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Ranking Matthew Good’s Solo Work from Best to Worst

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Ranking Matthew Good’s Solo Work from Best to Worst
 
Amazingly, some 20 years into his solo career, Matthew Good has succeeded in creating an artistic identity that stands apart from the platinum success he enjoyed in the late 90s/early 2000s by way of the alt-rock band that shared his name. With each new release, it seems like the Canadian artist somehow manages to firmly and succinctly re-establish what longtime fans have known for years: Matthew Good is writing the best music of his career.


And now, with yet another new Matthew Good release (Moving Walls) on the horizon, I recently decided to take a long-overdue ‘deep-dive’ into the man’s catalog, listening to each and every release front to back and in chronological order. Some of Good’s albums (like the breath-taking Lights of Endangered Species) I still listen to on a fairly regular basis, while others (here’s looking at you Arrows of Desire), well, not so much. But as I worked my way through Matt’s work, I found myself constantly blown away by how well nearly all of these albums have aged.

With his solo catalog now fresh in my mind, I’ve decided to (finally) compile a list ranking (in my opinion) Matthew Good’s solo albums from worst to least, albeit, with a few caveats:

*Caveat Number One: I’ve decided to restrict my list to Matt’s eight major label solo releases (minus E.P.s, Comps, and the Live At Massey Hall release). Also, while he was clearly the creative force behind the Matthew Good Band, I tend to consider that band’s work to be its own thing, and thus, I tend to listen to the MGB and Matthew Good Solo in separate spurts.

**Caveat Number Two: It goes without saying that I hold Matt in the highest esteem, therefore, any and all criticisms should be taken with a grain of salt. He’s a genius, so dividing his ‘best’ from his ‘worst’ is essentially an exercise in nitpicking.

***Caveat Number Three: I’d like to file anything that I’ve written below in the ever-so-subjective ‘prisoner of the moment’ category. I suspect that if I were to repeat this process six months from now, my results would be dramatically different. The following list is little more than a snapshot of where I am as a Matthew Good fan right now, in late 2019.

And now, without further adieu, my personal ranking (In order from least to most favorite) of Matthew Good’s solo catalog.

 

My Rankings at a glance: 

Tier 3 
Rarely Listen:

8. Arrows Of Desire (2013)
7. Something Like A Storm (2017)

 

Tier 2 
 Often Listen, but Skip a Track (or Two or Three):

6. Vancouver (2009)
5. White Light Rock & Roll Review (2004)
4. Hospital Music (2007)
3. Avalanche (2003)

 

Tier 1 
Consistently Listen, Still (amongst my favorite albums by any artist):

2. Chaotic Neutral (2015)
1. Lights Of Endangered Species (2011)

 


Deep Dive: 


8 - Arrows Of Desire (2013)

I was so excited when I first heard the singles “Had It Coming” and “Guns Of Carolina” back in the Summer of 2013. I remember running a long race the weekend before this dropped, and I listened to the three singles that had been released (I can’t remember which the third was, maybe the title track?) over and over. I loved (and still love) Lights..., but the thought that Matt was returning with something a bit more ‘amped up’ had me incredibly excited.

That all being said, once I finally digested Arrows Of Desire, I quickly realized that the record’s sound and vibe really only satisfied a certain mood. There’s a workman-like quality to the album that, unfortunately, works against the listening experience. It sounds like everything was tracked in that classic assembly-line fashion. Drums one day, guitars the next, and so on. It’s sonically consistent to a fault. 

There are moments that I truly love on this album, but I’ve only revisited the album in its entirety a handful of times since its release. Every list has to have a starting point, and for the reasons stated above, this list begins with Arrows Of Desire.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

“Garden of Knives” and “Mutineering” are incredibly satisfying, mid-tempo monsters that I consider to be amongst Good’s best ‘rockers’. “Letters in Wartime” is an amazing closer.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

Like I said, while there’s nothing outright offensive here, there’s also little that wows (save for the highlights mentioned above). When I’m in the mood to rock, Arrows... always satisfies, but the front half might be the weakest opening salvo in Good’s catalog.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

No matter where the sun strikes us, knives will grow - “Garden of Knives”


7. Something Like A Storm (2017)

This was perhaps the first time I found myself completely underwhelmed by a Matthew Good release. When “Bad Guys Win” was released as a single, I was incredibly disappointed: it’s just so painfully on the nose. In my opinion, “Decades” would have served as a better opener and/or first single, but regardless of the tracklisting, Something Like a Storm still feels uneven to me.

