by Olivia Weinzapfel Mat Kerekes’ new solo album is a perfect, early-summer release filled with simple but infectious melodies that function as flawless mood music for the upcoming season. The soft grunge, post-hardcore album, Ruby, is breathing with the spirit of young freedom. Ruby is a refreshing, feel-good creation, but it also captures a bit of audio-induced nostalgia if you were really into the culture that allowed punk rock to thrive. Kerekes is best known as the vocalist of the alternative rock band, Citizen. Going solo with Ruby, he really showcased his abilities as a songwriter and producer. Ruby is a modernly classic body of work, and the songs that comprise it are hard to keep off of repeat.
Sounds like SummerThe beginning of the album immediately drops a wave of good emotion on listeners. The first three tracks, “Ruby,” “Diamond,” and “Young” all have pleasantly smooth arrangements. The acoustics and drumlines that make up the compositions of these songs, as well as the fourth song, “Autumn Dress,” are very soothing and mellow. Whether you’re actively or passively listening, these songs, in particular, are hard not to smile or nod your head to. These are the types of songs you picture someone playing acoustically at a small outdoor venue, probably somewhere near the beach. They are radiating with a free-spirited, laid-back vibe and it only makes us look toward summertime with wider eyes. After the first couple of tracks, the overall sound takes a slight shift into a softer alternative punk. Keeping in mind that quite a few songs in the album are more slow-tempo, Kerekes still laces it with his reinvention of punk rock influence.
Classic, But Refreshing Punk RockThe second half of the album, while original, has very classic compositions in relation to punk rock. None of the songs are too intense, but the ones that are a little more on the alternative side are composed with guitar and drumlines that subtly support an underlying soft grunge feel. The arrangements with these two instruments, including the acoustic guitar, are very tight and quick with the melodies that reflect the punk sound. Some songs that exemplify this are “Hawthorne,” “Spider Silk,” and “An Ode.” Although most of the songs are slow-tempo, they’re still fresh and they do kick us with a small wave of nostalgia. It may just be me, but the vocals–to some extent–remind me of The Fray, Train, and bands alike, where vocals are detrimental to the band’s sound and recognition. They have a certain flair that complements their alt-rock subgenre. Like those bands, Kerekes implements a certain kind of emphasis on his voice that accompanies his melodies beautifully and further defines his American alternative rock style. One aspect that nudges this album a little more toward the post-hardcore side is the guitar solos. This is another thing that’s most noticeable during the second half of the album. In a few of the songs, a small guitar solo is integrated a little over halfway through the song. While this is nothing out of the ordinary for the genre, it doesn’t really seem to fit all that well with the other songs on this album. Ruby is filled with predominately slow songs, which isn’t ever explicitly a bad thing, but the hard riffs and rhythms are just slightly out of place. The compositions of the solos are great on their own, but they just don’t seem to fit in too well given the way they’re placed into the songs. This small element does kind of throw off the somber mood that some songs initially have, but it’s nothing detrimental to the quality of the music or the album overall; it was the only thing that truly stood out to me as a small flaw within the arrangements. Kerekes, the singer, songwriter, and producer of Ruby created a simple, raw album. Nothing within the production is overdone or tweaked too much. This gives the album a very personal, mellow, and savory sound that’s hard to come by in most mainstream music; Ruby is a purely unconventional and fresh album from a truly underrated solo artist. Be sure to add the recently released songs on Ruby to your summer jams playlist now.
Featured Image: Highlight Magazine