On his second solo album, Matt Kivel alternates between an earthy whisper and a low, tensile croon. It’s a curious and sometimes jarring instrument, yet powerful in a quiet way. On “Underwater,” a highlight from Days of Being Wild, he pushes higher and higher into his upper register as the song builds dramatically, then that falsetto begins to blur into the background synths. Even at such a climactic moment, Kivel threatens to fade into the music — to lose himself in the sound.
Formerly a bass player for Los Angeles indie-rock outfits like Princeton and Gap Dream, among others, Kivel confidently made the transition from sideman to frontman on last year’s Double Exposure. That debut was exceedingly minimal: often just sharply picked acoustic guitars, dissembling synths and that curious voice of his. Days of Being Wild gently expands his palette, adding more instruments and even a full rock band. Reportedly Kivel was inspired by songs on oldies radio, the kind that are omnipresent yet almost universally ignored. He’s never obvious about it, but you can hear that influence on the chug-a-lug pace of “Insignificance” and the subdued power chords on “Blonde Boy,” which could be a deconstructed Cars tune. If Double Exposure meandered, Days of Being Wild sounds compact and purposeful, which suits Kivel. Even at his poppiest and (relatively) most populist, that falsetto of his still conveys a natural and compelling sense of loneliness.