Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Last of the Great Pretenders - Matt Nathanson

Album: Last of the Great Pretenders
Artist: Matt Nathanson
Release Date: July 16, 2013

Track List (original release):
1. Earthquake Weather
2. Mission Bells
3. Last Days of Summer in San Francisco
4. Kinks Shirt
5. Sky High Honey
6. Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave)
7. Kill the Lights
8. Heart Starts
9. Birthday Girl
10. Sunday New York Times
11. Farewell, December

So yes, I know it has taken me a month and a half to write about this album.  There are reasons for that, but it's all boring real life stuff that I won't snore you to death with. Just trust me, shit has been hectic; however, I've been spinning this thing silly since it was released.  My first comment though is this, when you have a genius lyric on your record like: "I'm the last of the worst pretenders", why on earth would you fly in the face of it when naming the album??  I don't follow.  I'm sure there are 500 perfectly viable reasons for that decision, none of which had to be passed by me for approval.  And honestly, "Last of the Worst Pretenders" isn't that great of an album title, but it still bugs me every time I hear that line.  But, I'm just weird that way.

Speaking of great lyrics, however, he has done it again on this album.  If you follow Matt Nathanson anywhere (twitter, facebook...where ever) you've surely seen him bemoaning the lyric writing process.  Seems so odd to me because I've always loved the shit out of his lyrics and these are no different.  I mean, "just because you learn to breathe, underwater doesn't mean, you ever shake the fear of being drown" ("Birthday Girl") are you kidding me?  The album is full of little gems like that, as we have all come to expect from Matt.  My personal favorite, and perhaps least favorite at the same time (and aren't those always the best kind??), is from "Annie's Always Waiting (for the Next One to Leave)": "My mother, she taught me how to doubt myself. Now, she lives in my head like it's a tree house.  I see her clearer in the mirror more and more each day." Ouch. 

Unlike Matt's last offering, Modern Love, I'll admit that I didn't immediately love this record all the way through the first time I heard it.  But I'm a Matt fan, so I kept listening and the whole thing really has grown on me.  Seems to me that this album is more Matt than past albums have been, or at least it is more present day Matt.  I'm sure they have all come from a genuine place, but this one, with it's San Francisco-centric nature and focus on existing, healthy relationships rather than those going up in flames, it seems like he's drawing more from his present life than from past devastation.  The music itself has also changed direction a bit from past albums, he has almost completely shed the singer/songwriter sound on Last of the Great Pretenders.  The music is more rock/pop sounding, more of a full band sound than a boy-and-his-guitar sound.  He has taken the sound he started to develop on Modern Love and run with it.  I love that, after 20 years of music making, he's still growing and developing and changing it up, I think it's awesome and I can't wait to hear what he does next.

My favorite song on the album is "Heart Starts".  I love this song all to pieces for a few reasons, not the least of which our first 4-letter word, on wax, from Mr. Nathanson.  And then there is the mention of his wife in the second line (or at least, I'm taking it that way - what other "b" could it be??) - I could not love that more if I tried.  This song, with it's "I want to feel it kick in, I want to feel it kick in, this time" refrain is straight up heartwarming. If you're looking for something warming a little further south, LOTGP's swoon-worthy song of choice is "Kill the Lights".  With lines like "you be stunning baby, I'll be stunned, keep glowing, I'll follow your explosions," it's an irresistible love song with a perfect dose of lust.

Overall, I'm really loving this record.  I've been listening to it all over the place and I'm still hearing new things and noticing new and different things about it and I always take that as a sign of a great album.  The album art is perfect too, this is a great album to wander around in and that image perfectly describes the way I felt the first time I plugged into this album, blocked everything else out and did nothing but listen to it.  I highly recommend you let this one in.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Another Friend" -Ryan Schmidt

You guys, I'm kind of freaking out over here.  Ryan Schmidt released a new single today and I'm finally getting to really listen to it for the first time right now.  I listened to it a couple times at work today, but it was just on my phone and only loud enough to know that it was good, you know what I mean?  Now I'm finally hearing it directly in my ears at a respectable volume and I am genuinely blown away. 

I can't decide if we have a pop star or an R&B singer on our hands, but he's the next big thing either way.  Obviously, I've known this for some time, but I'm convinced that the rest of the world is going to catch on when they get a load of this song. 

Richly layered music with clever lyrics depicting the plight of the "friend zone", the song is super catchy...I can picture throngs of screaming girls dancing their asses off to it.  At the same time there are hints of the heart-sick guitar long-time Ryaneers (thanks for the term, Bre!) will recognize from Burning, Bitter Years, just to let know that he is still firmly grounded in his origins.  And of course there is Ryan's soothing, cool-as-the-other-side-of-the-pillow voice driving the whole song and it just keeps getting better and better.

Following Ryan's musical journey and career is so much fun, there is no telling what he has in store for us next!  I'm so excited to see where this new direction takes him, wherever it is, I'm sure it will be an awesome adventure.  So check it out below so you can join me saying "I knew him when".  :)