The New Amsterdams - At the Foot of My Rival (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The New Amsterdams

At the Foot of My Rival (2007)

Elmar / Curb Appeal

Seemingly, once the Get Up Kids dissolved, frontman Matthew Pryor became even more prolific in those recent years, offering up three full-lengths with his New Amsterdams in the last two calendar cycles; the first, Killed or Cured, was just recently issued on proper compact disc format finally. All this bookending to the New Ams' catalog strikes simultaneous to his work in the Terrible Twos, where Pryor tries to hone in on the Raffi demographic -- that band just released their first full-length this past April. You'd think with so much material being pushed out there'd be some quality control issues, but At the Foot of My Rival (whose barely publicized, no-hyped release is surprising enough itself) marks an interesting and evolutionary step for Pryor and co. on LP6 (!).

At the Foot of My Rival opens with the deceivingly lo-fi "Revenge," showcasing only Pryor and his acoustic. Then "Wait" immediately saunters in with shocking layers of instruments, presenting an unusually lush atmosphere for the New Ams. They recede a bit for the song's no less enjoyable duration, where Pryor's voice, while fairly multi-tracked, sounds as mature and pleasant than ever. If not for his instantly recognizable singing however, "A Beacon in Beige" could be mistaken for mid-era Copeland. Some barely muffled, shuffling drums patter along behind him in "Fountain on Youth," finding Pryor singing in a purely upbeat fashion and conjuring up images of In Reverie-era Saves the Day gone right.

The rest of the album, while admittedly slightly dull at times, finds the group employing unique strings, horns and harmonica to spice things up. But somewhat often, the songs drag a little, wallowing in slow-moving forms unlike the softly rocking numbers that permeate the first third or so. Other lo-fi acoustic shots like "Hughes" capture Pryor at his heartfelt best though, a rare thing on At the Foot of My Rival now that he's seemed to stitch his emotions up a bit.

The New Amsterdams were always enjoyable for their folksy edge and bleeding heart theatrics, but even without them they've proved they're more than capable of carrying an original-sounding LP that not only marks an even further departure from Pryor's more notable collective, but strikes new territory for even him as of recent times.

At the Foot of My Rival