Sound: Matt Pryor has come a long way since his days fronting The Get Up Kids. There is little evidence on Pryor's solo album Confidence Man that he ever dabbled in the indie rock genre, but that's not to say that his musical change won't merit interest. Pryor has set aside the electric for the majority of Confidence Man and taken the role of a modern day Jim Croce. It's mellow to the nth degree, and that can be very pleasant or very boring depending on who you ask.
Exploring a different sound from The Get Up Kids is not new for Pryor, who also has the side project The New Amsterdams. Apparently many of the tracks heard on Confidence Man were actually written well before The New Amsterdams (let alone his solo project) were conceived, while a few of the tracks were written within the last year. They all work as a cohesive unit in any case, and nothing ever feels out of place. Even though everything works as a unit, the 15-track CD is still a gutsy move by Pryor. Each song is stripped down to it's bare bones, and what is left is a very honest album that relies on his voice and simple acoustic melodies. The resulting experience is a thoughtful, introspective, and beautifully played bunch of tunes that play to one's sensitive side. So if you don't have a sensitive side, beware.
The album starts off with A Totally New Year, which delivers more of a subdued country feel. The added percussion (which is not present in every tune) keeps things more upbeat in contrast to the other tracks, and it's a solid opener. Pryor has always been a capable musician in terms of harmonies, and A Totally New Year showcases that talent exceptionally well.
The title track is the highlight of the album, once again showing Pryor's harmonizing skills and picking up the pace a bit more. This is not to say it has a truly fast tempo -- it's actually Pryor's vocal delivery that injects energy into the song. There's a bit more variety from just the straight acoustic, with Pryor also pulling out the harmonica for several sections of the song (not to mention a banjo at the tail end). Confidence Man also has the most memorable chorus and bridge of the entire record, and it's the one track on the CD that has the capability of becoming a crossover hit to the radio. Of course, given the bulk of other slow, subdued material on Confidence Man, I doubt that becoming a Billboard darling was Pryor's intention. // 7
Lyrics: There are some gorgeous acoustic sections on Confidence Man, but the lyrics are given the spotlight throughout. If the songs are autobiographical, Pryor lays it all out there, particularly when it comes to relationships. The track It Ends Here is one of the more revealing tracks with lines like, I'm half in the bottle and suddenly it hits me; Every inch of this city reminds me of you; I'll say this; I'm holding back the tears; But it ends here. It doesn't always deal with love gone wrong, but Pryor explores a good deal of emotions and that may be uncomfortable to some listeners. Even so, Pryor has obviously poured his heart into a project where he is perhaps the most vulnerable. // 9
Overall Impression: It's possible that The Get Up Kids' fans have gotten to a stage in their lives that they might be able to transition over easily to Pryor's new sound, which is more in the line of a folk singer-songwriter. This is not a CD to pop in when you're trying to get your energy level up, so be prepared for an album on the mellower side. Pryor probably knew that not every fan would be on board, so he deserves plenty of credit on taking such a chance musically -- particularly on the Vagrant Records label. // 7