Review: Potent pop pastiche from Californian Matt Costa

May 15, 2018
This cover image released by Dangerbird shows "Santa Rosa Fangs," by Matt Costa. (Dangerbird via AP)

Matt Costa, “Santa Rosa Fangs” (Dangerbird)

Rock ‘n’ roll is now old enough to draw social security, which means that for contemporary acts, influences become multigenerational. Such is the case with California singer-songwriter Matt Costa, who borrows from those who borrowed on his engaging new album, “Santa Rosa Fangs.”

The music’s reminiscent of such pioneers as the Byrds, Phil Spector and Nick Drake, but also Oasis, World Party and the Polyphonic Spree.

“It’s time, time, time playing tricks on my mind,” Costa sings as he distills half a century of predecessors into a potent pop pastiche.

It helps that “Santa Rosa Fangs” is filled with fetching melodies. There are also hooks galore, from the choir of Costas singing on the piano-pounding title cut to the repetition of the protagonist’s name in “Sharon.” Even the tambourines are catchy.

And Costa’s off-kilter touches ensure the songs don’t become too sugary. He drops a bar here and there on the aptly named “Time Tricks,” and uses a 5/4 meter effectively on the dreamy “Real Love.”

Best is “Ritchie,” a Shangri-La’s-style love tragedy times two, and part of an album-long narrative about love, loss, time and distance. The plot’s thinner than Mick Jagger, but the tug of the past comes through with every note.