Summer 2019 has produced some larger than life alternative records, but what Matthew Squires has just released this past August in Visions of America is pure poetry in nine nuanced compositions that are unlike any others that I’ve reviewed all year long. Armed with little more than a galloping guitar and a taste for 60’s psychedelic vibes, he assaults us with angular folk/rock in “American Fever Dream,” blustery waves of sonic bliss in “Silence, Now!,” and swaying strands of a melancholic melody in “Fire Song,” all the while remaining consistent and focused in his execution. Visions of America isn’t just Matthew Squires at his most in-sync; this is perhaps the most diversely appointed alternative album of the season, if not the year in general.
I love the unassumingly complex instrumentation of “Fire Song,” “Lonesome” and the Velvet Underground-esque “Perfect Eye,” partly because, even at their most intense, they never translate as overcomplicated or inappropriately extravagant. There’s been a near-deluge of such material attracting headline-caliber press as of late, which definitely makes Visions of America an especially rare find this September, and though its sound is easily distinguishable from the major label content that I’ve come across recently, I don’t think that its erudite quality would necessarily discourage non-music enthusiasts from finding some solace in the heavenly harmonies of songs like “Silence, Now!” and the title track at all. If there was one goal that Squires had when making this album, it definitely wasn’t fitting in with the mainstream model, and that’s made clear to us right from the get-go here.
There’s a lot of depth to the narratives in “American Fever Dream,” “Strange Day,” “Lonesome” and “Visions of America” that extends well beyond what Matthew Squires is singing to us in his trademark vocal, and that just can’t be said for the bulk of output that we’ve been seeing from his closest rivals in and outside of the States this summer. He isn’t content to use but one tool in his toolbox here; Squires is utilizing every weapon he can get his hands on in “Fire Song,” “The Sentinel” and “Lonesome,” whether it be provocative prose or simpleton string melodies, and exploiting the dynamic range of talents that he and his selected group of instrumental cohorts possess for everything that they’re worth.
Like a lot of occasional listeners, I was only somewhat familiar with the music of Mr. Matthew Squires before hearing a pre-release copy of Visions of America just this past weekend, but if this is just a taste of what he can do when there’s nothing to stifle his creativity, then I am very eager to hear more of what he’s dishing out here. No matter what he’s playing in this LP, slow songs and strong-voiced anthems alike, he never breaks his confident stride (in fact, I think that he grows more blunt in his delivery as the tracklist progresses), which is something that has been common among all great singer/songwriters throughout history. He’s demonstrating everything that he’s about in this disc, and making it tough for even the harshest of critics to dismiss his efforts as anything other than brilliant.