Matt Dorrien audibly shifts in his chair, his feet pushing onto the pedals of a piano, as the opening chords of "Baby I'm So Lost" ring out. It's a simplistic, purposefully plodding introduction that's unusual in its total disregard of modern pop convention. But like most interesting things, patience is rewarded here. A beautifully broken love song slowly unfurls, complete with sad sack vocals and dueling clarinets that could close any dive-y lounge down.
"Cold and grey / I'm not okay, dear," Dorrien sings in a line that's half apology, half cry for help. You'd almost be worried for his hopeless protagonist if he didn't seem to enjoy wallowing in it so much.
Dorrien hasn't appeared completely out of the blue. The Portland-based songwriter previously released two sleepy folk records under the moniker Snowblind Traveler. But on his newest album, the aptly titled In The Key Of Grey, he's ditched his stage name and guitar. The new release is almost entirely performed on piano, a subtle ode to his songwriting heroes Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. And like those legendary musicians, Dorrien has a wry sense of humor, a solid grasp of songwriting fundamentals, and a deep love of melancholy, binge drinking, and rain.
In the Key of Grey comes out April 27 via Mama Bird Recording Co.