Contrast and color are key components in making any record sound and feel special, and in Matt Zaddy’s Be, both can be found in all seven of the songs that the LP contains. Old school R&B-style grooves get a fiery indie rock update in “Brighter Days,” and while this track sports as much of a blues-influenced guitar sizzle as the closing number “Greater Things” does, it distinguishes the substance of its narrative through sharp poetic verses, a spellbinding set of grooves and a traditional pop hook that has been reworked for Zaddy’s uniquely warm vocal.

“A Dear Friend” uses a bright piano part to add a layer of emotionality to the words that wouldn’t have been as prominent otherwise, and although it has a difficult time filling the sonic void left behind by the fire-starting opening track “Busy,” it wouldn’t be very fair to suggest that any of the other material here could have done a better job. As Zaddy’s leadoff single from Be, “Busy” samples from all of the textures found on its parent record only to amalgamate them into one of the most passionate performances I’ve heard from this songwriter to date. It’s a smashing identity song, and a perfect way for newcomers to get acquainted with this deeply gifted player.


“A Tiny Spark” is definitely one of my favorite songs from Be, and not because of its gorgeous harmonies alone. Everything is so delicate in this track, and yet its chorus is one of the more emotively cratering of any on the album. Together with “The Truth” and the throwback alternative rock ballad “Little River,” “A Tiny Spark” sets forth a confidence in Matt Zaddy’s voice that is both inspiring and undisputedly contagious. For every unapologetically self-aware statement he makes here, there’s an optimistic melody waiting in the shadows to lift listeners beyond any adversity that hearing the truth might present them with.

Be is short, simple and to the point, clocking-in at just under a half-hour in total running time, but if you’ve been searching for a contemplative opus from a certifiably independent songwriter, you can’t do much better than the seven songs that Matt Zaddy has packaged together in this album. Unwaveringly brooding and consistently more expressive than any of the chart-toppers that I’ve heard on the radio recently, Be demands (and gets) a reaction out of listeners one way or another, and hopefully we’ll be treated to a sequel from Zaddy sometime in 2020.

Garth Thomas