5/7/5: Haiku Music Review

Courtesy Brushfire Records/Dangerbird Records

Skate rock and piano pop, fresh off the presses.

Hundreds of years ago, in roughly 400 BT (Before Twitter), the Japanese began penning short poems comprised of 17 syllables in three lines -- five syllables, seven syllables, then five syllables, respectively. Wondering if we could provoke the haiku-master Bashō to turn over in his grave, we've started "5/7/5: Haiku Music Review." These poems make a tweet seem like a Russian novel. They'll be a regular feature here, so stay tuned.

Matt Costa, "Matt Costa"
Brushfire Records

When life gives you lemons, you know what to do. But what should you do when you're a skateboarder on the verge of going pro and you suffer a horrific leg break that takes almost two years to heal?

If you're Matt Costa, you guzzle the proverbial lemonade by writing songs. Costa's injury happened when he was 19. At that time, he had already been dabbling in music for years; a former trumpet player, he started goofing around on a guitar at age 12, strumming along to Nirvana records. Five years later, Costa pawned his horn and used the cash to buy a Rolling Stones songbook before buying an acoustic guitar and teaching himself "how to finger-pick like Donovan and started teaching myself Bob Dylan songs," he says.

In 2003 he released his debut EP, the "Matt Costa EP," produced by No Doubt guitarist Tom Dumont; in 2005, he put out his first full-length album, "Songs We Sing." He recorded his sophomore release, "Unfamiliar," in 2008, and two years later Costa self-produced "Mobile Chateau."

For his latest, a self-titled album, the SoCal native decamped to gray Glasgow to record with longtime Belle & Sebastian/Mogwai cohort Tony Doogan and an illustrious ensemble of Scottish musicians. The ambitious record has a few hints of B&S while staying true to Costa's penchant for British-folk-influenced rock. While recording, Bob Dylan's "Basement Tapes" -- a collection of tracks Mr. Zimmerman recorded with The Band in 1967 -- provided inspiration.

"I always loved the way those songs made me feel, and also how they were all recorded so simply," says Costa. "With this album, part of what I wanted to do was work with all these big, over-the-top arrangements that burst open and take off into a whole new dimension -- but still ultimately create that same kind of cool, pure feeling."

We'll drink (lemonade) to that.

Mute grab to six string
Big SoCal Glasgow session
Nick Drake skating switch

Psychic Friend, "My Rocks Are Dreams"
Dangerbird Records

Will Schwartz is no slacker. The multi-instrumentalist has shared guitar and vocal duties for indie-pop rockers Imperial Teen since 1994, been half of DIY dance-pop duo Hey Willpower since 2003 and just released his first album for piano-heavy pop project Psychic Friend.

On "My Rocks Are Dreams," the debut recording by his new group, drummers Patty Schemel and Tripp Beam and instrumentalist/co-producer Bo Boddie join Schwartz. The resulting record, on Silverlake, Calif.'s Dangerbird Records, marks a return to his roots.

Schwartz started tickling the ivories when he was nine years old. His family had a piano in their two-story living room, and he learned to play by ear. Now, decades later, playing the piano brought him home again.

"I just found this place in my voice," he says, "that feels very connected, that comes from playing the piano. And it feels good."

Sing, piano man
Sunny Cali songs about
Darkness and yearning

Related Content