To that point, this is probably the only Good record where there are a handful of songs that I could take or leave, and for that reason alone, this winds up near the bottom. Something Like a Storm is also a good example of a record where the highs, while few and far between, vastly outweigh and overcompensate for the lows. 

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

This is easy: the title track (“Something Like a Storm”) and “Bullets In a Briefcase” were instant classics for me, and the latter might be the best album-closer in his catalog.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

Much like Arrows of Desire, I rarely revisit this album as a whole; whenever I put it on, I listen to “Decades”, and then skip right to the title track. “There The First Time” is one of my least favorite good songs (the lyrics just don’t do anything for me), and “Men at the Door”, and “Days Come Down” are equally forgettable for me.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

Fall asleep, your head on my chest, dream of something effortless - “Something Like a Storm”


6. Vancouver (2009)

After losing track of Good for almost a decade (like many of us South of the border, once Much Music disappeared from my cable provider, I lost my connection to many of my favorite Canadian artists), Vancouver served as my re-introduction to the man’s music. I’ll never forget what sparked the re-emergence of my fandom. During the Winter of 2008, I found myself on a huge Matthew Good Band kick. After listening to Beautiful Midnight and Audio of Being for weeks on end, I fell down the google rabbit hole one night and realized that he had a new solo album that was about to drop. 

Now, remember, 2009 was still pre-streaming, so if you wanted to ‘legally’ check out a release, you needed to purchase it. And so, I pre-ordered Vancouver and immediately fell in love with it upon first listen. The older, more mature songwriting and slightly less angsty sound felt incredibly fresh to my middle-aged (I was about to turn thirty) ears.

I immediately purchased the rest of his solo LPs, and much to my surprise, I realized that Vancouver was only scratching the surface in regards to the quality of Good’s solo work (more on that later). More than a decade removed, Vancouver still holds a special place in my heart. Is it a perfect record? No. But the record’s strongest moments warrant frequent re-listens.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

The opening salvo of “Last Parade”, “The Boy Who Could Explode”, “Great Whales of the Sea”, and “Us Remains Impossible” is incredibly effective. “Empty’s Theme Park” continues the tradition of amazing album-closers, and “Volcanoes” still takes my breath away all of these years later.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

For whatever reason, I rarely listen to “Fought to Fight It”, and “A Silent Army In The Trees” just never really connected for me. Those two songs (along with “Vancouver National Anthem”) bog down the back half for me; I need to be in a very specific mood to listen all the way through this one.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

And I know you know that I ain’t me, so us remains impossible - “Us Remains Impossible”

 

5. White Light Rock & Roll Review (2004)

We now enter the ‘toss-up’ portion of my list, as I hold the next three albums in very similar esteem.

Going into this process, White Light Rock & Roll Review was a clear dark horse. While I’ve always thought of this album as ‘one of the weaker ones’, upon further review, I’ve come to realize that it’s not only a record I revisit often, but it’s also one of Matt’s best sequenced albums period. Simply put, White Light... rocks from start to finish.

Reportedly tracked ‘live on the floor’ (with vocals and overdubs added later), White Light… is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders, and its stripped-down, bare-bones approach stands in stark contrast to the lushly-orchestrated Avalanche that preceded it a year earlier. Despite the spontaneous nature of it’s production, White Light… is an incredibly realized effort, proof of Good’s ability to derive an astonishingly high level of quality from his songwriting despite a dramatically different approach.

