Rhythm isn’t just a catalyst for stunningly artistic charisma in Matt Bonner’s seminal LP Seven Words; it just might be the greatest element in the framework the album features. Although Bonner’s vocal creates unmatched character in tracks like the title cut, “Over the Edge,” “Lions” and Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” it’s the grooving that transpires beneath his verses that tends to carry the greatest intensity in this piece. Even after twelve years, the record stings on the strength of its relentless beats and the collective force starting with its leading man, who solidified his place in history with this one-of-a-kind late 2010s release.
“Lions” is widely considered the star centerpiece of this LP, but I don’t think it dwarfs any of the material sitting beside it at all. “303,” “Not Everything” and “Awake, Then” present us with just as grand a collection of narratives as the aforementioned single does, and I would even say that without the presence of all ten songs in this tracklist, we wouldn’t walk away from Seven Words feeling as affected by the content as we do in this instance. It’s not quite a concept album, but for what Bonner constructed in this era, it certainly comes close (and in the best ways possible).
The production quality here has aged exceptionally well, and I think that “Railway Line” and “Version of You” have particularly retained their majestic sensibilities in a manner most of the music released around this chapter in pop history hasn’t. They say it’s hard to create a mainstream sound that stays fresh through the decades, and to me, a formidable indie album like this one goes a long way towards backing such a notion up. There’s nothing negatively tethering this to the past; on the contrary, there’s a lot of elemental melodicism that could be revisited today, were artists keen enough to take influence from the structure of Seven Words.
Despite the clubby feel of the tempo in “Awake, Then” and “Lions,” there’s nothing but pure intimacy in tracks like “Version of You,” “Over the Edge” and “Not Everything,” dominating the big picture of this LP with personality more than plasticized familiarity. Bonner’s was one of the most acerbic approaches to pop songcraft of any to have come out of the woodwork in his scene between 2007 and 2012, and from certain angles, you can see where his legacy has already bled into a lot of upstart alternative concepts still being experimented with in 2021.
Surprisingly more complex and sophisticated than I remember it being, Matt Bonner’s Seven Words and its ten tenacious slabs of sonic wonder comprise a classic that I would highly recommend you take a second look at this spring, if for no other reason than to embrace the wit of a profoundly underrated singer/songwriter in the storied New England underground. This is one killer LP, even after a decade on record store shelves, and whether you’re listening to it for the first time this May or letting it whisk you away on a journey into the past once more, it’s still a must-listen in my book.
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