- Vancouver, British Columbia - Since 2000, Martin Rivas has been consistently putting out music, and in that twelve years he has six releases under his belt; quite an accomplishment. His newest album, Reliquary, due out this month is another page in this fine gentleman’s life, written with “lots and lots of love and hope” as his webpage states. Those who closely follow the Top 40 scene and not much else will probably just gloss right over this fellow, but those who enjoy the (genuine) indie scene may have stumbled across him over iTunes, Bandcamp, or CDBaby.
It’s interesting to me that he chose the name Reliquary, as I had to look up what exactly that is. And apparently it’s a container of relics, usually in a shrine. After listening to the album, it seems that these eight tracks are relics of Rivas’ personality and life that he has set aside and put on display. Nifty.
Now, I’m not exactly sure of what all Martin plays on the album since the website doesn’t seem to have full production credits, or maybe I’m just blind, but if I were to guess Martin would be on lead guitar. There’s a genuine love of the instrument in this album. Half the album’s appeal is his very personal and endearing lyrics, and the other seems to be his playing around with guitar styles. He goes from energetic Celtic in “No One Knows Me,” to goofy folk in “Meet Your Father,” to good ol’ rock and roll in “Drumset, AM Radio and Tears.”
There’s also some strong emphasis on piano and strings, but these flesh the songs out more than form the basis, with the possible exception of the adult contemporary ballad “The Brooklyn Accent.”
But what I like about this album isn’t that it jumps all over the place, but rather that Rivas has chosen to make an album about different facets of his personality and life, and some genres fit those songs better than others. Every person has a fractured personality to some degree or another, and Rivas embraces this complexity into a musical form of therapy. Sometimes fun, sometimes sad, but always engaging, Reliquary is about a man bearing his soul.
It’s not an amazing album though. I don’t find it very challenging, and sometimes the shift in mood is a little jarring. I don’t mean to hold that against the album, but at times I feel like Rivas was on the verge of making something really great and he pulled back just a bit from it.
He obviously had some fun in the studio though, and I can’t fault the guy for that. Still, sometimes this album plays like its just one guy cutting his first demo, and other times the songs are elevated to amazingly good levels, with multiple layers. So, it is a bit uneven.
I will say that I like Rivas’ voice. He can pull surprisingly different moods without straying from his vocal strengths. Going back to “Meet Your Father,” it wouldn’t be hard for him to change the tone of the song significantly but he is able to consistently keep it in check.
Thinking about it a bit more, I think what I’d like is a stronger percussion presence. Most of the time, if there is any drumming it doesn’t add that much. I’m not looking for a mind-blowing drum solo, but it can be easy to overlook drumming and treat it like a way to keep time and nothing else. I got that impression from “Life’s About To Imitate Art” – the song’s in an interesting time signature, and I think the drumming is there to keep everyone in check.
Now to be fair, my number one criteria that I look for is that the music and lyrics mean something to the artist performing them. When you have five people writing a song for one person to sing, and there’s a cheesy synth looped over top, I get bored and frustrated at the same time (which is weird). So on that level, Rivas has nailed it. And I do like a lot of the instrumentation, particularly guitar and piano. I wish there was some more strings though, because that was a good element that could have been used more.
So in all honesty, I thought the album was pretty good, but on the verge of being great. So I’m going to check out his past releases to see what his growth as an artist has been like, and I look forward to future releases.
Steve’s Track Picks
Drumset, AM Radio and Tears
No One Knows Me
Meet Your Father
Rating: 3.5/5 Sour Grapes