This, to me, is the album Good was trying to channel with Arrows Of Desire, but where that album tends to feel a bit labored, White Light… breaths.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

My God, “Blue Skies Over Bad Lands” is such a gem! The closing “Ex-Pats…”, in all its Who-esque glory, gets better each and every time I listen, and “Empty Road” is one of Good’s best ‘love’ songs.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

I know it was selected as a single, and I think there’s some genius wordplay in the lyrics, but I just can’t get down with “It’s Been A While Since I Was Your Man”, and “Buffalo Seven” is one of the only Good rockers that I don’t really care for, but neither of these tracks warrant a skip, so I consider them to be minor blems on an otherwise solid album.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

Just understand understanding - “Blue Skies Over Bad Lands”


4. Hospital Music (2007)

I fell in love with Hospital Music from the moment I first heard the opening samples of “Champions of Nothing.” Hospital Music is a fan-favorite for obvious reasons, as there’s at least a half-dozen classics here, plus a pair of amazing covers, and despite the record’s protracted running time (clocking in at over an hour), the album never threatens to overstay its welcome - a feat in and of itself.

A friend of mine once referred to Hospital Music as Good’s ‘sad-bastard, singer-songwriter’ album, and in a way, the description couldn’t have been more fitting. Hospital Music is Good at his most raw, emotional, and vulnerable. The fact that this incredibly strong collection of heartfelt songs sits in the middle of my list is less an indictment on the music itself, and more a testament to Good’s impeccable catalog.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

“Champions of Nothing” is, without a doubt, my favorite Matt Good opener (that solo!), “Born Losers” and “The Boy Come Home” feature some of Good’s best lyrics to date, and the covers (The Dead Kennedys’ “Moon over Marin”, and Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End”) offer a reverential take on a couple of classic songs.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

While they make sense within the context of the album, “Girl Wedged Under the Front of a Firebird” and “I Am Not Safer Than a Bank” feel like underdeveloped ideas rather than songs; I wish they weren’t back-to-back. Other than that, “Black Helicopter” is the only proper song that I feel doesn’t quite hit the mark.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

On my chest you put your head and said, ‘there you are, there’s my heart’ - “A Single Explosion”

 

 

3. Avalanche (2003)

Until 2011’s Lights Of Endangered Species, Avalanche was not only my favorite Matthew Good album, but it was in contention for my favorite album period.

Setting aside the songs for a moment, Avalanche is simply a joy to listen to on every sonic level thanks in no small part to the lush, nuanced production (augmented with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on several tracks). 

In addition to the gorgeous mix, Avalanche also contains what might be Good’s best vocal performance (in terms of range and tone) on record. It’s hard to find a more jaw-dropping moment than the notes he consistently hits in “While We Were Hunting Rabbits” and “In a World Called Catastrophe”.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

Where to begin. For starters, the string of songs beginning with “Lullaby For the New World Order” through the title track represents what might be the best four track run on any Matt Good album. While much of the album is comprised of dense, emotionally-charged numbers, the more ‘in-the-pocket’ arrangements of “Song For a Girl” and “Double Life” really help sustain Avalanche’s momentum as it comes around the bend.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

“21st Century Living” is the only track I could do without here. While mildly interesting in and of itself, the song’s placement in the tracklisting (sandwiched between “Avalanche” and “While We Were Hunting Rabbits”) does this song no favors.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

I’m just a ship lost at sea - “While We Were Hunting Rabbits”


2. Chaotic Neutral (2015)

This will probably be a stunning choice for most fans (and to be honest, I was a bit surprised myself), but what can I say, Chaotic Neutral has been continuously stunning me for the last four years, and in that period of time, it is hands down one of my most listened to albums.

Chaotic Neutral, as the vague ‘D&D’ reference would suggest, is an album of extremes, encapsulating the best moments of Good’s previous two releases, seamlessly combining the lush orchestration of Lights Of Endangered Species with the more immediate swagger of Arrows of Desire.  And while the strength of both of those albums lied in the focused, albeit somewhat one-dimensional approach of the material, Chaotic Neutral thrives squarely somewhere in the balance of the two.  

The album begins with an immediately familiar ring of “All You Sons and Daughters”, a song that could have easily been a late 90’s hit for his former band.  “Moment” and “Kid Down The Well” continue the albums momentum with a more ‘rocked-out’ treatment for songs that easily could have stood on their own as acoustic numbers.  “No Liars” flat out swings while “Harridan” serves as the album’s defacto centerpiece, a sprawling epic that functions as the record’s most sincere nod to the grand, orchestrated vibe of Lights...

