I can’t count the number of young emo bands who’ve told me in interviews lately that, though they used to find satisfaction in writing good parts, now they’re concerned with writing good songs. (I called Apple and asked if they planned to make parts available for download through iTunes, since by selling songs they already destroyed the album. They had no comment.)
At 35, Jonah Matranga is an old emo guy; depending on when your Alternative Press subscription lapsed, you know him from Far, Onelinedrawing, or New End Original. On the self-titled debut by his current San Francisco–based act Gratitude, Matranga leaves the good parts to the pros: drummer Kenny Aronoff, keyboardist Patrick Warren, pedal steel player Greg Leisz—they’re all featured prominently on a disc produced with muscular precision by industry vet Jim Scott.
Which leaves Matranga free to pursue the same overt songfulness his younger peers are after. You can hear him reaching for it in tunes about churches and bars and guns and daughters, but because he sings with the same top-of-the-lungs conviction he always has, the music comes off as appealingly earnest, not overly solemn. Especially during the part of “The Greatest Wonder” where he sounds like Cher in “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
Gratitude play Randalls Island August 13.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 2, 2005