Matthew and the Arrogant Sea: Family Family Family Meets the Magic Christian

Music Reviews Matthew and the Arrogant Sea
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Matthew and the Arrogant Sea: <em>Family Family Family Meets the Magic Christian</em>

A modest debut

Whistles, lasers, bubbles, programmed blips, Bronx cheers and jittery strings adorn this Texas troupe’s first full-length—but quirks can’t always supply substance to feathery acoustic strums. Still, there’s upwelling evidence here of capable symphonic blends: Opener “Within the Universe” spills over with joyful noisemaking and affirmations of friends (including aliens); “Negro Jewish” showcases ambient, melodic cycles that layer into progressively darker soundscapes; and “Mock Origami” draws on cavernous choral accompaniment, background warbling and rattlesnake tambourine to secure some of the band’s strongest collaborative moments. Although several tracks never quite develop beyond lulling repetition, and Matthew Gray’s lyrics have the tendency to nudge whimsical absurdity into outré distractions (“Last time I saw Jesus / He was talking to Elvis Presley / he was mimicking all the zebras”), there's an all-hands-on-deck spirit here that makes Family an auspicious debut, even if these tempestuous avant-pop waters are difficult to navigate.

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