Matt Pryor is a career musician who has no use for the word “side project.” His myriad musical endeavors range from emo-tinged pop punk (Get-Up Kids) and bombastic folk (The New Amsterdams) to children’s music (The Terrible Twos) and electro-pop (Lasorda), not to mention a popular indie rock podcast, Nothing To Write Home About. It came as no surprise then when, in 2008, the songwriter also began releasing records under his own name. Those records — Confidence Man and May Day — were lo-fi affairs that, like Pryor’s first outing with The New Amsterdams, found the singer paring back his sound and experimenting with the occasional new instrument. Wrist Slitter, Pryor’s first LP after an existential hiatus, stands out amidst the singer’s prolific output by being the most aggressive, sonically diverse, and positive record he’s released in years.
Though the lovely fingerpicked hush of “As Perfect As We’ll Ever Be” wouldn’t have been out of place on 2011’s May Day, the rest of the album owes more to Pryor’s work with Get-Up Kids and his affection for bands like Superchunk and Braid. Openers “The House Hears Everything” and “Kinda Go to Pieces” bear the sort of crisscrossing riffs and propulsive drumming that characterized Something to Write Home About-era Get Up Kids, while “Words Get in the Way” channels “Slack Motherfucker” by way of Punchline, whose Steve Soboslai guests on the track. And though it’s nice to hear Pryor rocking again, he still shines on upbeat folk-pop tracks like “If I Wear a Disguise” and “Foolish Kids”, both of which lean more towards his latter-day work with the New Amsterdams.
“Before My Tongue Becomes a Sword”, however, a track penned by Braid’s Bob Nanna and Saves the Day’s Chris Conley, nearly derails the record with grating Mickey Mouse keyboards and comically nasal vocals from Conley. Jarring and abrasive, the song distracts in much the same way as the album’s title track, a bluegrassy call-and-response number that isn’t unpleasant so much as out of place. That song’s particular aesthetic, along with the vintage swing samples that bookend the record, point to underdeveloped themes that don’t really jibe with the record’s occasionally self-helpy lyrics. In the end, everything you need to know about Wrist Slitter can be gleaned from the music itself, a return to form (and form and form) for Pryor that doubles as evidence for the singer’s own artistic rejuvenation.
Essential Tracks: “Kinda Go to Pieces”, “The House Hears Everything”, and “As Perfect As We’ll Ever Be”