Long before the MTV defined “screamo” fad took the music world by storm, there was the underground phenomenon Far, a four-piece outfit from Sacramento, CA. And fronting this pioneering group was Jonah Matranga, one of the most beloved and respected songwriters in music today. His honest lyrics and soothing harmonies epitomized a genre that owes a lot to him for its popularity. Matranga started work on a solo-project which quickly became a full-time venture following the ill-fated breakup of Far. Onelinedrawing is a lo-fi rock project defined by sparse instrumentation and Matranga’s sincere songwriting ability.
Under the moniker Onelinedrawing, Matranga has previously released several small-label issued EP’s and the critically acclaimed Visitor in 2002. The short harmonic “New York” acts as the preface for the trek through The Volunteers. The most apparent change on this album from pervious material is the addition of full-percussion on several of the songs, as on “Over It.” This doesn’t mean that Matranga has abandoned his unplugged coffeehouse persona that got him where he is today. “The Ghost” and “Oh, Boys” could easily have found their way onto Visitor or one of the Sketchy EP’s. Matranga strumming his acoustic guitar paired with his hush vocals result in the perfect amalgamation that would bring tears to the eyes of Dashboard Confessional’s Christopher Carrabba. Meanwhile, Are Too, Matranga’s electronic R2D2 companion, provides the main structure for many of the album’s tracks with his programmed drum sequences. “Stay,” the most poignant song and standout track on the album, consists of exquisite electric guitar-work, genuine words, and soothing melodies that bring to mind Sunny Day Real Estate. Matranga mixes things up with “We Had a Deal,” a rock-fuse anthem that sounds very similar to Rival Schools or even Matranga’s work in New End Original. On “Livin’ Small,” Matranga speaks from his heart of his mission as a touring musician. The thought-provoking and moving song speaks of his desire to perform, even if it’s in an intimate living room or a parking lot following a show. “Believer” makes use of Are Too’s drum sequences, small segments of keyboards, and Matranga’s simple yet intricate guitar-work. Not everything is this perfect though, for The Volunteers does have its lackluster moments. The tracks “Superhero” “Portland” and “As Much to Myself as to You” are rather dull and fail to develop beyond any promising ideas they may have been on paper.
Although there have been minor changes to the formula on The Volunteers, Onelinedrawing still remains the principally acoustic project as when it began. Relying on Matranga’s candid lyrics and relaxing melodies, Onelinedrawing stands on the line between unknown indie rock and pop sensation. Regardless of who is listening, Matranga will continue to write and belt out heartfelt gems.