Matthew Santos might be most famous for singing the ever-popular line, “if you are what you say you are; a superstar,” in Lupe Fiasco’s mainstream hit, but he is so much more than that. Through his album Into The Further, he demonstrates real talent, soul and artistry. The album is extremely well crafted in instrumentation as well as pure musicianship. With a few Grammy nominations and several albums under his belt, Matthew Santos gives us yet another reason to grant him our undivided attention.
While Santos plays the guitar and sings on the album, he took on the producer role as well. His production choices are unique and unpredictable, which is demonstrated in his song “Ojos,” as he reveals a sweet sounding beat box that continues even after the drums come in. The mix of the drums and beat box together create an excellent percussive backbone for the track. Even though Santos is a gifted vocalist, not every song is about that side of his music, as we see in the title track, “Into The Further. ” This is also exemplified in “Just To See You (Take 2),” which is a solo piano track. It’s calm and beautifully melodic. The incorporation of these songs differentiates the album from the rest due to its elemental diversity. These tracks are absolutely wonderful, but it’s the acoustic guitar based songs that send a wonderfully chilling feeling up my spine.
One of these acoustic based songs is “Under The Microscope,” which also happens to be my favorite track on the album. Santos’ smooth and controlled vocals sound beautifully breathy and airy, and his lightly palm-muted guitar playing in the verses brighten up into a gorgeous, full strumming frenzy in the chorus. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this song is utterly mesmerizing in every way. His falsetto is spot on, and the backing vocals are perfectly placed. The build of the song provides much of the appeal, as the string section comes in, giving your ears a real treat. He ends the song by reverting to his acoustic guitar and voice as the main focus of the music. The folksy vibe he creates is rather lovely and inviting. I can’t stop hitting the repeat button on this track, and I would like to make a safe bet that you might have a similar reaction. Other chilling acoustic guitar centered songs from the album include “Winter Song,” “Succumb To Gravity,” and “Who Am I To You.”
There are several tracks that are relatively bass heavy, which, much to my delight, automatically increases the funk presence in the album. I find that the bass is typically understated in rock music, even on the indie side of the spectrum. It’s nice to hear the bass coming through as a key element in songs such as “Seven Years,” “It All Works Out,” “White Gloves,” and “And Now The Leap.” These tracks are more than soulful; I’m going to go as far as to say that they are life enriching. “And Now The Leap” uses distant sounding background vocals under the catchy bass line accompanied by the best drumming on the album. The bass line takes the front seat in “Seven Years,” as the true backbone of the song; the means in which it’s introduced took me by surprise in the best way. After about 45 seconds of a light and airy introduction, the bass takes complete control with the help of the drums. I’d compare it to the highly anticipated moment of the beat finally dropping in an electronic dance music track. Although I would never compare Matthew Santos to electronic dance music, that excitement of the long awaited beat drop was present in “Seven Years,” and it was well worth the wait.
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Some of the tracks on Into The Further take a middle seat between the indie rock, somewhat folksy acoustic guitar songs and the soulfully bass heavy tracks. These songs include “End of the Pipeline (Have a Nice Day!),” “Field and Flower,” and “Second Chances.” “End of the Pipeline” allows Santos’ vocals to shine even more so than already exhibited. The string section is so strong, especially during the chorus and the moments after. It brings a slightly dramatic side of Matthew Santos to light. “Field and Flower” also uses the string section to back up the acoustic guitar, really bringing the song to life. “Second Chances” uses cymbal crescendos to slowly introduce the more booming sections of the track. All of the percussion on this album was extremely well executed, making the entire sound more powerful on the whole.
It pains me that I can’t write a full essay about each and every one of the fourteen tracks on the album, because I would love to; though, I promise I will refrain. With that in mind, I deeply encourage you to allow Matthew Santos to make your whole week better, as you get to know these songs front to back. Santos continues to prove to be much more than a single stint on a Lupe Fiasco song, as he dazzles us with Into The Further.
Article: Alex Feigin
Cover photo: Stephanie Bassos