Since the release of his first EP in 2011, Matthew Mole has become a household name in South Africa; his cheerful folk-style music has been taking radio stations by storm. In late 2019 he released his third full-length studio album GHOST and, in traditional Matthew Mole fashion, the lyrics and sound of the album are familiar enough but with new elements that make it distinct from his previous offerings.
There are songs with the beautifully-crafted lyrics we’ve come to expect from Mole, as well as the familiar rhythms and ukulele/ banjo/guitar-driven sounds of his catalogue; but what GHOST does differently is a new version of Mole with interesting rhythms and frantic shouting spliced in amongst what we’re used to hearing from the Cape Town born singer. Speaking about the real-world issues of facing societal pressures, fears, and overwhelming doubts against the backdrop of cheery instrumentals, Matthew Mole has struck the perfect balance between music which is pleasant to listen to but still resonates with listeners on a personal level.
“Facing fears and overcoming doubts“
The first song on the track list, “Colours”, speaks about finding positivity and sets the tone for the rest of the album both sonically and lyrically as it builds on an upbeat and catchy tune while carrying lyrics which pack an emotional punch. The first song written for this album, “At The Corner”, was written a few years ago about the way people tend to avoid living their lives to the fullest because of their fears. This song encompasses the theme of the entire album, it speaks honestly about what it feels like to be trapped by your own fears and doubts but the end of the song offers the kind of hope that we need to hear sometimes.
“Keep It Together” offers Matthew Mole’s distinctive use of ukulele and layers harmonies and instruments to form a fascinatingly cohesive combination of sounds. The piano-driven “Kilimanjaro” displays the artist’s clarity and range of voice. It proves that although the electronic sounds and various instruments in the other songs make for interesting listening, he is by no means reliant on them to make his music good; his voice and a piano melody are more than enough to carry a song. His message of positivity and perseverance continue in “Be Gone” as lyrics like “Every part of me will leave you here to die” and “I’m never broken when I’m down” serve as encouragement for listeners trying to defeat whatever demons exist in their own lives.
The familiarity of Matthew Mole and his music culminates in the penultimate song on the album, “Autumn”. The song, which appeared on his first full-length album The Home We Built, was re-imagined for the new album. The message of the song is as relevant now as it was when the song first appeared, the chorus of “We all fall down sometimes” reinforces the theme of GHOST which emphasises that it’s okay to not be okay and that eventually, things will be better.The interesting thing about the reworking of this song is the way in which it demonstrates how far the artist has come since the song was first recorded.
“… lyrics like “Every part of me will leave you here to die” and “I’m never broken when I’m down” serve as encouragement for listeners trying to defeat whatever demons exist in their own lives.“
The years of live performances since we first heard Autumn means that Matthew Mole’s voice has only improved, the quality of his voice is clearer and the overall sound stronger. This new version also reveals the changes in the style of his music over the past few years from the folksy-instrument heavy first version to the 2019 version which includes newer elements of his style such as the inclusion of electronic sounds and a slight change in the rhythm and tempo of the song.
The beautifully crafted lyrics and gentle voice of the album make it easy to identify that GHOST belongs to Matthew Mole but the continuing evolution of the artist’s sound and music style means that listeners can never be bored of hearing his music. The characteristic sound of this album is constructed of building drums and piano, constantly shifting tempo, and echoing yells; quickly spoken words are contrasted by a gentle melodic voice. All of these elements make for an interesting auditory experience for the listener and produces an album reminiscent of one by Twenty One Pilots but with a distinct Matthew Mole stamp that cannot be replicated nor disguised.