Matthew Milia's, new record Alone at St.Hugo is a deceptive beast. At first on opening track Alive at the Same Time, you get the sense that you might be in the company of a carefree Elliot Smith looking through his box of memories. Or a better adjusted Alex Chilton from his Big Star days who ended up with a happy ending. Big Star are clearly a reference point. Alive at the Same Time paraphrases Thirteen, 'Tell your father what we said about Radio City'.
As the album moves on it becomes apparent that it's not all quite as well-adjusted as it initially appears. Alone at St.Hugo is an exercise in nostalgia as its cover, pictures from Milia's photo album attests. It's a document that shows that wallowing in memories is always a slightly dangerous exercise. The world stays young while we don't. Each song is crafted like musical honey while the lyrics choose a slightly darker path.
Milia is also a member of Frontier Ruckus but this record allows him to make a more personal statement and he grasps the opportunity with both hands. Good families and friendships have a way of coming back together even after suffering the most painful personal blows but the impact of these blows always remains somewhere beneath the skin that grows over the wound. Daydreaming about the girl you were attracted to in sixth grade isn't always going to help.
So this is bittersweet stuff and Milia handles it well. He understands that the world moves on from almost anything. There's plenty to unearth here and reward repeat plays. While Elliot and Chilton haunt the corridors of Alone at St.Hugo, he has plenty himself to add to the archive. If occasionally you might feel that you want to shake him out his reverie and urge him to just let it go, the human urge he explores here at length and in depth is a very real one and he charts the condition sensitively.
As the record moves on, Milia marks the passing of time as we move through the internet years. 'Did you update your status?' he asks at one point. All in all this is a finely crafted record but perhaps not one I'll choose to wallow in too often. Looking through your old photos is not something you want to do everyday. But Alone at St.Hugo is ready as an apt soundtrack should you ever choose to do so. Slip on your headphones and indulge yourself. While this is no Radio City or Either / Or as its debt to both is so readily evident, it's definitely a record that deserves an index mention when the book that's dedicated to this stuff comes to be compiled.