Matchbox has a hint of danger and a strong sense of time and place.
I had a few crushes in high school, and when those feelings were forcefully extinguished one way or another, it was a painful time. I would be introduced to a new band via that crush, and for a brief time, I could not listen to that band without thinking of that person. Eventually, I moved on, but I learned my mind has a remarkable ability to tie memories into objects and places. Toronto’s Meagan Aversa cannot seem to escape these associations in the four songs of her debut EP, Matchbox.
These four extremely introspective songs feel less like a person openly crying and more like a person keeping composed while in public. Opener “Torso” made me think of Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” with its opening finding Aversa driving past a former lover’s house, but that’s where the similarities end. While Rodrigo makes everything explicit about why driving past the house is heartbreaking, Aversa recalls specific places: the temperature of countertops, car seat fabric stained dark by spilled coffee, an unopened glove compartment. Where Rodrigo makes it clear how much her heart was broken, Aversa may be shell-shocked: all she sees are featureless torsos rather than people. The gentle keys and sparse drums of “Torso” make it easy for Aversa to lay these feelings bare.
“Blush” makes a song out of turning red, be it from feeling the touch of a loved one or simply from the wind on a cold day. Aversa still sees a loved one in everything as in “Torso,” but this time there is the briefest rekindling of romance before it is doused again. Aversa feels lost, “A monorail with no plan or direction.” She tries to re-establish contact with that person but fails: “Started writing you some words / Couldn’t get past the first three.”
Simple bass chords and spacey keys back “Speed River,” as Aversa’s world begins to shrink and drain in colour. Aversa recalls meeting somebody on a dance floor, but she quickly feels suffocated by the atmosphere. There’s a remarkable dose of passion in Aversa’s otherwise restrained vocals in the final verse: “The last time I tried to set fire / I dropped the matches into the Speed River.” There’s a louder, grungier energy to “Some People Are Mountains,” but it feels like a mask for Aversa’s insecurities. She wants to find something or someone she will “love so much my insides will spill,” but she doesn’t think she’s strong enough for another relationship: “Some people are mountains, and I am hardly a hill,” Aversa says, which might be one of the saddest self-assessments put to music.
Matchbox is an apt title for this collection: a hint of danger, a strong sense of time and place. Ultimately the matches inside don’t ignite, but you never know when Aversa might find a reason to light one.