Where the first half starts with a bang, the second half of the album tends to burn at a simmer, with songs like “Tiger By The Tail” and “Cold Water” featuring sparser arrangements that highlight what is undoubtedly some of Good’s best lyrical content ever. It’s here where the nuanced production serves the songs best (especially the quieter ones), revealing initially overlooked subtleties with repeated listens.

I was originally skeptical when I saw the Kate Bush song “Cloudbusting” (featuring the criminally underrated Holly McNarland) in the track listing, but the song is simply a triumph, reverently conveying the intent of the original with enough deviation to make it stand on its own.

 

Near Fantastica (Highlights):

Chaotic Neutral was a ‘grower’ in every sense of the word, as each and every listen reveals yet another amazing moment (for instance, like the driving piano on “Moment”).

In addition to all that I stated above, I would cite the hushed whisper of the ballad “Los Alamos” as one of my top-five Matthew Good songs. It’s an incredibly poignant ballad that never ceases to move me.

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

With an album this good, there’s not a lot to say that doesn’t feel like I’m splitting hairs. 

While “Army of Lions” succeeds in spite of it’s overly-glossy production, I would’ve loved to have had a more organic, stripped down version.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

I can hear your heart beat on the other side of town - “Los Alamos”


1. Lights Of Endangered Species (2011)

Matt has openly stated his affection for 2011’s “Lights Of Endangered Species” on numerous occasions, and the sentiment is well placed as the album is, in this writer’s opinion, the artist’s best work to date.

Devoid of any standout singles (other than the modestly received “In A Place Of Lesser Men”, Lights… finds Good fully embracing the album format. This record epitomizes the idea of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. While there are numerous breath-taking moments (the jaw-dropping crescendo half-way through “Set Me On Fire”, the big-band stomp of “Zero Orchestra”, and the final two minutes of “Shallow’s Low” to name a few), each and every song is elevated by the process of listening to the record from start to finish. Not unlike a brilliant scene from a classic movie, the moments work in and of themselves, but the true emotional impact is elevated when listened to within the context of the overall piece. Simply put, Lights Of Endangered Species is a staggeringly coherent, at times visceral forty-seven (depending on which version you got, of course) minutes of music

Good wanted to do something a little ‘left of center’, and with 2011’s Lights…, he succeeded by side-stepping the guitar-driven alt-rock that he’d spent the better part of two decades perfecting in favor of piano-centric compositions. Longtime producer Warne Livesey managed to elevate Good’s impassioned vocals with lush, orchestrated arrangements that featured a healthy dose of horns, strings, woodwinds, and brass. When compared to previous records, the tonal difference is almost jarring, but Lights… rewards repeated listens in a way that few ‘rock’ albums do.

Does Lights Of Endangered Species contain my favorite Matthew Good song? Does it contain Good’s best vocal performance? No. Is it, in my humble opinion, his best, most cohesive musical statement to date? Yes, absolutely. And for that reason, it sits at the top of my list.


Near Fantastica (Highlights):

“Extraordinary Fades” is an understated gem that perfectly sets the mood for what is to come.

“How it Goes” is a brilliant lyric, and as I mentioned before, “Shallow’s Low” has a captivating instrumental ending.

“What If I Can’t See The Stars Mildred” and “Zero Orchestra” are a brilliant one/two punch that propel the album into its third act.

Matt has cited “Non Populous” as an artistic high-point of his career on numerous occasions, and the sentiment is well placed as the song is easily one of his most challenging musical compositions. At over eight minutes in length, and with a challenging arrangement (eschewing the traditional verse-chorus ‘pop song’ structure in favor of a classically-minded piece comprised of movements), “Non Populous” is a musical tour-de force in every sense of the phrase. 

“In a Place of Lesser Men” was as good a choice as any for a single, but the song really benefits from hearing it within the context of the album, as it provides some nice breathing room between two of the record’s most musically dense moments. 

“Set Me On Fire” and “Lights Of Endangered Species” are a breath-taking final actwhile “Darlin’” closes the album with a subtle, pensive moment that hearkens back to “Extraordinary Fades.”

Oh, and I almost forgot, what an amazing album cover! (painted by Vancouver artist Miriam Aroeste).

