Matt Soren’s individual brand of alternative electro-rock comes across in vivid fashion through his band project The One Tonic and the new EP release Won’t Stop. Rather than miring himself in the songwriting despair common to such acts like MGMT or Muse, Soren’s five song EP nods to the aural signature of those aforementioned bands whilst embracing a more positive lyrical outlook. This is a logical next step from his solo concept album Return from Broken, a song cycle chronicling his coming to grips with substance abuse and finding recovery, but it was born from difficult circumstances. Soren’s wife received a diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer following the release of Return from Broken and navigating the challenges that came with that, along with managing five children, didn’t prompt Soren to retreat but, instead, to embrace life tighter than ever before.
The EP’s title track opens the release and builds up quite a head of steam despite its mid-tempo pace. Soren works with a small assortment of musicians during the course of the EP’s five songs but the first two boast a power trio configuration. Soren handles vocals and shares electronic instrument duties with guitarist Dan Costello while Josh Roda mans the percussion. Roda teams with Soren for mixing and mastering chores on the collection as well. It’s impressive how Soren constructs such a swirl of sound from a few instruments and the rousing qualities of the title track are impossible to ignore. It’s an excellent way to begin the release.
Addicts often take refuge in their stupor of choice to escape uncomfortable feelings like regret and grief and Soren expresses his gratitude for being willing to face such emotions on the EP’s second track “Happy to Feel”. Soren joins Costello on guitar with this cut and the track boasts a less strident edge than the opener while exhibiting immense vulnerability. Despite the presence of electronic instrumentation, the song has an orchestrated sound quite unlike “Won’t Stop” and its grab bag of dynamic shifts has coherence and a dramatic trajectory. “All in With You” is an outright love song, a likely paean to his wife, and its earnest sincerity will touch all but the most cynical listeners. Soren’s electronic touches fuel the track with flashes of color and his emotional vocals are its crowning touch.
He cuts “Not Your Tool” from the same cloth as the opener though the message is different. This is Soren at his defiant best, bloodied but unbowed, and the mix of desperation and emphatic rejection laced through the lyrical content makes a strong impression. His vocals are, once more, a highlight of the performance and elevate the solid lyrics to another level. It’s a solo performance with Soren taking on all the instrumental responsibilities and many listeners will particularly enjoy the drum sound he achieves with this recording.
The finale “Letting Go” has a tempo alternating between placid, muted passages and uptempo sections. This testament of surrender so one may start again is even more effective on the back of another superb Soren vocal and the backing vocals from Anna Sorento enhance the overall presentation. Hector MacInnes ‘contributions of strings are another factor in the song’s success as well as the unlikely inclusion of Soren’s organ playing. Matt Soren’s band project The One Tonic makes a memorable personal and musical statement with Won’t Stop that leaves you wanting more.