A Starving Viking “Semblance” (Resonating Wood Recordings 2019)

A Starving Viking is the stage name of singer-songwriter Matt Jarrett. A New York state native, he has spent a career in New York City working as a filmmaker and editor. A late-comer to folk music, he has taken Dylan and Nick Drake into his core and used music as a fresh outlet for his creativity.

His debut record, ‘Semblance‘, is a self-recorded and produced project, which started life when Jarrett left NYC to travel in Scotland in 2016. Since then the songs have matured and solidified into the selection of numbers here. ‘Semblance‘ is “the culmination of growing old, leaving behind what you know, discovering where you belong… and embracing it all.”

That may sound like a very noble project, but it is somewhat lacking in execution. There’s some lovely guitar playing, and it’s certainly well produced and put together. It falls a bit flat at times, though; attempting to walk that line between laid-back vibes and raw emotion (aka the Nick Drake special) it often doesn’t quite pull it off and becomes a little dull.

It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of potential here. The musical ability is undoubted, and you can see the record that was intended; and intimate, raw, simplistic songwriting record, but no aspect is outstanding enough to really lift it up. The songwriting is decent, the arrangements are too, and there’s a few really nice touches, like the melodic piano line in ‘Liars at Night‘. The penultimate track ‘Sincere Song‘ is particularly strong, it’s stripped back, but has enough arrangement to make it pop, and has a simple, catchy melody. There needs to be more of this, though. It feels as if, in trying to ramp up the intimacy and rawness, Jarrett has actually ended up holding something back.

Self-conscious indie-folk with potential for something a lot better
5/10

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