Just over a year ago, we reviewed Bittersweet Machines’ (a.k.a., Matt Mocharnuk) album, No Bad Horizon, calling the project, “Bright, honest, articulate. Vocally fantastic. Stereophonic bliss.” “…an impressive collection of exquisitely composed tracks—each wrought with much aforethought and contemplation.” And, we put our money where out mouth was by awarding the album an honorable mention in our 2018 Top Ten list.
Now, his fifth album (since forming the moniker in 2012) has just been let loose upon the great sonic highway. Joined by Benjy Johnson (vocal production), Kaitlin Grady (cello), and Kiel Feher (drums), The Stars and Ground, as you will soon experience, is all that we hoped for.
“I chose the name ‘Bittersweet Machines’ because I liked the juxtaposition of the two words. They don’t really seem to go together, but I felt like it captured the duality of my songwriting. ‘Bittersweet’ is a feminine, warm, and emotional word; whereas ‘Machines’ is more masculine and cold.”
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
The album opens with the gorgeous early 2000’s-style radio-rock ballad, You’re My Favorite. Layers of guitar and synth unite with impeccable vocal production to create some etheric amalgamation of Jason Mraz meets Jimmy Eat World. (Yes, we’ve used Jimmy in previous discussions of Matt’s work. And, to be clear, this is meant as high praise.) And let’s not forget the writing. There is a phenomenon whereby humans often tend to remember only the good stuff over time, as the bad drifts and settles away. This opening track is an ode to that phenomenon, and to the best potential in all of us. To use the young people’s slang, it’s just straight woke…
“Even after all this time
As the edges start to blur
Maybe I remember you
Better than you really were
And I don’t even care…”
The album’s stunningly emotional title track, The Stars And Ground, pushes a wall of ambient, new-age-style rock and a comforting love-centric message. We’re two tracks in, and Matt’s growth in the ways of meaningful composition, musical depth, and artistic character have clearly developed into something rare. This is an awe-inspiring song, deserving of much success. It’s the kind of music we wait for, sometimes, for far too long.
You can lay your weary head down
Anywhere you go I’ll find you
In between the stars and ground
Even if it is a long ride
I will always be beside you
There to keep you safe and sound
In between the stars and ground”
“There is no blame to be leveled
We can both take our guns and lay them on the table
There are no words to be spoken
We can be safer in the silence ’til it’s broken…”
Incredible dynamics abound in, Haunting Me, as an electronic, hip-hop-style beat and subtle guitar riff (during the verse) juxtapose another gorgeously explosive chorus in this stylish showing of regret, remorse, and lost love.
We approve of Matt’s assessment of pop culture in, Fire In The City.
The Bruises of a Normal Life celebrates the grimy aspects of life which are all too often admonished…
“Someday when I am an older man
Staring out into the sea
I want the bruises of a normal life
And an ocean of memories…”
“I really wanted the lyrics to represent my current station in life; a significant accumulation of moments and perspective, but also knowing that there is still so much to look forward to.”
The electro-rock fusion of Some Things Can’t Be Undone offers another brilliant demonstration of multi-genre production combined with a brutally honest cultural assessment. Sometimes, there simply are no solutions other than to move through…
“Bullets fly when we speak
Knives come out when our eyes meet
I know the damage is done
Some things can’t be undone…”
Every great song-smith seems to understand how profoundly important it is to have great contrast in one’s art. Just in time, Days To Remember, reminds us that we only “think” we know who Matt Mocharnuk is as a musician. A subtle piano and acoustic guitar melody receive sparkling support from synth and brass in this nostalgic alt-pop number.
Rich & illustrious. Beautiful, emotional alt/fusion-rock music. Reflective. Refreshing. Vibrationally-effecting, changing and uplifting. Full of light. Matt Mocharnuk and his Bittersweet Machines’ fifth studio album, The Stars and Ground, offer so much more than sound. There is an integrity built into the matrix of his sound. A relentless peaceful passion from which all of his music comes forth. Not once does any song on this album leave one feeling that something was either missing, or, over-abundant. It is balanced. Inspiring. Enlightening. Thus, as a whole, the album is something of a unicorn in that there are no throw-away tracks, no skip-ahead moments. Only eleven acts which build upon one another in essential fashion. What more can we say? This album is more than worthy of your time.
Jason Mraz meets Jimmy Eat World with a twists of Morning Parade, Andrew McMahon and Duran Duran…
BELOW: Listen to Bittersweet Machines’ album, The Stars and Ground, 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!