One Way Ticket

Hometown CD Review 6-9-05
Album name: One Way Ticket (2004)

Matt Szlachetka's one-man-band style is similar to Jack Johnson's or John Mayer's. With just an acoustic guitar and a not-so-discriminating choice of softly spoken phrases, the Northstar Session stays true to the concept of the traditional soft-rock ballad.

Stripped-back melodies and acoustic-guitar riffs propel the first five cuts. Tracks such as "Shining Through" and "Meet Up Again" adhere to the album's initial playful alternative folk-rock feeling. As lead guitarist and vocalist, Szlachetka skillfully performs the acoustic set with his heart on his sleeve: "Drown me with your eyes / let this last forever / make me believe that you'll be mine." These lines from "Where the Flowers Lay" showcase some of his best lyrics backed by lofty keyboarding. Szlachetka's presence becomes somewhat domineering as the album progresses; all the instrumentals are tailored to accommodate him. Szlachetka's voice always remains in the foreground; everything else trails behind. On occasion, the songs allow for some improvisations, though it is done mostly with his acoustic guitar.

"Bluenote" marks the album's turning point. Opening with the lines "Wash these tears from my face, my heart is torn," the downtempo track ushers in an unexpected plummet into dejection. After the previous lolling and introspection, the music blasts, surges, and then crashes into muted pain. The result is high drama and a poignant second half that evidences that the band is capable of more than perky folk melodies. With the exception of the ballad "Last Forever," this trend continues until the disc's final chords.

The Northstar Session adds a great deal of depth and content to their music when their melodic excursions tread upon the serious side. The stylistic change solidifies their core acoustic sound as they further develop their rhythm, making darker undertones vibrant without falling into the pitfall of playing faster and louder.


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