Album Review – Striking Matches’ Nothing But The Silence is an Energetic, Entertaining Debut

Watch out Florida Georgia Line. Why don’t you boys take a step aside and watch a brand new mainstream country duo do what you guys have never done, which is making worthy, entertaining music. Now, I know Striking Matches aren’t quite brand new; their self-titled EP back in 2012 was praised by outlets like NPR and the BBC. Not to mention the number of songs they’ve had recorded on the hit TV show Nashville. But their first full-length album, Nothing But the Silence, has now been released to the masses, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. With a radio market unwilling to play well written slow songs because they’re “tempo killers,” Nothing But the Silence offers 11 great, well-written tracks, many of which won’t kill the tempo of country radio’s constant party atmosphere. The duo, Sarah Zimmerman and Justin Davis, also act like a real musical duo. They trade the lead vocals on songs, verses, even lines within verses, and harmonize together at almost every moment. Together, their voices shine and deliver on this album.

Nothing But the Silence kicks off the rocking duet “Trouble Is As Trouble Does.” It’s a new relationship for the two of them, but he’s the bad seed that influences her to rebel a bit out of her well-behaved lifestyle. Yet, she can’t stay away from trouble. This up-tempo rocker is led by both Zimmerman and Davis’ acoustic guitar licks. Yes, acoustic guitars on this rocking, fast paced song. It’s a great track that shows what Striking Matches are capable of in both vocals and musicianship. Davis leads the way on “Make A Liar Out Of Me.” He’s been burned by love and vowed to never love again. Her love however is tempting enough where he encourages her to make him a liar; he wants her love. With a bluesy guitar in the forefront creating an infectious rhythm and a fantastic guitar solo on the song’s outro, “Make A Liar Out Of Me” stands out as one of the better tracks here.

The pair slow it down for the title track. Their relationship has fallen to a point where they aren’t speaking to one another. Davis leads the vocals here again, and pleads for communication to happen. “There’s nothing but the silence in between us that hasn’t already been broken…can we break it tonight?” Sarah Zimmerman’s harmonies on this track are a perfect fit behind Davis. Though the lyrics can get repetitive here, “Nothing But The Silence” still tells a great story. “Hanging On A Lie” is another one of the top tracks on this album. Zimmerman takes the lead on this song about calling out her man on his lies. She knows it’s over; she knows he’s a liar, and she simply wants him to spit out the truth before she leaves. The production on this song is fantastic: a grooving beat behind Zimmerman’s wonderful vocals creates a beautiful melody on this country rock tune.

“Never Gonna Love Again” is a solid mid-tempo track. A noteworthy percussion beat drives this song where Zimmerman sings of catching her man cheating on her. This breaks her spirit to the point where she believes she’ll never love again. Again, this a song that features a bit of repetition with the lyrics, but Zimmerman’s vocals are nearly flawless here. She sells the pain and anger of the situation presented on this song. And after an intense heartbreak song, Striking Matches brings forth one the best love songs I’ve heard in a while. “When The Right One Comes Along” was a tune featured on Nashville, but reproduced a bit on this album. A soft electric guitar and a simple drum beat behind Sarah’s beautiful vocals. The song discusses how you’ll know in your heart when you meet the one. “There’s no music, no confetti. Crowds don’t cheer and bells won’t ring. But you’ll know it, I can guarantee, when the right one comes along.” It’s a love song that tells a beautiful story without tired, clichéd bits from almost every other love song in existence.

“What A Broken Heart Feels Like” bring back the duets of Sarah and Justin. The two trade lines and harmonize well and talk about the aftermath of a breakup. Reminders from photographs and support from friends can’t change the immediate pain one feels after a relationship ends. On “Miss Me More” the relationship ends on a bit of bitter note. He ends it and tries to move on, and she calls him out on how much he’ll miss her afterwards. She doesn’t want him to crawl back to her though. This song features a great harmonies (have I mentioned that already?) on top of a simple, rocking upbeat production. Yet, the relationship on “Like Lovers,” while still ending, wishes to end of strong note. It’s a slow tempo ballad where the couple wants to walk away like lovers.

Up next is “Missing You Tonight.” As Josh wrote in his review of the song, “it’s a tad repetitive and I was really waiting for the climax of this song to blow me away. Instead it was kind of whimper. I could say the same of the instrumentation. They simply didn’t reach the full potential of this song.” There’s not a bad song on this album, but I’d say “Missing You Tonight” is the weakest of the bunch. The song, in it’s production and vocal performances, seems much more subdued than the rest of the album, especially compared to the first two tracks. The album ends on a slow note with “God And You.” It’s another love song, this time led by Justin Davis. He sings how he carries a hard heart and stubborn personality. Yet the only two who have been able to successfully challenge his personality and bring out his venerable side are God and his love. It’s another unique love song with great lyrics.

Overall, Nothing But The Silence shines as a great debut album. Producer T Bone Burnett brings out his signature style for Striking Matches. At times, the songs can find themselves to be repetitive. Lyrics are repeated over and over again, and the similar themes can find themselves a bit tiring. However, there’s a unique production among the songs; and the music is truly unlike what you hear on country radio. There’s an energy and life within this album, especially on the mid tempo and upbeat tracks. Striking Matches have a reputation for energetic performances, and it’s easy to see why after hearing this album. If country radio latches onto Striking Matches, than we’re in for a treat. They are one of the best country duos out there; miles better than the aforementioned Florida Georgia Line, Dan + Shay, and Thompson Square. Nothing But The Silence comes highly recommended: well-written songs and stories with a fresh, entertaining production.

