Released: April 2018
Reviewed by: Benedict Roff-Marsh
Chapel Nights is really the work of one Matt Winter with some vocals delivered by Tayla-Jane Jackson. I met Matt and his songs in a Facebook group for the music software we both use.
As the name suggests, this is Matt’s first album. Ever! He had no background in making music but through personal circumstance (explained on the album page) he started to turn his words into songs.
We’ll dispense with the concerns first. The album mix is a little unpolished but from talking to Matt he mixed this using a pair of computer speakers, as opposed to studio monitors. Sure the voices sound a little flat and the tracks are a bit too warm but this really isn’t a killer at all. If anything, it makes the record sound more intimate and true.
The larger complaint I have is one that is common to “modern” composition and mixing. The songs tend to be driven far too much by drums & bass. Rather than composing the piece around the song, the lyrics tend to feel lost in blamming & pulsing with melodic elements less than fleshed out because the drums & bass are already filling the space. I’d love to hear Matt become more confident in his songs and songwriting so he relies less on bass to fill the space and allows the melodies to develop more.
While some of the technical limitations are slightly obvious, what Matt has brought to the table with “One” is a nice collection of songs that fit into the Synth Pop calling card but have a nice dark intimacy that suits the genre well. Especially if you already own some Depeche Mode.
There are 12 Songs, all of around three & a half minutes; so just under 42 minutes. Definitely fine for a Pop record. The songs sound similar so no nasty surprises.
As mentioned before, this is very much in the Synth Pop camp and proud of it. You get fat pulsing basslines and detuned monophonic leads aplenty. Vocals are a bit sunk into the mix so it may take a few spins to get the words clear. Worth it though.
Songs are relatively simple with none appearing to offer sparkling couplets but a great thing is that they focus on the basics of love & loneliness in a universal way. These may be Matt’s songs but I feel they also can represent my feelings as I hear them.
For too long, lyrics have been far too wrapped-up-in-self to be universal. Rock & Pop are narcissistic by nature but once they cross the border of being too whiney then they stop being good art. It is great to hear clear simple sentiments.
Repeated listens have definitely helped this record grow on me.
I own a lot of what people lump into Synth Pop these days but interestingly, it is hard for me to make direct comparisons to many particular records. I’ll take this as a good thing as all too often modern Synth Pop tends to be too close a copy (minus the melodies).
Obviously, I do think of Depeche Mode and particularly the “Violator” album (which has a mix of great and undercooked songs as they tried to become “modern”). There are slight parallels with A Flock Of Seagulls’ seemingly simple Pop songs that weren’t always as cheery as they appeared. Also, Aussie band Pseudo Echo as they tried to break into America with a brighter Pop record with “Love An Adventure”.
Chapel Nights “One” is on offer for only £2 (or more). Well worth that if you have a soft spot for Pop music and especially Synth Pop.