Album Review: Brighton MA – Amateur Lovers

Brighton MA
Amateur Lovers
Loose Tooth Records


Brighton MA is a Chicago Band with some ties to Iowa City. They have my sympathies — Chicago is a rough town musically, full of clubs and bands playing mean zero sum games.  Safe to say anyone mediocre or timid gets tossed in Lake Michigan tout suite. To last long enough to release two albums in an achievement, and Brighton MA did it with good songwriting and an ear for a solid arrangements. Matt Kerstein has a slightly scratchy tenor that can at times recall Dylan, Bowie, Beck, Ray Davies, or Paul Westerberg.  Yet he sounds mostly like himself; any resemblance to vocalists past is one of gesture and impulse, and the primary aesthetic choice is to support the mood of the song.

The title track “Amateur Lovers” has an indelible melody supported by a stately, chugging arrangement that recalls, in the best possible way one of Ray Davies ballad.  The song builds intensity, only to fade down to quiet chorus of multiple voices.  It’s a brilliantly simple and effective, and instantly memorable.  “Old Parked Car” starts out as a dark, earnest, folky song, but acquires subtle adornments of horns and slide guitar. Kerstein sings “I’m going to continue my one man against the decay of the universe,” which is grandiose, lonely and belies the earnestness of the surrounding music.  With so many bands struggling to be heard in the world — hell, more than enough of them just in the Chicago metropolitan area — adding his voice to the mix is a quixotic, daft gesture.  And yet, the music of Brighton Ma has the good taste, modesty, and grandness to deserve to drown out the merely loud and ambitious.