Album Review: Mat Kearney, ‘Just Kids’

Written by Samantha Evans

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Being an avid music lover of all types of music but mostly rock, I was a little leery on reviewing someone with a heavy hip-hop background. After listening to Mat Kearney’s new album Just Kids I stand corrected. I was impressed with the instrumental and lyrical composition throughout the album. Mat Kearney was hooked on music since he was young. Kearney has a very eclectic mix of musical style, having a background of everything from contemporary Christian music and rock to folk and hip-hop. During college Kearney travelled to Nashville and that is where he had an epiphany and “never looking back” attitude. 2005 was when Mat Kearney’s music career really started with his second album and major album Nothing Left to Lose. The title track and first singled peaked at 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 selling over 500,000 copies. From that moment on Kearney was internationally known.

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Just Kids, being Mat Kearney’s 4th full length, is a nostalgic album with a pin point on Kearney’s youth and upbringing. Anyone that has ever been bullied, had self-remorse or has ever felt lost, “Heartbreak Dreamer” is the song for you. Relatable and melodic, this song is the perfect song to start the album. “For all the heartbreak dreamers waiting for the light. Looking for just one reason to get through the night. Every long lost believer caught in the fight. All the heartbreak dreamers gonna be alright.” Staying on the topic of feeling lost, the next track “Moving On” is a song about moving on from the past and getting stronger. “Well you lit the match and I got caught with the flames. And your voice still rings out through my mind” piercing lyrics from “Moving On” a song about the past and getting stronger. Everyone has had issues from their past that have either remained with them or have been suppressed. This song heals the mind and tells the tale of building yourself back up from the animosity of the past.

“Just Kids” the third and title track is a song of nostalgia. This song is the epitome of when Kearney was growing up in Oregon having an attention to detail about what it was like at the time. With this song Kearney relates life as a young child to “wet cement living down in their souls” making an impression on what lies ahead. “Heartbeat,” which in my opinion wasn’t the strongest song on the record certainly was the most catchy, is a plea for love. With its electronic beat and catchy chorus, it certainly is a song that gets engraved in your skull.

Every album has that one song that you want to dedicate to your significant other. “Billion” is that song. With its upbeat melodies and distinct energy, Kearney paints the picture perfect image of true love. “It’s really about the idiosyncrasies of the person you love,” Mat says. “You can either be annoyed by them or celebrate the things that make the person you’re with unique.” On the other hand the folk-like, “One Black Sheep” goes to the other end of the spectrum and is a song of being well off but still feeling lost.

“Just because it’s pouring down doesn’t mean we’re gonna drown.” Lyrically the power ballad, “Let it Rain” is the most powerful song on the album. Amplifying that life can bring you down and during that time sometimes all you can do is let what is coming come knowing that it will not destroy you in the end. Going along with the nostalgia of the past the poetic, “Ghost” tells the tale of a lingering presence of a loved one. “How do you take the knife from your heart when every beat still hurts the same?”

“Los Angeles,” an anthem for his personal success, paints the image of the city and the dreams that get engulfed by it. With an easy-going flow the song boasts of the camaraderie he gained and the memories he took with him. Going back to the synth-based sound, “Miss You”  tells a tale of personal loss. “Every time I break these chains. Every time I feel this pain. Nothing really ever changed. I’m gonna miss you.” You feel his pain yet know that he rose up from it.

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Heading towards the end of the album, “The Conversation” featuring DC’s own Young Summer, might be the best on the album. Kearney’s lyrics combined with Young Summer’s smooth vocals develops a story of a conversation between two lovers. The chemistry of both vocalists is chilling and haunting while being honest and stunning. Back to the heavy hip-hop roots, “One Heart” is a longing for community and something more in life. “There’s got to be more than just this flesh and bone. Tell me I’m more than just the scars I’ve known. If all that we love is all we ever own more than one, more than one heart beating alone.” The final song, “Shasta” is a perfect ending to this epic journey of the album, tying everything together so to speak. A mysterious melody  grieving the mistakes he’s made and embracing the joys of life.

Personal, Relatable, Emotional. Mat Kearney’s  Just Kids is a journey of life, love, pain and happiness. From someone that was a little apprehensive coming in, I am impressed with every aspect of the album.  Mr. Kearney, you have yourself a new fan.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Mat Kearney’s Just Kids is available on iTunes and Amazon.

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