Most bands don’t have a back story that merits mentioning when they release their debut EP but here it does and adds a relevant depth to what you hear over the course of these six inspiring songs. Brighton, MA’s lead singer/songwriter Matthew Kerstein is a former member of Chicago buzz band Scotland Yard Gospel Choir and at the peak of a growing popularity crescendo, Kerstein parted ways with the chamber-pop collective in 2003 to form Brighton, MA. The departure was more stylistic than an ego issue and if you listen to the Choir's debut disc I Bet You Say That To All the Boys you can hear the stylistic differences between Kerstein and Elia -- who has also since carried on as the Choir’s front man for the release of an equaling stunning sophomore album this fall on Bloodshot Records.
With the lead track “Bet You Never Thought,” Kerstein and company remixed a previous Kerstein-penned Choir gem and removed the chamber-pop horn-based melody for a more anthemic and hopeful acoustic guitar version—evidence of the quartet’s knack for writing songs that conjure a pop-folk hybrid of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison. As a whole, track to track, lyric to sonics, I was blown away at how Kerstein maturely merges the lyrical muscle with the melody and never compromises one for the other. Each track hums and sparkles. Kerstein’s songwriting is a cohesive blending of realism and nostalgia. “Good Kind of Crazy” and “Ballad For Cool Hand” are two examples of how, even though the songs are dealing with complex topics, they never get lost in themselves or in the crafty metaphors Kerstein’s creates.
With this EP, music fans can all learn a lesson. If a favorite band splits, it just might be because there’s some really great music that needs to get made, and apparently, Kerstein knew it along.