Matt Southern & Lost Gold


Potluck Foundation; Mar. 29 

Could there be a more fitting name for a Raleigh folk-rock band than Matt Southern & Lost Gold? Even putting aside the “Southern,” “lost gold” sounds torn from a Faulkner simile about the sunset. Even if the name didn’t so strongly suggest the hazy light and melancholy beauty of a Southern summer, the music would definitely get the job done.

Opener “Gilles Garnier” begins with a ramshackle yet satisfyingly assertive drumbeat. Just before a sweet, rattling acoustic guitar joins in, you can hear its wood body creaking and imagine yourself floating down the Eno River on some June day. This image is reinforced by Southern’s sleepy, drifting vocals, which have the natural echo and warmth of someone singing in a kitchen—undoubtedly a deliberate production choice, like leaving the guitar creak in the mix. “Oh, the heat is rising off slowly now, the day is lost,” Southern sighs, evoking the slow fade of summer.

But later on the song, when he sings, “Hear them march, and hunt for me,” I was reminded that the title refers to the story of a sixteenth-century French hermit who, after killing and eating six children, was convicted of being a werewolf and burned at the stake. This is indicative of the disconnect between the straightforward good vibes of the music and the sometimes-dark subject matter. This incongruity lends the album’s otherwise standard folk fare a dynamic feel. “Seven Rungs” speeds off with dexterous guitar work reminiscent of Malian pop artists like Sidi Touré. “Hands” has the bandstand bounce of 1960s surf-rock and features springy electric guitar parts like those found in Congolese soukous music (or bands called Vampire Weekend).

These elements, unusual to roots rock, are what make this record so surprising at times. More conventional songs like “Homesick” and “Small Steps” are nice and cozy enough. But when Matt Southern and his band spread their roots, truly exciting music ensues.