Grade: 8/10

 

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14 thoughts on “Album Review – Striking Matches’ Nothing But The Silence is an Energetic, Entertaining Debut

  1. I’ll say this Maddie & Tae have their worked cut out for them. I’m confident that they’ll pull off a good album. I wonder are you guys gonna give Thompson Squares new song Trans Am a thrashing it’s awful.

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    • Yes they do. Hopefully they build off their EP well! But if that EP is any consideration, then we’re looking at another worthy duo in Country music to battle the bland and the bad of Dan & Shay, Thompson Square and FGL. But Maddie & Tae (hopefully!) plus Striking Matches are a good two-headed monster to fight it!

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      • Yeah funny this year what if at the CMAs ” and the CMA vocal duo of the year Maddie & Tae” that would be a dream come true. What did you think of Maddie & Tae’s debut EP since Josh reviewed it.

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      • I liked it! I think “Sierra” is the best of the four and should have been (or should be their next) released as the follow up single to “Girl in a Country Song.” Their EP showed they lean much more country/Americana like in their sound, which makes me very excited for the album.

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  2. I took a listen to this and I hope to have my review up later today or tomorrow but I thought it was pretty solid. Some tired themes, but still on the good side of country. The only tracks I didn’t care for were Nothing But The Silence and Miss Me More. I’d probably give it a B+ (or a 7.5/10)

    Also Derek wouldnt that be a four headed dragon fighting the bland duos instead of a two? 😉

    Also Raymond, Trans Am sounds way too much like Lady A’s Freestyle (which isn’t a good thing) so I give it maybe a C-/D+ (4, 3.5/10)

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    • Four headed monster. Touche, Zack! Though, FGL’s two heads are probably much larger, but emptier!

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    • Oh Zack I heard Trans Am it’s garbage in itself I mean Thompson Squares not bad but this is easily their worse I don’t know if there selling out. That’s to be seen but I expected better I mean that is garbage.
      Here’s my order of Mainstream Duos.
      Maddie & Tae
      Striking Matches
      If Love & Theft still technically count.
      The Rest.
      I’m looking forward to your review I saw your post of personal request for the upcoming weeks can you please review Gloriana Trouble I love that song I saw your grade and I want you to explain what makes it B-.

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      • Be happy to Raymond. Look for it tomorrow! Quick synopsis though, its not a bad song and I like the rock edge, the theme just feels a bit tired. A B- in my gradebook usually translates to a 6/10.

        Sorry to take away from you review Derek! Looking forward to see which one of you reviews Darius Rucker’s new album. I have a feeling that its not gonna go well. 😉

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  3. Great job on this review. There are a few problems with lyrical repetitiveness, as you have noted, on this their first full length album. Overall, i think the lyrical content is strong and the music is great. I think you would appreciate their playing even more if you saw them in person. I was practically mesmerized the four times I was lucky enough to see them perform. Check out Sarah’s mandolin playing on “Hangin’ On a Lie” and “Miss You more”.

    I don’t agree with your critique of “Missing You Tonight”. Every song doesn’t have to have a deep meaning. It sounds great and that’s because they, Sarah and Justin along with Georgia Middleman, wrote the driving melody that fits this song. I think that reviewers today at times focus so much on the lyrics that they fail to acknowledge the other component of a song. With a little practice, I could probably write a lousy lyric. Despite 8 years of piano lessons as a kid, I wouldn’t even know where to start when it comes to writing a melody. Over the years, I’ve come to respect that aspect of music more than i used to.

    Their best song, IMHO, is “When the Right One Comes Along” which they also wrote with Georgia Middleman. It’s a low key love song. It reminded me in that regard of a song on Hal Ketchum’s 1992 album “Sure Love”. “Softer Than A Whisper” is also a song about finding love without the earth shaking and thunder rolling. It was not released as a single. The song was written by Austin Cunningham and Pat “The Thunder Rolls” Alger.

    First verse:

    “I’ve often wondered how love would strike me yet
    Would it hit me like thunder, that’s what I’d expect
    But when I held you, I knew, it was different from the start
    No words were spoken, but I felt it in my heart”.

    Chorus:

    “It was softer than a whisper
    Quiet as the moon
    But I could hear it loud as laughter
    Across a crowded room
    It was gentle as a baby’s hand
    But it held me like a chain
    It was softer than a whisper
    When love called out my name”.

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    • I don’t have a problem with “Missing You Tonight” and the lyrics. It’s the production of the song that feels subdued and not as dynamic as the other songs. Not that every song needs to be unique and layered, but after hearing. “Hanging On A Lie” and “Make A Liar Out of Me,” that one just feels like it’s missing something.

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  4. I finally got around to listening to and reviewing this album today and I fell in love with it. “Like Lovers” was one of my favorite tracks on the collection, along with “When the Right One Comes Along” and the title track,
    .
    This one is easily an early candidate for one of my top albums of the year.

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