I was first introduced to Montréal-based artist Matt Holubowski at a small concert in a St. John’s church where he was opening as a solo act for Dan Mangan. From there, I discovered his 2016 album Solitudes, which Holubowski had the grace to discuss with me for a graduate paper I was writing at the time. I gleaned a lot of insight from that conversation about living intentionally and inviting thoughtfulness through songwriting. Flash forward to 2020, and Weird Ones emerged just before the pandemic and remained a looking glass through which to glean some calm and beauty in a threatening world. Every time I rediscover his music, I am blown away by the many levels of nuance existing so harmoniously in his songs, and this latest release is no exception.
“End Scene” is the first single from his upcoming record, Like Flowers on a Molten Lawn. It’s a perfect example of Holubowski’s poetic sensibilities reaching equilibrium with a primal noisiness, beginning with the soft chatter of voices, snaps, and hums. The gradual entrance of the electric guitar is surrounded by a rich atmospheric pad that builds warmth in the listening experience. There is subtle gradation and eruption, all seamlessly blending into one flow of energy from start to end, with a short trip to another realm around the 3:30 mark. The instrument list on Bandcamp explains the complex textures, featuring an especially fun arrangement including horns, marxophone, Farfisa, and apparently, pterodactyl.
Holubowski’s sound is highly observable, playing with strangeness more on “End Scene” than with earlier works. There’s a lot going on, yet no one instrument or phrase is competing with another, and the carefully crafted harmony invites close listening. The lyrics don’t exactly subscribe to a pop verse structure but instead unfold like a stream of consciousness in the fashion of good storytelling: “In about half of my dreams, I am another, Talking in my sleep, About gardens, and the garage, Where I tinker on myself, We’re growing like flowers, On a molten lawn.” The lyrics feel to me like a declaration of intent to stay grounded another day, answering the urge to “follow the light” with a “hell no”.
Holubowski also released a music video packed with nostalgia and space paraphernalia that recalls the wonder of discovering your place in the universe. Upon stepping out of his bedroom, into the classroom, onto a racetrack, into a gym, and then into an aircraft, the space-travelling protagonist works and plays his way through life surrounded by the encouragement of fellow earthlings. After a lifetime of looking fearlessly at this inexplicable existence, he rests easily in what could be a coffin or a hibernation pod with a choose-your-own-adventure-esque ambiguity.
The message of “End Scene” is one I think a lot of musicians and poets are offering their listeners with the understanding that more and more people are becoming unable to ignore the precarity of civilized life in recent years. It’s a message of radical acceptance, dispelling the belief that surrender is the end.
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