“Viral / Gone Viral / The whole world’s in a spiral / And I don’t know if the change will come / From a needle or some pixels or a gun / Gone viral.”
You could be easily forgiven for stating that an eternity has passed since popular Toronto, ON singer-songwriter Matthew Barber shared new music, because you would be partly correct. Indeed, while Matthew appears to have gone ‘radio-silent’ following the release of “Phase of the Moon,” his last album dating back to June 2018, this JUNO-nominated artist has been keeping himself incredibly busy inside the studio. Just not necessarily front and center where the microphones are placed, and where you’d expect to find him.
“Tribal / Gone tribal / It’s always been about survival / And I hope we’re not heading for war / Fighting with our double-edged swords / Gone tribal.”
Having nurtured a passion for extending his talents to behind the consoles, Barber has taken on the role of producer for several of his emerging musician friends as of late. You may recall “Artefact,” the recent debut album from Clever Hopes – one that saw Barber connect with his long-time friend Andrew Shaver (and Eva Foote), convinced them to come to Toronto, and then produced this stunning record (and contributed his instrumental skills on select tracks too). Stumble around Toronto right now, and you’ll find Barber working hard behind those consoles even today – currently producing records for Ian Lake, Kristina Dervaitis, and the highly anticipated forthcoming album for Noah Reid.
With many solo albums under his belt, Matthew Barber has always kept his sound fresh, and has consistently demonstrated a natural ability to juggle genres with ease. With music ranging from indie-pop to folk, and pop-rock to alt-country, Barber is no one-trick-pony – as further evidenced by his stunning collaboration with his sister Jill Barber on “The Family Album” in 2016, where folk and jazz influences fused beautifully to expand his musical identity. And with this self-penned brand-new single, “Viral,” Barber pushes those boundaries once again, this time adding some vintage soul sounds to his repertoire.
“I know that we’ve been here before / But since then we’ve learned so much more / Oh we may have sharper tools / But we don’t always know how to use them / After all we’re only human / And they don’t come with clear instructions / They may save lives or cause destruction.”
With a nod to the sounds of Otis Redding, and some timeless ‘almost Glen Campbell’ country influences, “Viral” finds Barber not only singing live to tape with his band, but shares his lyrical thoughts in just under two and a half minutes with minimal adornment. “Viral is about the accelerated world we live in. A world in which technology grapples with nature and ingenuity spawns unintended consequences,” Matthew offers. “It is a call for humility – a reminder that we don’t know everything and as we edge closer to the gods, we must not lose touch with our common humanity.”
Co-produced with James McKenty (Greg Keelor, Neil Young) in Peterborough, ON (McKenty also mixed), and mastered by Harris Newman (Wolf Parade), Matthew (vocals/guitar) keeps his studio ensemble to a minimum, teaming up with Steve O’Connor (electric piano/organ), Ian McKeown (bass), and Jeff Halischuck (drums). The result here is that not only do we have Matthew back where many of us love to find him (in front of the microphone), but with these soul and country influences, his sound is as timeless and pure as ever. Once again, with “Viral,” we find ourselves reacquainted with an old friend – one best known for his intimate lyrical delivery and a penchant for melodic hooks.
“Viral / Gone viral / Time to reach out to our rivals / ‘Cause we’re gonna have to find a cure / None of us could be that pure.”
Photo Credit: Ian Lake