The second full length album from Calgarian Matt Blais, The Heartbeat, is difficult to describe. While Blais describes his own music as “cutting edge alternative blues rock,” I don’t quite think this particular collection of words does his new album justice. His sound is more akin to listening to a 15-year-old Chad Kroeger attempt to sing karaoke in a Batman voice, accompanied by a selection of bland, albeit competent, rock music.
The Heartbeat projects the distinct feel of an artist that tried to bite off more than he could chew. Blais aimed to create a very big, bombastic and emotional sound with this album, but ultimately floundered in its execution. The biggest problem is undoubtedly the vocals, which render the album nigh unlistenable. Blais’s attempts to sound soulful just make him come across as whiny and petulant as he stretches and contorts his voice in an endeavour to create a sound that is far beyond his grasp.
These vocals serve to make the lyrics almost impossible to actually understand, which I suppose is more of a blessing than a curse. Every song on the album is a bland mush comprised of generic themes of desire, hardship and the power of love, and when these lyrics are filtered through Blais’s mess of a voice it becomes a chore to simply pay attention to what he is trying to say.
The instrumentals are the strongest part of The Heartbeat, although they never rise to the point where they can overcome Blais’s vocals. They serve to make “Get Out” the most listenable track on the album, giving it a catchy and upbeat rhythm that shows off the band’s potential. On most of the other tracks, however, the instrumentals are almost as bland as the lyrics, creating a shallow and formulaic soft rock sound.
What makes The Heartbeat so tragic is its demonstration of wasted talent — Blais could most likely be a much better singer if he wasn’t trying to create a sound he is simply incapable of pulling off. If Blais took a step back and changed his band’s direction, he might be able to turn things around, but for now I wouldn’t recommend his music to anyone who likes to be happy.