Matthew de Zoete is a singer/songwriter hailing from a farm in rural Ontario, who released his third album, Colour Film, on May 8. Inspired by old home movies of his grandparents, Colour Film is somewhat of a concept album. "My intention with this album was to make a collection of songs that were direct and succinct enough to be the soundtrack for a short film."
The opening lines of first track "The Good Life" are a rather unusual place to start, though. "I've got my hands in the sink," de Zoete sings, "I'm washing dishes while the sun goes down." In the hands of someone else, this might be the start of a story about a downtrodden man trying to escape from a hard-luck town. But with perhaps the most unassuming opening line of a love song, de Zoete wants to tell a far different tale. "The Good Life" unfolds like scenes in a movie, but these are the seemingly mundane, stage-setting scenes whose function is to leave an impression without the need for an actor to utter a line. "We're getting dressed in our room," he continues, "I hear the tick and tack of high-heel shoes." The imagery is striking, but brilliant for what it doesn't say as much as what it does: You make me indescribably happy. Near the track's closing, de Zoete repeats the dish-washing imagery ("I've got these dishpan hands"), but immediately subverts it ("You let them hold you til it's closing time"). In this film, the actors say "I love you" without ever speaking those three words.
The counterpoint to "The Good Life" is "We're Dying," the story of a crumbling marriage. With delicate percussion and finger-picked acoustic guitar, de Zoete's character makes simple yet powerful observations ("There's no more magic in your hair") as he wakes from a dream in which his wife slept "with someone we both know." He almost seems to wish for it to be true, as it would at least provide some tangible reason to leave her, rather than continue to endure the slow, unspoken dissolution of their relationship. He realizes that their marriage is broken beyond repair, but is unwilling to seize any initiative to do something about it ("Where we go from here, I leave that up to you"). It's fascinating stuff.
Both tracks (along with "Going Nowhere") are available for free download for a limited time.
Colour Film is a collection of great stories, told with Matthew de Zoete's strong vocals, and wrapped in instrumental accompaniment that is atmospheric but never gets in the way.