Matt Latterell finished tied for No. 9 overall in our 2015 Picked to Click tally with 23 points. Click here to read profiles on this year's other 11 winning acts.
"When you're writing, it seems like it has this characteristic where you're trying to save your soul with it," Matt Latterell says of the process behind his latest album, Phase & Field.
It's been a period of major life changes for the singer-songwriter, including a breakup with his fiancée, a move to Minneapolis from his hometown of Foley, Minnesota, and a stint as touring guitarist for 2008 Picked to Click winners Lucy Michelle & the Velvet Lapelles.
Pulled from a backlog of 60 songs he's written over the last four years, Phase & Field took on unexpected sonic and lyrical themes throughout its 10 tracks, eventually arriving at "a hymnal, kind of campfire, strummy-type quality." The final songs "survived because I didn't grow to hate them," Latterell says, noting a recurring, organic theme of self-consoling throughout.
The result is an intimate and reflective record with a solemnly beautiful sound. Mixing live sessions with guest musicians and Latterell's own ambient production, Phase & Field is multi-layered and expansive, yet still feels solitary. "It's always ones I can play well myself," he concludes, likening himself more to an individual folk singer than the leader of a rock band.
There's a nuance that developed as Latterell, 32, reworked his original demos. Occasionally a jarring shift in direction will upset the trajectory of the song, as on the powerful "And I'll Never Let You Go," with its violently abrupt middle section. Conversely, on "Home Expo Song," instruments get stripped away entirely, leaving Latterell's vocals over quietly pulsing synth tones and hospital ambiance.
"I get kind of into this idea of being ruthless about it," he says of tweaking his music. "If there's some really beautiful part of the song, I wanna scar it in some way."
Currently in the midst of a new project, Latterell says he's making an attempt to work more quickly, rely on his instincts, and be less painterly throughout the process. But the prolonged attention given to Phase & Field certainly makes it an immersive listen.
"Somebody in radio heard it and said to me: 'It's an interesting album because you actually have to listen to it,'" Latterell recalls. "I think that's a really good compliment, actually, in a weird way."