We’re thrilled to be listening to the latest release from prolific Greensboro, NC artist Bittersweet Machines (AKA Matt Mocharnuk). We’re no strangers to his work; we’ve previously reviewed his albums No Bad Horizon and The Stars and Ground, both records we immensely enjoyed. In his latest release Disco Volante, we find many of the hallmark traits of our favorite Bittersweet Machines tunes – emotional, balanced alt-rock music where each track is a complete work of art on its own.
Disco Volante is Mocharnuk’s first EP, but it is his 6th release in the last eight years. The project started as the desire to record a cover song – in this case, Winter Marches On by Duran Duran (an artist whose influence we can clearly feel in the Bittersweet Machines catalog). The cover song is featured on the EP, alongside four new Bittersweet Machines originals, and two acoustic tracks.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
Across the entire album, we are regularly treated to lyrics and stories that resonate, however, Battle Lines really highlights Mocharnuk’s lyrical ability. The message of the song is simple: everyone is fighting a battle that you might not know about. But in the chorus, which evolves at each repetition, we’re told of the message in a relatable and meaningful way:
“Then I look at you bursting into light
Are you broken too?
Cause you don’t seem to mind
You carry on with grace
I carry all the weight upon my back
But I don’t fold
Cause it’s mine to hold”
This is carried doubly by the production, as the track opens up beautifully at the chorus, and in the full-production version, the instrumentation truly does the lyrical component justice. However, in the acoustic version, the opposite effect happens – the reduced instrumentation in the chorus allows Mocharnuk’s vocals to shine in a way that the emotion comes through even stronger.
The cover of Winter Marches On is a phenomenal and totally original take on the song. While the Duran Duran version might be called spacey and has a rhythm that gives the track an almost medieval lilt, the Bittersweet Machines version is wonderfully modernized and a touch heavier in an unexpected but completely welcome way. The production eludes to the original with the inclusion of multiple string sections, but the addition of distorted guitars and full drums give more emphasis to the emotion of the track overall. The differences are executed in a way that is so very consistent with the tones and qualities of this EP that someone who doesn’t know the original track might assume it was written for this project.
The inclusion of an acoustic rendition of The Stars and Ground (from the album by the same name) is something we were thrilled to find. It reminds us of how much we enjoyed the beautiful, anthemic original. This version does what many great acoustic renditions of songs do – it allows the song itself to become the star. Not that the production from the original took away from the track at all – the opposite is certainly true – but there’s something magical about hearing such an expressive track stripped down to its core.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
Opening track Seraphina pulls you in right away, with some pop-punk influences showing their colors early on – for fans of early 2000s music in this same genre, there’s definitely a nostalgia factor here. The track has a great build, starting with minimal production and culminating in our favorite section: the chorus. The hook is infectious, the kind of tune we find ourselves still humming to ourselves long after the track has ended. Mocharnuk makes mention of the fact that he worked to simplify this track in order to make it the kind of song you can sing along to after the second chorus – to this end, we think he has been wildly successful. It’s an extraordinarily catchy tune that still manages to elude to an emotional story, which is often a challenge in songwriting. The touch of sadness in the lyrics gives this track another deeper layer beyond its memorable melodies.
High-level songwriting in a genre where the lyrics are far too often overlooked. Production that only adds to the songs, allowing the melodies to stand on their own as the surrounding instrumentation simply aids them in shining. This music is thoughtfully crafted, and the respect Matt Mocharnuk has for his art is apparent track after track – there are no filler songs here. Disco Volante is an exquisite collection of alt-pop-rock music that clearly shows that Bittersweet Machines is an artist on the rise and one we look forward to keeping an eye on for years to come.
Something Corporate meets Secondhand Serenade
BELOW: Listen to Disco Volante and connect with his website and social media platforms. Please support Bittersweet Machines by visiting him online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing his music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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