 

Born Losers (Lowlights):

I wouldn’t change a second of this album. Every lyric and every note contributes to the overall composition in a way that renders each individual part indispensable. “Darlin’” should have been included on the physical release as it is a beautiful coda to the album, but seeing as it appears on the streaming/iTunes version, this gripe is somewhat nullified.

 

Letters In Wartime (Favorite Lyric and/or moment):

And the girls, their eyes, piano wire, scream ‘set me on fire’ - “Set Me On Fire”


Closing Thoughts:

 

Phew. Well, that’s that! 

Like I said above, whether you agree or disagree with any of what I wrote, it should (hopefully) be pretty clear that I am, first and foremost, a fan. In that sense, the compiling of this list was a labor of love, and every opinion stated (critical or not) was done so with reverence.

The Bored has been a bit more active as of late, so I’m hoping that this thread will spark some conversation, and maybe even inspire others to take their own deep dive into Matthew Good’s impeccable catalog. I’d love to hear everyone else's thoughts as well!

Cheers, 

James
 

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my list:

lights of endangered species

avalanche 

chaotic neutral

hospital music 

something like a storm

vancouver

white light rock and roll review

arrows of desire

 

i found this a bit tough, because there are moments on each album that warrant higher ranking consideration (especially on WLR&RR). I think that Chaotic neutral has less low points than Avalanche, but the highs on Avalanche are way higher than Chaotic Neutral, etc. I love Hospital music, but there are a couple of duds that put it behind chaotic neutral. 

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Thanks for this....really gets a person thinking and it's amazing how differently we can each see things.  For me personally, I consistently listen to Hospital Music, Avalanche and Vancouver....those would be my top three.  Then it's Storm, although admittedly on only really listen to the title track, Bullets and This is Night on a regular basis and for whatever reason I just listen to Bad Guys Win over and over and over again.  I actually wish the album version was extended somehow (I love the finally minute, and it always seemed to me like the very beginning is cut off from something "bigger" that is building).  Then Lights and Chaotic - both have amazing tracks but I just haven't listened to them much lately.  Then Arrows (I agree it's a little too cookie-cutter at times but sometimes I'm in the mood for it), and finally White Light.  I never listen to WLRRR and when I do, it's only Blue Skies.  If I had to give up one album in my entire MG collection - this would be it.  Go figure!!!

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White Light (2004)

Avalanche (2003)

Lights of Endangered Species (2011)

Arrows of Desire (2013–2015)

Hospital Music, live album (2007-2008)

Chaotic Neutral (2013–2015)

Something Like a Storm (2017–present)

Vancouver (2009-2010)

Edited by RickDalton

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Great post!!

I find myself always coming back to Chaotic Neutral.  It is becoming my favorite album, period.  When it first came out I listened to it a few times and thought it was good but over time it just gets better and finds more play in my streaming rotation.  I wish MG would play more songs live.  Can you imagine seeing Harridan or Tiger by the Tail live??  Even back then I don't think he played these songs.

Hospital Music, Avalanche, and Lights are my other favorites.

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As I expected, there is hardly a consensus, which is something I love about MG's catalog.

I ran back through the MGB albums this past week, and I'm always struck by how much I enjoy the Audio of Being despite my initial disappointment with that record when it first came out. I know that it was an incredibly tumultuous time for the band, but songs like "The Rat Who Would Be King" and "Truffle Pigs" are absolute gems.

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It's funny you should say that.  Of all the MGB albums, the Audio of Being is probably the one I listen to the most.  Sure, BM is good but there is something about Audio of Being that keeps bringing me back.  Matt has also reworked a bunch of the songs and plays them live all the time even today which shows the quality of the songs themselves.  Man of Action!! 

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On 1/2/2020 at 10:15 AM, patrickjnixon said:

Great post!!

I find myself always coming back to Chaotic Neutral.  It is becoming my favorite album, period.  When it first came out I listened to it a few times and thought it was good but over time it just gets better and finds more play in my streaming rotation.  I wish MG would play more songs live.  Can you imagine seeing Harridan or Tiger by the Tail live??  Even back then I don't think he played these songs.

Hospital Music, Avalanche, and Lights are my other favorites.

