Matt Bauer 

Wasps and White Roses

Since Matt Bauer's melancholic, banjo-driven folk ballads made him a fixture of the Bay Area roots scene, his latest seven-song EP, released just after his recent relocation to Brooklyn, feels like a carefully worded goodbye. The title track is so simple, it's basically a list of words — wasps on a crosswind, white roses, a roadside cross, and two long lines of oak trees — strung together with a skeletal banjo riff. From the rawboned instrumentation to the unvarnished delivery of Bauer's whispered baritone, Wasps' largest rewards come out of its graceful understatement, evident on the traditional renditions of "Heap of Little Horses" or the Nina Simone favorite "Sea Lion Woman." Moreover, the lilting strings and gentle picking of the record's shortest track, a 43-second instrumental called "White Horses," proves his capacity to melt hearts with no words at all.

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