The Recital of Annie Lytle
Review by Roy Peak
Racewall Mosquitoes is what you get when you mix the songwriting, guitar playing, and singing of Matt Morgan along with the production of the indie-pop band Summer Obsession's Luke Walker. Chugging acoustic rhythms meld with layers of vocals and razor sharp electric guitar throughout, a soundscape fitting for this haunting, mysterious, and thought-provoking album.
The Recital of Annie Lytle is a concept album centered around the Annie Lytle Elementary School—or Public School Number Four as it's also known as around Jacksonville, Florida. This infamous building has been abandoned, graffiti stained, fire-gutted, and windowless for four-plus decades. Thought by many to be haunted, it stands near Riverside Park, sometimes home to vagrants and drug addicts. It's where teenagers brave one another to look for ghosts late at night, occasionally even finding them. That Morgan has recorded an album based around the idea of sneaking into the school itself is praise aplenty, much so the dark, dreamy soundtrack he creates to affect his vision.
From the official Racewall Mosquitoes press release: "This album, in its entirety, attempts to capture the vibe of a vagabond who finds himself in one of the dark hallways of the Annie, back propped up against a wall, with only a match to see with, and the echoes of his ghosts, past and present, keeping him company -- or not! He hears a couple other people in a room down the hall, reminding him of what is lost. Reminding him of who is lost. Somehow, in the din of voices, mostly imagined, he looks at the lit match, and realizes the flame is still alive—even on the darkest of nights."
On opening track "Vagabond," Morgan's heavily-reverbed voice could be the empty halls of the Annie Lytle School itself calling for a companion in the darkened night, and dreamily, someone answers that call.
"Same for Yesterday" melds cathedral deep vocals with stabs of electric guitar to create an eerie mood of loss before the drums kick in and elevates the mood to one of hope.
"Even the Sun" features a peaceful acoustic guitar solo, Morgan extolling "Even the sun goes down different ways." An electric guitar takes over, fracturing the mood. Everything changes over time. Sometimes you just have to let it all happen, to live and let live.
I always appreciate demo songs, as occasionally they have a certain amount of soul and edginess sometimes lacking in a more polished production. It's fitting then that
"Portraits," which was originally recorded as a demo onto a cell phone, adding cello and harmony later, is my favorite track here. This simple recording contains everything the listener needs to feel the heartbreak it conveys.
“Waltz of the Rapa Nui” (the sole track produced by Justin Murray in Savannah) begins with distorted guitar and noises, then settles into acoustic guitars underneath a pleading vocal by Morgan, ending with a distorted chant looping over and over as the tension builds. I'm going to cite this one as the musical equivalent of a Quay Brothers film: dark, mysterious, suspenseful, quirky, yet entirely beautiful. My second favorite on this moody, emotional ride of an album.
Matt Morgan has also crafted a few well made music videos online you can check out here:
"La Jolla Bros" https://youtu.be/_DUOcqx7uz0
“Miles Above" https://youtu.be/6uoOoPI7VCA
“Same for Yesterday” https://youtu.be/N935JfB9a38
Roy Peak has played electric bass in more bands than he cares to remember for more years than he can remember. He wrote the theme song for the Utica, New York radio show "Hey You Kids, Get Off My Lawn" on WPNR-FM. His solo debut album, All Is Well, has been called "Loud, cacophonous, and beautiful by a truly unique artist." His short fiction has been published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and he writes music reviews for the King Tut Vintage Album Museum of Jacksonville. Roy writes music reviews for the Rocking Magpie among others.