As the title suggests, Mat Shoare’s latest release, Mirror Music no. 1, is about reflection. “The songs are all linked to my last full-length Right as Rain, and draw on the same themes: abandonment, bitterness, and repressed anger,” he states. While Shoare’s description may sound like a recipe for a suicidal symphony, most of the music on the four-song EP is surprisingly upbeat and even approaching optimistic. This may be because Shoare says he is closing the book on this period of songwriting, and has plenty of new, less miserable topics to begin sharing.
The EP opens with “I-Yi-Yi,” a mellow yet poppy tune with a solid groove. I-yi-yi is a clever play on aye-yi-yi, the outdated term used to express sadness, hopelessness, anger, or frustration (you may have heard your grandmother say this when you were a kid). The song deals with frustration over things not going as planned, yet the realization that the circumstances could be worse. It’s about waiting and yearning, yet understanding the need for patience. It’s a commentary on life as most of us know it. “It’s not going better, but it’s not going worse / It’s not going good, but it’s not going bad.” Through reflection, Shoare decides to make the best of things, ending the song singing “I-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi” in a cheery, so-be-it kind of way. We could all stand to look at life like this.
“One of My Songs,” the second track, is probably the most listener-friendly. It is about breaking up with a girl, and is both a jab at the woman (or women) as well as possibly a bit of self-deprecation from Shoare. “Now you’re just a girl in one of my songs / Please sing along if you’ve heard this one before.” As with “I-Yi-Yi,” this potentially blue topic is in no way a ballad. Instead it is almost a doo-wop song, complete with Beatles-esque background vocals and a clap track. Shoare shows off his musical talents by playing all of the instruments on the recording. “All About You” is similarly upbeat, yet with a totally different sound. It starts with a drumbeat that could be mistaken for Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” and is layered with jazz chords and a driving bass.
The only gloomy song is the fourth and final cut, “Real Woman.” Truly lo-fi, it is simply Shoare playing an acoustic guitar while crooning about a relationship lost. Sticking with the theme of the record, he reflects and realizes his mistakes—and what traits constitute a good (or bad) companion. “If I had known how much you would hurt me / I would have been with a real woman.” Despite being barely over a minute long, “Real Woman” is a perfect goodbye. It touches on remorse, but focuses on the resolve to move on to better things.
Like life, Mirror Music no. 1 isn’t perfect, but perhaps Shoare and his band (Evan Ashby on guitar, Ross Brown on bass, and Ryan Carr on drums) intended it that way. There is a constant yin-yang, showing how opposites can be complementary. It’s dark and light, sad and happy, and ultimately gives listeners something that is strangely inspiring, given the subject matter. It’s an ending to one place in Shoare’s life, and a peek at happier things to come.
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
Shoare will be touring in support of the album starting tonight in Columbia at Café Berlin. Facebook event page. You can also check out his website for other upcoming dates at matshoare.com.