Combining cool, crisp vocals with a mellow soundscape. Welcome to the gloriously creative world of musician Matthew Barton. The release of EP Queen of England on a limited run of cassettes, affirms a spark of eccentricity, whilst a gorgeous vintage nostalgia flows through his music.
With simple bass hooks and tender guitar strums. Music is chilled yet quirky, basking in subtle looped-rhythms and tantalising pops of synth. DIY percussion patters throughout, and we are instantly transported to hazy days in Laurel Canyon. Sat around a smoky campfire sunset, ready for this roaring retro-trip. Just visualise that washed out sepia grain in your favourite old photograph. It is clear to see that Barton creates music as though it is a cherished snapshot in time, reincarnated in 2020.
Opening the EP with Cruising. Barton utilises varying vocal and guitar pitches, to create a mysterious ambience. Laced with lyrics of jealousy, longing and lust. The track introduces us to an ingenious aspect of musical experimentation, as Barton combines sinister high points with delirious ‘crooner’ vocal lows. As the tape flows through to second track Queen of England, we propel forward with a prominent percussion beat and an upbeat charm. Marrying oddly well with Barton’s jesting lyrics, that take a jab at the monarchy and state of the world. An impressive vocal range is once again displayed in majestic fashion, along with that undeniable flair for self-production. Showcasing numerous instruments played and recorded. Barton charges forward with a kaleidoscope of musical influence, ranging from the grunge of PJ Harvey to Spector 60s surf-pop.
Next track Lady Jane Days is a short interlude, at just over a minute long. It cools us down, and delves into the delectable laid back sound that dominates the overall style of this EP. Stripping the soundscape back to crunching guitars and subtle piano keys, Barton crafts a tender yet biting track, reminiscent of The Doors, as track Barb bursts with 60s Rock Revolution. So rooted is this gritty vocal delivery, Barton shines as a captivating muse, through rousing lyrics and a suave musical style.
Signature ballad of the EP Alcatraz, has a lyrical slant towards memories and ‘the grass is always greener’ concept. It’s a white picket fence nightmare, cradling what we have in one hand, with what we desire in the other. Barton’s vocals are serenely soft and almost chilling, brooding over this thought-provoking tune. We feel the turn of the key, as he unlocks himself from those shackles of day-to-day constraint, spilling secrets and thoughts, in harmony with his detuned guitar. The longest track of the EP, Alcatraz flows so fluidly in its tender format, with simple beginnings in gentle playing, building to become raucous and rampant as the track deepens.
Penultimate track Judy Garland perfects its fizz of 60s pop. With radio crackles and vintage vibrance to boot. Lo-fi beauty displayed in all its ambience. The track has an abundance of lovelorn groovy vocals and melodious harmonies. Gifting that brilliant Beatlesque sound, one could only dream of! Guitar and drum pitches are repetitive and rhythmic, creating a song that is catchy and charming. As the EP comes to a close through final track When I Was Young. Tempos glide by in a yearning lullaby, to cast our minds out to the horizon and drift away on a gentle breeze. Melancholy, vintage blues wash over our consciousness. Caressed by Barton’s soothing soundscape. The beautiful lead-single of the EP, praised by BBC Introducing for its “Stevie Nicks-style” sound.
There is no denying that Queen of England sets a striking musical scene. A culmination of stories, moments and memories, embodied through rich vocals steeped in nostalgia and a sun-kissed charm. The variety of instruments used only enhance the gorgeous eccentricity, with a self-produced realness captured on the lo-fi four track recording.
Through Barton’s self-confessed “postcard from quarantine” we are swept away to another place and another time. A clever musical escape, that will surely resonate with many.