The Berries 'Throne of Ivory (Singles & B-Sides)'
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Throne of Ivory, the new collection of singles and B-sides by The Berries, represents a young American songwriter growing into his full potential. Matt Berry, the multi-instrumentalist behind The Berries, has previously released two LP’s on Boston’s Run for Cover Records: Start All Over Again (2018), a sparkling case of Neil Young worship, and Berryland (2019), an ennui ridden nod to the sounds of Primal Scream and Americana. On Throne of Ivory, however, Berry no longer stands on the shoulders of songwriting giants. Each song bursts with character, layering frigid piano lines and bubbling synths over Berry’s signature guitar heroics. Eyebrow raising experimentalism meets incredible pop sensibility, imbuing the whole record with the captivating energy of a new voice firing on all cylinders. The first side of Throne of Ivory showcases a set of singles written and recorded during the summer of 2020, while the second features reworked versions of tracks originally written for Berryland and an upcoming 3rd LP. While all of the songs on Throne of Ivory were recorded from the comfort of Berry’s home, he smartly avoids the intentionally amateur sentimentalism usually associated with “bedroom pop.” Instead, Berry exploits the advantages of home recording, outfitting his songs with massive synthetic drums and complex vocal harmonies.
The lyrics and imagery on Throne of Ivory have a pronounced poetic quality. Berry combines the disaffected wordiness of Parquet Courts with the earnestness of Big Star’s Third, spinning tales of Californian hunger (“Ancient Steel”) and a hellish, Hieronymus Bosch-esque garden of earthly delights (“Jewel of the West”). “Palace of Fools” tackles themes of delusion and self-awareness, collaging images of different characters caught up in misguided yet comforting fantasies. Elsewhere, on “Priceless,” Berry’s emotional depth takes centerstage. The track opens with a sparse piano line before unfolding into stadium-sized melancholy, introspectively wandering through themes of love, moral superiority, and feigned confidence and the ways in which these performances of stability temporarily stave off neurotic thinking. As Berry puts it, he would, “rather be distracted from the pitfalls of life than consumed by them.” With Throne of Ivory, Matt Berry has put in his bid as a leading voice of a new generation of avant-pop music. The future he paints might not be cheery, but it is undeniably exciting.