Back when he toured Chaotic neutral, he basically played the whole album live. I remember that he opened with Harridan (epic!), and played tiger by the tail near the end of the set

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2 hours ago, folk singer said:

Back when he toured Chaotic neutral, he basically played the whole album live. I remember that he opened with Harridan (epic!), and played tiger by the tail near the end of the set

Wish there were more videos of this song live. It's one of my favorite songs from his solo catalogue. 

I've tried to sort out my thoughts regarding how to rank his solo albums twice now, but it keeps coming off as a confused mess on account of the fact that there are songs I like and dislike on every album based on both production value and simply the way it was wrote. Good topic though, lol. 

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On 1/6/2020 at 8:05 PM, daniel_v said:

Wish there were more videos of this song live. It's one of my favorite songs from his solo catalogue. 

I've tried to sort out my thoughts regarding how to rank his solo albums twice now, but it keeps coming off as a confused mess on account of the fact that there are songs I like and dislike on every album based on both production value and simply the way it was wrote. Good topic though, lol. 

Thx for posting this - such a great tune live. Wish I could find LOES (the song) live on video somewhere. I remember not being a huge fan of this song when I first heard it but he opened the Calgary show with it and it was amazing - completely changed my mind on it!

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1 hour ago, Prairieboy said:

Thx for posting this - such a great tune live. Wish I could find LOES (the song) live on video somewhere. I remember not being a huge fan of this song when I first heard it but he opened the Calgary show with it and it was amazing - completely changed my mind on it!

Completely agree, especially about LOES (the song) and that’s a perfect example of having mixed feelings about a track due to the way it was produced. I don’t think it’s a bad one on the album (in fact I think it’s beautiful, contemplative, and hopeful) but when it was played live with Matt and Johnny adding such strong backing guitar to it, the song takes on far more weight and power for me. Same thing goes for Non Populas. Nothing against the album version, but the live version? One of my favourite MG or MGB songs ever because of the intensity of the ending which is created from all the players on stage going all out. I know Matt intentionally wanted less guitar and more piano and horns on that album- and I can completely respect that- but personally songs carry more weight for me when there is more sound and more instrumental explosions that are going on (which is one of the reasons  I’m also a huge Explosions in the Sky fan- they’re quite and melodic when they need to be, but when songs call for loudness they don’t hold back). Just a personal preference. 

Edited by daniel_v
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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.  

 

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I'm very curious to see where Moving Walls is going to stack up here. Almost all of Matt's albums have been well-received initially, but he's at that stage in his career where it's hard to imagine him releasing something that will supplant the fan-favorites. That being said, I'm pleased to see that he considers Moving Walls to be among his finest work. 

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Okay, so after a week of listening, I finally feel like I’m at a place where I can articulate my thoughts. 

The following is my review of Matt’s new record; noticing the scant online coverage for Moving Walls, I purposely wrote in a more formal voice here as I intend to post this in a couple different places. Hopefully, this write-up will have some legs, or at the very least, raise some awareness for the record.

***Quick note: In addition to the new-album thread, I’ve decided to ‘double post’ this in the album-rankings thread (which I started a few weeks back) as well, since it pretty much sums up my thoughts on both topics.

 

Moving Walls: The Beauty in the Struggle

 

From his impressive run in the mid-‘90s (by way of of the alt-rock band that shared his name), to his sustained ‘under the radar’ success as a solo artist, Matthew Good has been redefining the expectations of his audience for the better part of three decades. And with his ninth solo release, Moving Walls, the Canadian singer-songwriter re-establishes what longtime fans have known for years: Matthew Good is writing the best music of his career.

Good himself has used the term ‘adult contemporary’ when trying to describe Moving Walls, and while the tag certainly fits (at least in a general sense), it ultimately undersells the album’s depth and scope. Where recent outings often felt like the work of an artist struggling to find a balance between expectation and inspiration (marked by Good’s attempts to offset his increasingly atmospheric ballads with amps-to-eleven rockers), Moving Walls is brazenly unapologetic; from start to finish Good plays to his strengths, leaning heavily on concise arrangements, confessional lyrics, and some incredibly inspired vocals.

