When it comes to singer-songwriters, I’m usually bored before the guy with the guitar has even played the first note. Which is why it was a welcome surprise to listen to New York City’s Gambles (aka Matthew Siskin) for the first time.
Usually photographed in an unironically classic outfit of all black with a guitar case on his back, Siskin makes clear that he takes the stance of the lonesome poet seriously. The real art, though, is putting that concept into music in a way that is believable and genuine. And as his first EP proves, Gambles has mastered this art quite skilfully.
What makes the five tracks so triumphant is the combination of Siskin’s lyrics – his simple choice of words paired with powerful metaphors –, his raspy voice and the lo-fi production lending great authenticity to his songs, and a talent for songwriting most obvious in the title track. “Far From Your Arms” is one of those songs with the ability to linger on for long already after the first listen, with a cunning simpleness of melody and lyrics filled with an almost tangible sense of longing and unrest as well as the bliss of coming home at last (“on the sound of a heart barely holding on/you breathe my lungs/you keep me strong”). Although the title track – of course, one must say – is the big winner here, the five tracks blend into a coherent whole, alive with a dreamy melancholia that draws the listener in with ease. “Safe Side” stands out with a more forceful spirit while “California” takes on a near meditative quietness that may find you involuntarily holding your breath.
The EP leaves us with high expectations for Gambles’ first album, which is due in September.