Matt Soren’s project The One Tonic scores in a big way with the EP Won’t Stop and, in a display of confidence, begins the release with its title track. I admire the way Soren can write about his indefatigable attitude towards life with aggressive language yet he never screams or shouts and the musical arrangement retains a sharp though artful edge. Soren’s songwriting has an unabashed personal air, but there’s plenty here listeners who have never experienced the pain of addiction and loved ones falling ill can relate to because Soren writes about his experiences in general open-ended fashion. Though the track adheres to a mid-tempo pace throughout its entirety, the electronic texture of the track gives it a dramatic push that carries listeners along.
The second track “Happy to Feel” has a softer touch, overall, though Soren continues making creative use of electronics and keyboards alike to flesh out the songwriting. The key attraction about this collection for me, including this song, is his vocals. He has some similarities to Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor, but there’s a more roughhewn quality to his voice, an emotional and smoky ambiance that raises the lyrical content several notches with little apparent effort. He doesn’t merely sing these tracks, he inhabits them. Drummer Josh Roda makes an important contribution to this song as well.
It may surprise some listeners, but the electronic underpinning supporting these compositions works quite well within the context of a love song. “All in With You” is just that, an unmitigated love song, and Soren’s songwriting strips away any artifice to reveal the depths of his feelings for, presumably, his wife and the mother of his five children. “Not Your Tool” returns, in some ways, to the thorny emotional terrain of the EP opener and I hear the track as Soren talking to the darker aspects of his own character, the personal demons once driving him towards self-destruction, and rejecting any hold they believe they have over his life. It is a solo performance, the only one included on Won’t Stop, and connects with listeners in an authoritative way.
The finale “Letting Go” is rife with the language of recovery. This is one of the reasons why it is an appropriate finale, but the structure of the track likewise lends itself to being a strong conclusion for the release. Soren threads the composition together in a lucid way as the track’s tempo shifts back and forth between light and shadow, mid tempo and a faster pace. It never has a jarring effect. The EP, overall, packs quite an emotional wallop without ever descending to an artless level – there’s an obviously complex musical sensibility shaping the collection. Won’t Stop accomplishes more in five songs than many full length releases do in nine to a dozen tracks. It is an accessible work despite the personal nature of the songwriting, an achievement much to his credit, and we can only hope Soren and his collaborators will reconvene soon for another One Tonic effort.
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