Today’s Song: Matt Mays Reinvents Himself with Haunting “Howl at the Night” Acoustic Version

Matt Mays © 2018
Matt Mays © 2018
Sometimes to truly understand the essence of a song you have to strip away the layers of reverb and swagger, as is the case with Matt Mays’ “Howl at the Night.”

— —

Sometimes to truly understand the essence of a song you have to strip away the layers of reverb and swagger. That is exactly what Matt Mays has done on his newest album Twice Upon a Hell of a Time… — an acoustic reworking of last year’s Once Upon a Hell of a Time…— and nowhere is this clearer than on “Howl at the Night.” A meandering tale about the pains that come alongside the glamour of a rockstar life, the references to his breakout record Coyote are both apt and haunting:

‘Cause this old coyote has seen too much
With the sha la la’s and the such n’ such
Life is only real if you’re a memory
All I can do now is
Howl at the night
“Howl at the Night (Acoustic)” – Matt Mays

While Mays is into his second decade of being Canada’s answer to Bruce Springsteen, it wasn’t until his 2012 album Coyote that he really started gaining notoriety state-side. Fast forward six years and he’s supporting Gaslight Anthem on their sold-out reunion tour and it’s hard to deny his rise. However, “Howl at the Night is an examination of the costs of this success. The combination of choir, organ, and piano creates an eerie sense of longing which leaves the listener lonesome for a stability they never knew they wanted:

I’m at this party
they’re all talking too much

I should be home with the wife
and two kids in my clutches

I guess that’s not exactly
where this night is going
Twice Upon a Hell of a Time​.​.​. - Matt Mays
Twice Upon a Hell of a Time​.​.​. – Matt Mays

While this kind of tender sound should come as no surprise from the man who brought us “Queen of Portland St” and “Chase the Light”, there’s a vulnerability here we have rarely seen before: From his opening plea to a bartender to fix all his problems to the longing that drips from his repeated “I still live for you”, it’s evident Mays is struggling beneath his stetson.

The strength of this song is in the details, however; the subtle references to Coyote, the pained scratch in his voice as he grasps for the memory of a loved one, the deep tone of resignation as he “falls into a new life.” While nothing on their own, as a whole they create a sense of regret for the direction he chose at a crossroad that he only saw in his rearview mirror:

So I’ll just keep faith
in the rhythm and trust myself

And you my god I love you
You, some memory
Howl at the night
Faith in a new life
Say your prayers
And fall into a new life
All I wanted was you

The stripped-down nature of this song allows the true blow of his lyrics to land in a way his usual sound doesn’t allow. While there’s few sweeter sounds than Mays ripping into a giant chorus, “Howl at the Night” is a welcomed experiment which showcases the soft underbelly of the aging Coyote.

— —

:: purchase Twice Upon a Hell of a Time​.​.​. here ::

— — — —

Twice Upon a Hell of a Time​.​.​. - Matt Mays

Connect to Matt Mays on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Discover new music on Atwood Magazine
? © 2018

:: Stream Matt Mays ::

Written By
More from Oliver Crook