CD Review of City of Black & White by Mat Kearney
Mat Kearney: City of Black & White
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John Mayer, The Fray, Jason Mraz
Mat Kearney:
City of Black & White

Reviewed by Mike Farley


lenty of songwriters have the knack for writing instantly hooky candy for the ears, but doing it without sounding like a sellout or offending the aural palates of diehard music fans requires another level of talent entirely. Mat Kearney has that talent, and he’s back with his sophomore major label effort, City of Black & White, the follow-up to a solid debut (2007’s Nothing Left to Lose) that put him on the pop landscape. Kearney possesses a smooth tenor as well as the ability to utilize his trademark falsetto effectively, and combined with an alt-pop style and penchant for melody, he delivers a product tailor made for TV shows such as "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Bones," where he’s already enjoyed tons of exposure.

Kicking this effort off is "All I Want," a breezy, fast-driving track that is so catchy that you just might be singing along before its four minutes, 49 seconds is up. Same with "Fire & Rain" (not a James Taylor cover), which you might say is a bit too much like the first song to be the second track. The first single, "Closer to Love," is a mid-tempo number with the type of huge chorus that can literally move mountains, and others like "Runaway Car" also follow that formula. But Kearney is at his best on piano ballads ("New York to California") or when he uses haunting minor key progressions as he does on the stunning "Annie" or the powerful title track.

At times, Mat Kearney sounds like a cutting edge alt-popster (think Keane or Snow Patrol), and then at others he may remind you of someone on his way toward light rock radio a la Daniel Powter. But really, that’s the kind of balance that should sell millions of records, and with all of his TV placements, Kearney will probably do just that. If you’re into well-written melodic pop/rock, then City of Black & White just may be the focal point of your summer soundtrack.

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