. I wonder if perhaps I rate this one higher than others because around the time of it's release I was spending a great deal of time in Vancouver and seeing first hand some of the changes an social issues the album strikes at. The Last Parade is the last MG single I remember getting a great deal of radio play, and it helped that I quite liked the song, the visual imagery of the lyrics in this song are visceral and contemplative, something lacking in many of the singles after this. The opening trifecta all have a similar feel sonically although they explore differing themes, The Boy who Could Explode is the strongest of the three, and fittingly also the longest. Us Remains Impossible and Fought to Fight it are the weakest tracks here for me, they are both catchy and perhaps radio friendly, but they lack the punch of the rest of the album, still they are decent enough tracks and I am never tempted to skip over them. Silent Army in the Trees has lyrics that are quite haunting and On Nights Like Tonight is another highlight for me because of the way the song builds upon itself, similar to the song Avalanche. Vancouver National Anthem is the song that deals most bluntly with the changing city the album is named for, but it's Empty's Theme Park that drives that theme home in such a transcendent way. Like many of Good's solo works, it is the long epic that is the real take away here, a song with some great lyrics and a perfect album closer. Sometime around this period Matt lost some of his range as well, so all of the albums after this no longer featured some of the real high stuff he was capable of doing throughout his career up to this point.
This was the first tour where I decided I needed to go to as many shows as possible, and seeing 5 shows managed to see all of this album performed live, with the Last Parade really being the only song that was obviously stronger on the record. Many of the songs seemed to work as effectively in a live setting, but one real standout was Empty's Theme Park. It was way heavier in the arrangement they played live, in large part due to Blake's drums which were just manic on the jammed out sections. The build up to the end was such a climax that really added to the way it was played on the album to make the song even more epic, which is a challenging task. It's a shame nothing from this album gets played live anymore, because all the songs really worked pretty well in that format, and as one of my favourite albums of Matt's career I would love to see more of this make a reappearance in the setlist from time to time.
1. Avalanche (2003)
I mentioned before about Matt's vocal range changing sometime around the time he hit 40, well here on this album you hear it at it's absolute zenith. During the MGB days he often used his voice with reckless abandon, but by Avalanche he was operating with full capacity, but also with a mature control that allowed him to refrain from overuse and only utilize the full power of his voice at critical moments. In addition, because this was his first solo album, he had something to prove and he set out to do so. Not just playing it safe he altered the overall sound of his music, brought in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and wrote the longest album of his career with some of the absolute highpoints of his career featuring in the process. That extended length is one of the albums few weak points, as if trimmed by a couple of songs would be basically a flawless album. The album starts with Pledge of Allegiance which immediately established the soundscape approach to the record, varying from the more guitar centric sounds of the MGB. Lullaby is a standard pop song followed by Weapon which is anything but. A lengthy track without a chorus is hardly the kind of thing one would expect to get much radio play, but it was a huge hit and still features as a showstopper in his live repertoire today. In A World Called Catastrophe is Matt's biggest hit single and is a solid song with some of Matt's best vocals. After is Avalanche, long cited as one of Matt's favourite of his own compositions it is a progressive masterpiece that builds and builds to a climax, and then ends just as unassuming as it began, a masterclass in songwriting. 21st Century is one of the more polarizing tracks on the album, but it serves as a time capsule for the kind of political anger Matt was immersed in at the time and gives a window into his mentality while creating this record. This album has so many epic tracks Rabbits and Near Fantastica have long been established as fan favourites and both are phenomenal tracks so immesive that one hardly notices their 8 minute track length. Bright End of Nowhere and Long Way Down are some of the better shorter tracks towards the end of the album somewhat lost in a sea of elongated epics. The song closes with House of Smoke and Mirrors one of Matts better album closers in his career, perfectly capping what I said was an almost flawless album. Song for the Girl is the only track here that I can really do without.
Despite being such a solid album, very little of it has been played in recent years. As such I have only seen Matt play four of the tracks off this album and both Avalanche and In A World Called Catastrophe were very rare performances. It's a shame really that such a strong album is reduced most nights to just Weapon in a live setting. Of course Weapon is so dynamic live that it is played at nearly every show and often as the main set closer. Still it would be a treat to get to hear more of this album played in a live context. Even before I attended shows this material was quickly ushered out of the setlist as White Light was issued just a year later and it's songs quickly replaced some of the deeper Avalanche cuts. Despite that it remains the pinnacle for me of Matt's solo work. It showcases an artist at the top of his game with all of his artistic assets firing on all cylinders to compose something truly incredible and even 17 years on, it remains as fresh for me today as it did back then. So excuse me while I go fire up my turn table and drop my alternate tracklist vinyl version of the album under the needle for a much needed spin, no matter how long it's been...it's been too long.