The Volunteers
Jade Tree Records (2004)

Listening to releases by any of Jonah Matranga's projects (Far, New End Original, onelinedrawing), it becomes clear that Matranga has no hesitancy when it comes to sharing thoughts and feelings. Live performances are often conducted in an informal manner with the line between artist and audience routinely blurred as Matranga converses with the audience about song origins and other thoughts between — and sometimes in the middle of — songs.

On The Volunteers Matranga's lyrics continue to reveal intimate thoughts and ideas while his songs musically have become more sophisticated and stylistically diverse. While onelinedrawing's last album, Visitor, seemed somewhat flat as it stuck to a primarily guitar/vocals format, The Volunteers' arrangements seem to be more complex incorporating layers of recorded vocals, expanded instrumentation, and additional vocal harmonies.

"Oh, Boys" is possibly the best example on the album of this greater musical sophistication. With assistance from Mike Skinner on electronic drums, piano, and synth, "Boys" is laid upon a light and airy groundwork reminiscent of Jimmy Tamborello's work on The Postal Service. What distinguishes the track from those recorded by onelinedrawing's peers is the gutsy use of Queen-like vocal harmonies as a transition into the song's concluding passage.

Also revealed on The Volunteers is Matranga's exploration of more atmospheric, score-like sounds ("--> New York", "Portland -->"). There are still tracks typical of prior onelinedrawing releases ("Livin' Small", "We Had a Deal"), but it is the revealing of new territory that appeals to me the most about this album and makes me anticipate with excitement future onelinedrawing records.

-PhiLL Ramey