Matt Kivel’s Janus Finds Power in the Mundane

Matt Kivel Janus

Today in New York City everything is dreary and gray. The weather may be a great equalizer, but sometimes it feels like a reflection of collective mood, like the sky registered what’s going in our hearts and is flailing along with us. I grew up in Oregon, where gray skies and drizzling rain were the most consistent part of my world, so the heavy slowness of a day like today doesn’t necessarily strike me as sad. We need these moments of gray stillness, to differentiate between the crisp bright ones—a placeholder between sunny and stormy. We need the middle days. That’s where a musician like Matt Kivel comes in.

When Kivel’s first real solo LP Double Exposure came out back in 2013, Pitchfork critic Jayson Green called it “daily music,” and that phrase stuck with me. The LA-based musicians has been in other bands–namely Gap Dream and Princeton–collaborated with countless other people, released one-off tracks and even another album, Days Of Being Wild, in 2014, but the general sentiment remains. These are songs like your favorite jeans, the sweater that makes you feel safe, that daily bodega coffee. The songs on his latest album Janus are built for consistency, for wear and tear. They’re like subway rides and casually ordered lunch specials–they’re regular, they’re part of the fabric. And we need them for that reason.

Not every record must push forward the entire human race with the force of its artistic will. Some are just for us, as we go on living, meditating on the mundane things that quietly make our time here worthwhile. Kivel’s got a voice that sounds like dandelion spore, clinging some notes together in whispered confidence before whisking up and away, almost off-key, at times. His falsetto on “Violets” bleeds into a jazzy noise breakdown, but pops up again soft and familiar to kick off the next track, “Pyrrha.” My favorite is the slightly rubbery kick of penultimate track “Orpheus,” that’s replete with playful fingerpicking. But maybe you’ll have a different preference, maybe it’ll be the slightly ominous “The Shining Path,” the jagged, saxophone-streaked tension of “Jamie’s,” or pastoral grower “Janice.” Regardless, here is a record to make you appreciate your everyday life. Sometimes we’re so busy searching for greatness, we forget: There is power in the mundane, too. Listen below via Spin.

Janus is out this Friday, 2/5 via Driftless Recordings. Get it here.

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