To be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with Emery. I love the band when Toby Morrell is singing the clean vocals, but I'm not fond of the screaming that inherently kicks in. So when I first heard the rumors of a possible acoustic Emery album, I was pumped. That project has now materialized for the most part with the union of Morrell and fellow Emery band mate, Matt Carter, and, while it isn't a fully acoustic effort, it's no less the album I was hoping for.
If FM Static is the softer, poppy version of Thousand Foot Krutch, Matt & Toby is the softer, poppy version of Emery. However, this duo showcases a far deeper lyrical insight than FM Static ever did. The snappy opening and danceable chorus of "Life Of The Party" only partially disguises the song's desire to be more than a partying song ("I still remember my parents divorcing/It took 10 long years of the back and forth thing/Finally I saw it in my mother's eyes/A road you can choose that you can't come back from"). Although it's not the deep appeal of the album, the catchy beat continues later in the album with "Prodigal Sons And Daughters" which adds necessary levity when stacked against the weightier tracks.
Often times, Matt & Toby focuses on God and family. The serious pop rock "What Plays In My Head" has excellent development and conveys the fears and hope of a father ("That I could be a man of faith in this quiet home that we both made/And tell our son and daughter I believe in God"). The touching biography and acoustic guitar drive the terrific finale, "The Last One." Although not the musical pinnacle of the album, "Take Me Oh Lord In Thy Hands" has a rousing finish to go along with hymn-like lyrics.
The bouncier "Come Home" and quiet strength of "You Will Sing" are both solid, diverse songs, but there are a handful of moments on Matt & Toby's debut that don't hold up to the high standard they set for much of the album. Considering the acoustic nature of the release, the synthesized vocals that pop up indiscriminately are out of place and are more of a distraction than an addition. The intense tone that starts "Good Boys" oddly evaporates when the refrain kicks in, the echoes in the vocals on "Sunday Morning, February 12th" don't increase the song's limited replay value, and the ballad "Oh No" isn't as satisfying as it could have been.
Obviously Emery's appeal is more than just their hard stuff, and fans should have no problem diving into and digesting Matt & Toby. However, the album isn't just a side project for devoted Emery fans to enjoy. Although the there are a few misses, the acoustic rock album is varied and offers a good selection of songs to go along with several highlights. As I hinted to before, this is the sort of project that I'd like to see from Emery with every release, but since this is unlikely, I hope for another Emery album soon which is quickly followed by another outpouring from Matt & Toby.- Review date: 11/19/12, written by Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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