Dan Masterson's 'Atlas' is beautiful, familiar.
Byline: Victor D. Infante
The first time you hear the title song to Boston singer-songwriter Dan Masterson's new EP, "Atlas,'' it's easy to wonder, "Which 'Dancing With the Stars' routine was done to that again?'' The song is absolutely gorgeous, its piano and warm vocals rolling gently, with just the right amount of propulsion to keep the listener engaged. But there's also a sense of instant familiarity to the song, a sense that we already know it from somewhere.
That spark of recognition is a little dangerous, and if there's one flaw on "Atlas'' Co and really, it may be the only one Co it's that this album is exactly what you expect it to be: Beautifully wrought adult love songs, well-played and even-better-sung. The sort of songs you expect to hear over a climactic love scene near the end of the movie, the couple embracing and kissing as the piano part crescendoes.
There's nothing wrong with that, of course.
"You are the wind in my sails,'' sings Masterson, "You are the star to my north./You make my world spin on its axis, and you carry my weight./Baby, you are my Atlas.'' It's the sort of line that hipsters deride and someone else (heck, maybe the same person) will dance to at their wedding.
Masterson Co who will headline a release party for "Atlas'' April 11 at the Hard Rock Cafe Boston with a lineup of acts that includes We Were Astronauts, AJ Edwards, Jane's Great Dane and THA CAPITAL G Co has put together a very technically accomplished and emotionally compelling album, and the things he sets out to do with that album, he does very, VERY well.
The EP's second song, "Slow Burn,'' is probably the album's strongest work, it's slow tidal pull examination of a slowly dying relationship. There's something exquisitely honest about the song, about the small bite to lines such as "don't leave us to die in embers.'' Even when, in the bridge, he opens the door to rekindling the relationship in the future, the words seem flat and hollow, and even the singer knows it. It's actually a nice little bit of unreliable narration Co simultaneously human and empty.
Unsurprisingly, the tonal changes that come with the third song, "Nobody I Know (Slow Down),'' are a bit jarring Co it's the point where Masterson isn't explicitly addressing love, and while the piano blisters, the lyrics are a tad too affirmational for my tastes. Still, it's not objectionable, and the burst of energy on the piano playing is much appreciated.
As the album winds down with "City Streets,'' Masterson pivots back into romantic ambiguity with a portrait of a relationship that teeters in the purgatory between friendship and romance.
"I can't pretend,'' he sings, "I don't see there's something going on/but I can't help but think how our friendship could go wrong/I say we're friends and that is all/but how can I be sure when I stand right here/and I want more.''
There's a lot of tropes going on in this song Co a little bit John Legend's "You & I (Beautiful),'' a little Chet Baker's "Just Friends'' Co but it comes together well and avoids cliches by having the persona own his relationship (or lack thereof). In the end, it's a beautiful little love song, and one has to be hard-hearted to not be moved, at least a little.
Email Victor D. Infante at Victor.Infante@Telegram.com and follow him on twitter @ocvictor.