Matthew Barber: Means & Ends

Jason MacNeil

Matthew Barber

Means & Ends

Label: Paper Bag
US Release Date: 2003-04-15
UK Release Date: Available as import

Matthew Barber is releasing his second debut album and both are getting rave reviews. Let me explain. Last year Barber released this album independently and the initial pressing of his album sold out, which ended up being a double-edged sword. Sure, people loved the album, but where could they get it? After Barber relocated back to Toronto last summer, the wheels were sent in proverbial motion for this album to be released through Paper Bag Records, a burgeoning label that continues to impress. But it'll only be as good as its albums.

"Some people think it's old fashioned to write songs on guitars / And ride around on bicycles instead of fast cars / But I think it's okay", Barber sings on the opening "Timeless". And from the first thirty seconds, you can't help but crack a smile. He is onto something quite good as he sings harmonies with Jill Barber. The song resembles fellow Canadian songwriters like Danny Michel and Andy Stochansky in terms of ability and sheer talent. It's not exactly quirky, but the Tom Waits-meets-Wilco arrangement makes it glisten from top to bottom. A bit of Tom Petty can also be discerned. "Put Me Back Together (So Delicately)" is more of a vaudeville Waits-ish tune that flows from the brushing on the drums to the creaky chord changes on the acoustic guitar. Although it gets a tad glossy with its tight pop chorus, Barber is able to snip the fat from the tune while adding horns during the bridge.

"Sentimental Acumen" might be too high-brow as far as titles go, but the straightforward pop rock sensibility oozes from the opening riff. "Make sure the home team wins and then they know the score", he sings as the Odds-like harmonies make it soar. A meaty guitar riff comes in two minutes in, propelling the song as if it needed a kick in the pants. But it didn't, making it all the better. "The Beautiful Things That We Waste" is a downtrodden country tune that has a waltz-like nature to it with piano and guitars. "I just keep coming back", Barber sings as the song rarely falters. You can almost picture him drowning his sorrows as the waitresses mop the floors. "Morning Train" is the first tune that brings the Beatles to mind, whether it's the organ or just simple yet infectious arrangements.

"Sleep in Peace" has Barber counting the song off, but the acoustic singer-songwriter tune doesn't pass the test. Barber resembles the Jayhawks' Gary Louris on this track as the harmony sound is overdubbed. It's the album's first "downer" track and seems like a good change of pace despite being an average song. Barber also shows off his "false"tto on this tune while strings are added. Thankfully for Barber and the listener, he picks up where he left off on the fourth track, a slow dance called "The Business of Being Apart". Talking about long distance and overseas relationship, the guitar gets to shine here, making it sparkle as Barber adds his vocals.

The poppy '60s rear their toe-tapping head on "Anywhere Else But Here". The constant drums and tight rhythms are what make this song come off as well as it does. The chorus is also mistake-free as a slight Petty-like jangle is introduced. The handclaps also lend a certain party atmosphere, as do the great sing-a-long lyrics. "Every Mistake" could be mistaken for a Ryan Adams track, a self-reflection bit that doesn't wallow in self-pity. Although it goes off on a tangent as it evolves, the repetitive anthem-like nature gives it a swaying quality. This album was re-released for a very good reason -- it showcases a songwriter who is wiser for taking his craft and perfecting it as best he can.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.