Matt Pryor, beloved frontman of The Get Up Kids and The New Amsterdams, has made his second solo album precisely what it should be. Written and recorded at home between GUK gigs over the course of a month (May, get it?), May Day is a simple, transcendent exercise in songwriting.
Opener “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down” has the title of a pop-punk nightmare but a quiet soul, setting the tone for this cozy album. Kindhearted and warm under the glow of acoustic guitar, the song puts Pryor’s distinctive voice center stage to charming results. “Don’t Let…” sounds like how Pryor might console a distraught friend, and it’s some of his most intimate songwriting to date.
Similarly, the darkly quiet “Like a Professional” subtly references Pryor’s GUK career: “What became of everyone I used to know/I wrote that song for you/and I meant every word.” The bare, raw sound calls to mind his live acoustic sets on the “Where’s the Band Tour.” Elsewhere, the driving piano and guitar on “Where Do We Go From Here” combine with a country sensibility and a quick pace to create a surprisingly catchy tune.
“As If I Could Fall in Love Again” marries a Dylan-esque harmonica to the story of a triumphant kiss-off, a frank anthem for the recovering brokenhearted if there ever was one. The sound bleeds together a tad by album’s end, but even those later pieces each have nuggets of delicious guitar or a clever turn of phrase. This is one you’ll play a dozen times before you hear all the little moments. Closer “What My Tired Eyes Would View” will grow on you, a deceptively simple and purely lovely track resplendent with homespun banjo.
Pryor is a master songwriter who does some of his best work unplugged, and May Day is the master at his best: front and center with his guitar, singing his heart out on the side of the underdog. If this is what he can do in just a month, we wish Pryor many, many more Days.
Essential Tracks: “Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down”, “As If I Could Fall in Love Again”, and “What My Tired Eyes Would View”