Matter and Light
Everywhere in indie rock, from the hushed voice of Dripping Springs’ Sam Beam (Iron & Wine) to the arranged pop of Denton’s Robert Gomez, or even beyond our borders to Midwest wunderkind Sufjan Stevens, it has become cool to turn it down. There have always been practitioners of what was once disdained as “soft rock,” but rarely have so many hipsters jumped on the bandwagon. Add Fort Worth’s Theater Fire to the pile. Though not that distinctive—they proudly display influences like Calexico’s Southwestern foreboding and Lambchop’s austere nakedness—these seven musicians undoubtedly have a flair for what they do. Matter and Light (self-released), their third recording, is compelling, melodic pop. Because no one in this group of multi-instrumentalists is a particular virtuoso (the horns are appealingly off-key), the layered textures of violin, banjo, pedal steel, keys, and brass make them sound both orchestral and simple. Turning on the naiveté and charm (“Coyote”; “It’s All the Same”; “Swashbuckler Blues”; a theremin-led instrumental of an Elliott Smith tune), the band skirts pretension with unerring instincts.