American musician Matthew S. Horner is already back with another full-length album just a few months after his debut Outta’time in June. The new record is called The Dark Room and it’s a remarkable growth both in composition and sound in such a short period of time. The title of the album was inspired by Matthew’s home studio where he wrote and recorded almost every instrument himself: “Its called “The Dark Room” because that’s my studio. It’s not big, and I have neon signs with dark purple lighting. It’s the atmosphere I created it all in”, and we do get that sense of intimacy on the recordings.
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A self-described “pop-punk dad that never fully grew up”, Matthew’s take on the pop-punk/emo sound is definitely an inspired one. Tipping into a whole scene at once, The Dark Room immediately transports you to that early 2000s Warped Tour with sounds that reminisce everything from No Use For A Name to New Found Glory to blink-182 and does it so beautifully.
Across the seven tracks that make up The Dark Room, we get to experience the real and raw emotions from Matthew behind everything – mostly his love for pop punk itself. The Dark Room sounds like an homage to a whole genre, while still sounding interesting and adding new things. On his debut, he experimented more with blending pop-punk with electronics, but on this one, it’s all punk rock.
The record kicks things off with “Start the Engines”, a glorious two-and-a-half minute song that sets the mood of what you’re about to hear perfectly: it features nice guitar sounds and meaningful lyrics about chasing what you really want. The line ‘dreams of a child different than his brothers’ sums up Matthew’s career and pursuit of music very beautifully. Also, it’s an absolute banger.
From then on, Matthew explores themes that are very personal to him in a conscious choice of writing from the heart. “I decided to let loose and write what I felt and not try to write what I thought people wanted to hear”, he says about the process of making The Dark Room. And it shows as he sings lyrics like ‘I’ll figure it out on my own’ on “Figure It Out”, the second track and the first one written for the album. This act of letting go and doing his own thing makes The Dark Room sound more mature than his first, at the same time that it feels lighter and brighter somehow.
Matthew has an incredible melodic sense and makes fantastic use of the quiet-loud-quiet dynamics heard on remarkable works from acts like Pixies and Green Day. He understands pop punk and rock music’s core and knows how to write to it. The centerpiece of the album is “Storms”, an urgent track that starts off strong and never slows down as Matthew sings about overcoming difficulties that segues perfectly into “Wait of the World”, the album’s most experimental track. The use of electronic drums and synths on the song’s verses as Matthew’s vocals appear to be on a second plane make it so interesting and exciting to listen to.
The Dark Room wraps up with “Wings of an Angel” and “Dark Heart”, the two tracks that sound most like what he’s done on the debut album. There are synths and anthemic choruses that remind you of something we could’ve heard from someone like AFI. It closes a great album with an absolute bang, no doubt.
Matthew worked again with his friend and producer Adam Buckley on The Dark Room, in a partnership for the ages. “He just gets me. He will always be my producer and worked on my first album as well”, Matthew says. The Dark Room marks a shift for the singer, by writing freely and making music that he himself would like to listen to, Matthew made an album that sounds more mature and more fun than before. It feels like Matthew found his voice and where he wants his music to come from, and that is exactly why it sounds so good and so compelling: “It is pure and it is me”. Guess it looks like someone finally grew up.
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