H. R. Gibs, Contributor.
Matty Burke’s solo album has been something of an urban legend for a small unit of the movers and shakers of Belfast’s music scene for well over three years now. Much like its cryptid brothers, there have been whisperings of its existence for the longest time, but very little hard evidence. Now however, stirrings have been tinted with reality as a debut single launch prepares to take place on 30th December.
Perhaps this view of Burke’s music is a facetious one, an accusatory finger, ignoring the graft and grind it takes to write, record, remaster and release. Burke is the well-recognised and well-liked front man of Anna’s Number, a cover band with flare and style unlike that any Belfast band has conjured in recent years. Once only seen on the crowded streets alongside fellow busking bands, Anna’s Number has become a staple ‘big band’ of the Belfast scene, like those from the dancehall days of yore. Singularly, Matty Burke is a well-versed musician. The just coming-22 year old lingers behind some of the most musically interesting projects in the city, including but not exclusive to up-and-comer Sasha Samara. His guitar playing and ear for chords is notably sought after, with an ability to create arrangements the like few have seen, except for maybe his own Anna’s Number bandmates. Partnered with this lies a man of humble disposition, who remains quietly modest and authentically excited within everything he creates, making music making an enjoyable experience for not only Burke but his audience and onlooker.
Guitarist, chordmaster, church intern, a man who finally has consistent online branding, Burke surrounds himself with and lifts up the talent of those near and dear to him. He however still stands out as a musical necessity, from his membership in bands at school such as Que Pasa or Temporary Human to the once nameless Anna’s Number or his Sunday worship at All Saints’ Church. Burke is unique in the selflessness of his music, which he gives away soundly and the ease of his playing does not translate into arrogance in the face of those less knowledgeable or talented. So maybe, in knowing this, it does make some sense that he has been known to put his solo projects on the backburner to offer a hand of friendship or help to those around him.
But, behind the round glasses and kind face, is a cool demeanor. Matty Burke does not go stale. He takes his time, perfects and manipulates his tracks to his pleasing, confident that the finished project will be the one of which he is most proud. He once told me that listening to music could bring him as much frustration as it does joy, his brain automatically goes to fill in gaps and re-edit mixes. This was and still is baffling to me, 1) that such a skill exists and 2) that someone who I know well has it. The criticism of Matty Burke exists for a few chosen and well-trusted ears only and the easy control which he commands his music is something of a superpower.
Sing Me to Sleep, the first single and title track to Burke’s much anticipated debut is artwork of the highest degree, perfect pitch is matched with perfect production, capturing Burke’s distinctive, classy and, not least, enjoyable music making. He is recorded as he is live, vocals swimming through a symphonic dance of melody and harmony, full band tight behind him, creating something that feels joyous, lending itself to comparisons such as John Mayer or Bruno Mars’ funkier, more daring tracks.
The track’s name imminently loses all connection to refrain from The Smiths’ 1985 B-side single ‘Asleep’ once the genre bridge between these two artists is crossed. Burke stands apart from this experience; teenage angst, even the classic kind, cannot stain him. This single could very well be described using an adjective looked down on by critics: it is fun. At the risk of sounding mawkishly sentimental, it inspires dancing and hopefulness and smiling in a way Belfast music often does not. It could be argued that Sing Me to Sleep is “far too kind” for the angst ridden grunge type music Belfast most often produces, but that argument is incorrect. If this rarity is weakness, then so is its originality, skilled musicianship and the ability to pull the greatest stank face. Burke brings life back to music when he plays it, he hears on a level few do and spins gold from his guitar strings. His music invites in to share, it says “here, grab a seat, let me tell you a story”, it doesn’t isolate. It heaves and breathes and exists as much for those in front of him as for himself. It is an act of public service to consume this man’s work. “Maybe I’ll sing tomorrow / maybe I’ll dance again” he deliberates in a chorus. I want no uncertainty about it – Belfast, it is our duty to allow Burke to thrive.
Sing Me to Sleep will be released on Matty Burke’s 22nd birthday at The Points. It, like his music is an open invite. See you there.