Matt Pryor - Confidence Man
Record Label: Vagrant
Release Date: July 29, 2008
"Who do you think you are? / You're no one to me."
Despite the irony many fans are likely to gather from that line, Matt Pryor is a name many rank up there with the best of the best in terms of who has managed to influence and inspire. As the voice of one of emo rock's most highly-revered bands, Matt Pryor has made quite a name for himself in the independent music scene after leading Lawrence, Kansas' the Get Up Kids for several years before the band went their separate ways. After a handful of albums with his side-project-turned-full-time-band the New Amsterdams, it's about time Pryor reclaims his reign as one of the better front men of our time.
His first solo effort, Confidence Man, is crammed full of sincerity and genuine heartfelt optimism, tightly packed together and efficiently crafted by Pryor himself. The album is warm, embracing and that right ingredient for a warm night inside on a cold January day or when you need to lay across the grass in August, contemplating the ever-changing world around you. The sprightly lead track, "A Totally New Year," kicks off the album with an upbeat rhythm full of handclaps and organ, encouraging listeners that starting fresh is never too late. Lead single, the short and sweet "Loralai," is sincere in the way many of us can feel once love slips away, with Pryor coyly singing, "You've got my only set of keys." The title track is one of the brightest spots: resembling a leftover track from the Get Up Kids' Something To Write Home About, it's obvious Pryor backs up what he sings, repeating, "You don't have to worry / Baby, I'm your confidence man."
The album is a truly wonderful showcase for Pryor's songwriting abilities, all the lyrics reflecting an obvious pouring of one's heart, brimming with a positive outlook and heartache in the way we all feel on a daily basis. What's wonderful about Pryor's first solo record is that it maintains empathy as well as developing a relation to the listener - young and old - who have been through the friendship losses ("I'm Sorry Stephen"), selfishness ("Dear Lover," in its third incarnation here) and the painstaking process of learning to live with yourself ("We'll Be Fine"), where Pryor croons, "You've got a dark side that I can't give no light." Able to fit every mood reflected on the album - upbeat, melancholy and hopeful - Pryor steps up to the plate and delivers a record brimming with honesty and charm, never stepping over himself and striking up a winning combination of prolific talent and ingenuous wisdom.
Perhaps the album's only flaw is the more it goes along, the slower it gets, with the messages becoming less hopeful and focused more on the downside of love. Pryor charms the listener most when he's bouncy and full of enthusiasm, and it begins to drag the record down by the last few songs, although closing number "It Ends Here" is ripe for the final scene in any television melodrama. While the lyrics draw from personal experiences and the plight his friends go through, Pryor should stick to his happy-go-lucky self, as it makes for a much more engaging listen.
It's quite evident that Matt Pryor has grown up, been through the bumps in the road, and come out on top, shining brighter than ever before. As he charmingly refrains in "On How Our Paths Differ," "I'm happy I don't fit in." Pryor sticks out with his whimsy and ability to tell it like it is, singing soft lullabies for a generation that owes him a debt of gratitude. Yes, he is no longer a Get Up Kid - he is, in fact, a Confidence Man.
Para Toda Vida is one of my favorite albums of all time, and this is the stripped down love affair that got me into the New Amsterdams...I loved the direction they went in, but I love that Matt took time to go back to those early sounding records...