David Matysiak jokes that if Bruce Springsteen’s brooding Midwestern odysseys Nebraska and The River were meant to be part of a trilogy, the third installment is Coyote Bones’ Niobrara. Along with Jordan Noel (drums) and Heather Kemp (percussion), the former Jet By Day singer/guitarist has crafted an album that flows with unnerving tales about death, stifling religion, lost love and change. “It’s a really personal record for me; one that I had to make,” Matysiak says. “I was going through so much at the time that I became possessed. The record wrote itself.”
Songs such as “Piece of My Spine” and “Out at the Bar” are the ruminations of a damaged man coping with the death of his father and a crumbling relationship amid a new sense of self-discovery. Niobrara is a far cry from the clumsy, basement art party that Matysiak spearheaded with Coyote Bones’ 2007 debut, Gentleman on the Rocks.
After quietly disappearing from the Athens/Atlanta music scene in ’05 for the then-thriving indie-music scene of Omaha, Neb., he holed up with a handful of local musicians, including Tilly & the Wall, while founding the label CoCo Art — a socialistic endeavor that yielded Gentleman on the Rocks. But whereas his first record was a patchwork of playful, homemade pop pieced together without any cohesive direction, Niobrara is a focused album with a conceptual river running through it. From the sound of water breaking in “Down River” to the cool blue vinyl on which it’s pressed, sargasso melodies rise and fall with catharsis.
The steel strings, soft melodies and Kemp’s gentle voice in “Above the Treetops” are warm, but the album is hardly easy listening. In all of its stark realizations, Niobrara serves a purpose. Each song is an inseparable part of the whole album that Matysiak hopes will literally awe its listeners. “I want people who have gone through similar pain to identify with the record's energy and see it as a comfort.”