Mat Kearney: ‘Just Kids’ Track-by-Track Album Review

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Four years after the fun and melodic sounds of Young Love, Nashville-based musician Mat Kearney has dropped Just Kids. Full of the introspective stories we’ve come to expect, quality hooks and quirky back beats, this was worth the wait.

Opening with “Heartbreak Dreamer,” Kearney sets the pace with a whimsical yet meaningful tune. Rich in electro tones, it makes you feel the summer sun on your face. Saying, “This one’s for the heart break dreamers, looking for a reason to get through the night,” vocals are mixed with the spoken word of Anis Mojgani’s poem Shake The Dust, making for a phenomenal opener.

“Moving On” continues to be upbeat, and we see Kearney using electro tones much more in his new work. The layering of vocals and synth with a heavy back beat makes this an eclectic track, and Kearney’s ability to carry such a distinctive melody with such ease is a mark of his expertise. The title track, “Just Kids,” follows, and the piano-based melody combines with whimsical after effects. Reminiscent of the track, “Rochester,” from his previous album in its story telling component, it is a more electro-based tribute to his own story.

The lead single, “Heartbeat,” will lift you with its mellow and joyful sound, and you will be moving in your seat as you listen to the cute yet cool love song. The guitar line in “Billion” will immediately grab you, and Kearney’s rapping compliments a strong back beat. Celebrating the little idiosyncrasies of his lover, this is a song that seems to communicate both the reality and romance in a relationship. This one will stay in your head for days and will likely put a smile on your face.

I love “One Black Sheep” simply for its throwback reference to Amy Grant; that being said, the acoustic-driven tune is a highlight in its own right. The lyrical content has a Jack Kerouac theme and is raw but personable. It carries a hopeful vibe aimed at all of us who have felt different a la the ‘black sheep.’

Prepare yourself for “Let It Rain” because every so often an oriental flavor finds its way into the acoustic tune, and it will catch you off guard! While it is unique in its instrumentation, it is still an insightful track that seems to have a scriptural basis due to the repetition of “There’s a time.” Carrying a message of perseverance, it is an unusual electro piece that will comfort your soul when nothing seems to be going right.

“Ghost” has minimal instrumentation, and Kearney’s vocals enter on a higher octave, which gives it a haunting and melodic feeling. Breaking down into a rap, this track combines his trademark heartfelt lyrics with his cool and urban vibe.

Continuing to experiment with sound, “Los Angeles” opens with an acoustic guitar and the sound of a car motor. Telling the story of his success, he captures the tone of the city, and somehow gives a sound to SoCal’s gray buildings, never-ending sunshine and insatiable dreaming. “Miss You” gives us more of an electro and synth-based sound, before we enter the folky sounds of “The Conversation,” a duet with Young Summer. The smokiness of her vocals combines with the strength of Kearney to cultivate a sincere and beautiful conversation between two lovers. Pulled back with acoustic guitar and possibly banjo, this is an honest and exquisite track.

Taking us back to the themes of hope and truth, “One Heart” has a strong hip-hop feel that revolves around the message that, “There’s gotta be more than just this flesh and bone. Tell me I’m more than just these scars I know.” Highlighting our need for community, a kick drum asserts the unity of the heartbeat we all possess. Finishing with “Shasta,” an electric guitar gives way for an introspective tune that subtly ties up the album and firmly places Kearney’s stamp on the 13-track collection.

Cool and fun, yet insightful and honest, Just Kids is everything we could have hoped for and more. Embracing electro tones and exploring unusual and whimsical sounds throughout, Mat Kearney’s latest musical offering will take you to summer while you are waiting out the winter chill.

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