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Our Burdens Are Our Salvations: Matt Keating’s This Perfect Crime

Matt Keating
This Perfect Crime

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Matt Keating is a guy who knows things about the world.

He knows them the way that Raymond Carver knew them–he knows that when we talk about love we’re not talking about love, we’re talking around love, speaking of the geometry of our hearts rather than the things inside of them. Keating knows the lives we live are rarely the lives we planned on living, and so there’s always a touch of mourning, a razor of regret that drags itself through his work, but not with a heaviness that implies resignation, but rather with a wobbly grace that’s determined to pull itself over the ravines and the rocky roads of human failure and get on with it.

And like Carver, Keating knows that our burdens are our salvations–we just have to stick around and wait for them to make sense.

But let’s back up for a second.

First of all, Matt Keating has never made a bad record. Keating has, in fact, only made great records and over the course of a twenty-five year career, that’s not too shabby. His discography–from the searing pop of Tell It To Yourself to the touching folk of Wrong Way Home–has demonstrated again and again that Keating’s got it all–the finesse of Paul Simon, the lippy snarl of Joe Jackson, and the folk smarts of Loudon Wainwright.  Since the early ’90s Keating has quietly been rock and roll’s Everyman, crafting songs that are redolent with wisdom, philosophy and keen observation.

They’re also really, really catchy.

This Perfect Crime is the name of Keating’s new one and it may very well be the best record of his career.

A lilting, wistful and rousing effort, This Perfect Crime is songcraft at its finest–one of those eleven song collections that keeps you hanging on every word, every syllable and every stroke of the strings on his guitar.

And Keating deserves that kind of attention–he’s one of the most arresting and engaging singer/songwriters out there and you don’t need me to remind you that Out There is a pretty large place.

The gentle acoustic shuffle “When They’ve Thrown You Away” has an altogether stirring narrative; the elegant punch of “Mothers Day” is a gorgeous homage and the aching “Sullivan Street” brings to mind the solo work of Mark Mulcahy. Later, the dark and delicious jazz of  “Hell If I Know” sounds like it was cooked in the shadows; “The Only Thing” manages a slow and delicate burn and the album closing “This Must Be Love” is a love letter to the imperfections of love and it’s one of the most romantic songs you’ll ever hear.

Keating’s songs always sound like they come from a quiet, inner place, where the conscience can survey our anxieties, our disappointments, our heartbreaks and our failures and make sense of the tangled wires of our lives. Of course, they’ll tangle right back up again, but when Matt Keating sings, everything sounds like it’s going to be okay.

Even the stuff we know doesn’t stand a chance suddenly seems like it actually might.

And we need that a little more than all the time.