Reviewed by: Adelie Salagnac
Los Angeles singer, songwriter and guitarist Matt Kivel has been part of the music industry for a long while, being part of various rock bands, including Princeton and Gap Dream during the ‘00s. It is not until 2013, with debut album Double Exposure, released on cassette and vinyl, that he ventured on his own and began his solo career.
Putting out his 3rd record, Janus, via Driftless Recordings, Matt Kivel takes a step forward in his career. Recorded in Glasgow, with the talented Alasdair Roberts as well as with no less than 11 local musicians, Janus is without a doubt Kivel’s most mature piece of work. This 10-track bittersweet folk album is a melting pot of influences and brings a lot of surprises.
From sometimes-messy tracks such as “Prime Meridian”, to well thought-through songs like “No Return”, Janus is eclectic, open and diverse. On the one hand, Kivel can deliver soft and delicate songs with poetic lyrics about change and continuity, the kind that makes your mind wander and wonder, while on the other hand, some of his darker tunes leave you with a strange feeling of uneasiness.
Essentially traditional folk, Janus mixes elements of classical, melodic pop, experimentalism, and jazz. With songs often starting slowly, calmly and simply, Kivel’s 11 musicians provided a silky and rich instrumentation, with folk guitars, electric ones, violins, percussions, soft bass, piano, and horns, complementing his fragile vocals.
Despite the abundance of artists involved in the recording of the songs, Janus still gives out a certain feeling of privacy. An album you can enjoy listening to by yourself, in the vicinity of your bedroom, or while sharing a beer with some old friends. Kivel even went as far as creating a beer, the Janus Beer, designed to be consumed while listening to his latest album – he’s got your evening planned.
Over a year of work on Janus has paid off. It might not be apparent right away, and you might have to be in the right mindset to listen to it. But Janus is definitely a quality album, showcasing Kivel’s proper story-telling skills and great musicianship. Janus is perfect for a rainy day, exuding a sleepy-ish and solitary feeling, and displaying Kivel’s honest emotions.