The Theater Fire – Matter and Light

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Theater Fire are one of Texas’ best-kept secrets, nestled in the neighborhoods of Ft. Worth.  They first entered our musical consciousness with their self-titled debut, which attached folk and indie maneuvers to casual Americana.

Their third album, Matter and Light, hits stores nationwide this month, but those in Texas can already get their hand on it by traveling to your favorite independent record store. You will find that this album is a much grander affair, pushing the band in a much more complex direction.

To be fair, it sound strikingly like the final Beulah album, Yoko, only done with a country-tinged personality.  The opening musical number, “It’s All the Same” jumps in with a pounding rhythm backed by horns and piano; it’s a whirling-dervish affair, painted with crystal clear lyrics that come out like one of your best friend’s cousins from Beaumont.  They follow up with “Uncle Wayne,” which goes back to a more straightforward country approach.  It’s guitar matched by percussion and banjo elements, but with a different singer than the first track.  Here, you can definitely understand the David Berman quality to the band.

At this point in the album, the mission of the band is entirely clear, even though you are only two songs in to your listening experience.  The band has continued to push themselves, filling in empty musical space with various forms of percussion or other multi-instrumental elements.  In filling out such empty spaces, it makes the band sound more complete than ever, which is to their benefit.

A particularly interesting moment comes in the middle of the album when the band pays homage to one of our late-great heroes, Elliot Smith. They do a full-on instrumental jam of Elliot’s “Say Yes” that focuses primarily on the songwriter’s ability to create timeless melodies, much as this song does.

They close out the album with “It’s a Secret.”  The brooding quality of this song accompanies the sparse lyrical composition, as a lover or a friend attempts to reveal a secret.  It’s the perfect song for this band, as it plays to all their best traits; using dense vocals that correlate with the large-scale sounds the band have adopted. It’s the perfect ending to a strong album.

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