Matt Dorrien has shuffled between L.A. and New York the past seven years, perfecting his accessible mixture of acoustic-pop and twangy rock ballads. His sound recalls both the sentimental twang of Wilco and the solemn folk of Elliott Smith. Good references, to say the least. His new album under the alias Snowblind Traveler is Lost on the North Hills, full of the sprawling beauty shown on efforts like “Love is Dead” and “Not Around”. He recorded and produced the record with Jason Quever of Papercuts, a fun indie-pop group who signed to Sub Pop a year after being featured on Obscure Sound. The duo proves to be a good match, especially as the heartfelt tunes coincide with Dorrien’s love for the simple yet wonderful things in life. “I live atop the redwoods in a little cottage with a pretty librarian and write songs that condemn elitists and romanticize the simpler, often less fortunate life,” he says. The songs were recorded in Quever’s “almost cramped, yet more than well equipped studio on the south side of San Francisco.”
“Love is Dead” begins with a creakily playful acoustic tone, not too far from Randy Newman’s arsenal. A percussive shuffle and a squiggly synth backing, combined with Dorrein’s warmly inviting vocals, make the comparisons to Wilco and Elliott Smith more apt. “Love is dead, and whiskey is the winner, she’ll never tell me no lies,” he signs solemnly during the verse. The track quickly picks up to a perky interlude, with a supplementary organ and acoustic stabs, where the lyrics’ bigger picture appears. “I’m a fool for always hangin’ around, while you’re out cheatin’ on the other side of town,” he sings. It’s a simple but unfortunately all too common gripe, and the regret is visible when Dorrien laments “what did I see your in eyes?” “Love is Dead” is a nice preview of what’s to come on Lost on the North Hills, which plays pleasant acoustic-minded pop with a three-minute accessibility akin to Coconut Records.