Case in point being the dynamic album-opener “One of Them Years”, a brooding number that finds Good dispensing biting bursts of dense, Dylan-esque prose over a circular chord-progression. Subtly switching gears, “A Momentary Truth” echoes the upbeat folk of Hospital Music’s “The Boy Come Home”, while the appropriately-titled “Beauty” further showcases Good’s ever-evolving lyrical abilities.

Combining a staccato piano-line, thunderous backbeat, and Good’s soaring vocals, the album’s first single, “Sicily”, judiciously channels the singer’s alt-rock roots to great effect. “Boobytrapped”, on the other hand, leans heavily on a beautifully recorded string-section while “Radicals” confidently waltzes its way through one lyrical gem after another, closing out one of the more solid opening salvos in Good’s catalog.

Next up is a trio of standout tracks (the stunning, six-minute rocker “Dreading It”, the snare-driven “Your Rainy Sound”, and the lush, understated “Fingernails”), each of which adds a healthy dose of energy and momentum to the album’s second act. 

Lumiere Noire” (notable for Good’s decision to sing the entire song in French) features a brilliant acoustic solo while one of Moving Walls most intimate moments comes courtesy of “A Thousand Tons”, a beautifully orchestrated three-and-a-half minute emotional crescendo that easily could’ve found a home on 2011’s Lights of Endangered Species.

Another expertly-crafted slice of mid-tempo folk-rock, “The Heights” sets the stage for the stunning ballad “Selling You My Heart”, a heartbreakingly candid song that has ‘instant classic’ written all over it. “Thorn Bird” evokes the lush atmosphere of 2003’s Avalanche, marrying sparse, shimmering chords with one of the record’s strongest vocal performances while “The Parts” provides the album with an appropriately introspective coda.

It’s understandably tempting to try and measure an artist’s latest release against their past work, and in the case of Moving Walls, the most obvious point of reference is probably 2007's Hospital Music. There are plenty of similarities (both albums are largely acoustic and feature fifteen songs clocking in at over an hour), but where the former often sounded like a necessary catharsis, the introspective mood permeating Moving Walls feels like a deliberate artistic choice. To take the analogy a step further, if Hospital Music was the sound of a man picking up the pieces, Moving Walls is what he ultimately turned those pieces into.

The album is dense, but far from impenetrable, and repeated listens reveal an incredibly nuanced mix; Moving Walls is easily one of best ‘sounding’ records Matthew Good has released. To that point, it’s easy to imagine Moving Walls as a template for the next stage of Good’s career, one where he follows in the footsteps of fellow countryman Neil Young, refusing to acquiesce to the established narrative that attempts to paint aging rockers into that ‘shut up and play the hits’ corner.

Moving Walls isn’t a flawless record (given the prevalence of ballads, especially on the back-half, mileage may vary depending on mood), but it’s pretty damn close, and is sure to please longtime fans. Either way, for the first time in years, it sounds like the only person Matthew Good was ‘trying’ to please was himself, which makes Moving Walls a win/win for everyone.

 

My final thoughts:

So there you have it. As you can probably guess, I love the record. Matt’s really outdone himself and Moving Walls more than exceeded my expectations. I don’t think I’ve been this impressed with a release since Lights, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that in both cases, he’s chosen to back off the electric guitar, and focus on placing the lyric and mood front and center.

I’m hesitant to give it a ranking (I mean, it’s only been a week), but if I had to say right now, I’d probably place Moving Walls in my top-3 favorite Matt Good releases, behind only Lights of Endangered Species and Chaotic Neutral. 

 

If by any chance you happen to read this, hats off Mr. Good.

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Not sure if you were seeking contributions, but:

 

1. Avalanche
2. Lights of Endangered Species
3. Vancouver
4. Hospital Music
5. White Light Rock and Roll Review
6. Moving Walls
7. Something Like a Storm
8. Arrows of Desire
9. Chaotic Neutral

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17 hours ago, Millstone said:

Not sure if you were seeking contributions, but:

 

1. Avalanche
2. Lights of Endangered Species
3. Vancouver
4. Hospital Music
5. White Light Rock and Roll Review
6. Moving Walls
7. Something Like a Storm
8. Arrows of Desire
9. Chaotic Neutral

Absolutely, that was the whole point of this thread. I love reading lists, and I think the fact that there's little consensus so far speaks to the sustained quality of Matt's output.

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