His entirely unironic songwriting would fit in neatly next to The Avett Brothers on a tour bill or a playlist.
Artifice isn’t in his bag of tricks, which means that “Accidental Thief
” positively bursts with immediate hooks. Opener “All I Know” is a jaunty, charming tune that sways and skips along easily. It borders on saccharine, which is why Mumford and Sons haters will not make it through the song to the rest of the album. But he settles into a less bubbly persona on follow-up “I Will Do The Breathing” and stays there for the bulk of the disc.
It’s no less immediate, but it’s unfettered charm is traded for weary determination. “I Will” is definitely morose in its determination, but the highlight, “Pioneer Bride,” leans to the determined end of the spectrum. The title track strikes a nice balance of the two sides, as it is lyrically weary, but musically sturdy.
The highlights keep rolling in, which is why “Accidental Thief” is one of my favorite albums of the genre so far this year. The wide-eyed delivery of the solo banjo lines in “Crying” calls up Sufjan Stevens’ “Michigan,” while “Long Gone” brings to mind the mature delivery of Derek Webb.
The perky “Ghost Story” is the best true folk tune here, as it could be covered by Gillian Welch and no one would bat an eye. “Friends” is a great cap to the album that ties all of Matt’s motifs together.
But it’s “Feel Like My Home” that is the takeaway. The tender ballad twists the common phrase, as he sings to a lover who’s left him, “I wish you didn’t feel like my home.” It’s in the same devastating league as Death Cab for Cutie’s “Lack of Color,” only folkier. It also has contributions from what I think is the euphonium pictured on the cover. (I played euphonium in high school. Represent.)
The depth of clarity in Matt the Electrician’s songs shows that he’s learned much in the six full-lengths (!) preceding “Accidental Thief.” This is an absolute must for fans of pop-flavored folk, especially because it might be the closest thing to an Avett fix y’all will get this year. —Stephen Carradini