ALBUM REVIEW: Nathanson one ‘of the Great’ songwriters

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First Posted: 8/26/2013

On his ninth album, San Francisco-based songwriter Matt Nathanson pens a masterstroke of lucid pop; it’s music filled with ambient, multi-tracked nuances, just begging to be explored by way of repeat listening. Nathanson’s genuine presentation of character, along with his knack for a youthfully romantic lyric, combine with a bit of a disquieting heart – keeping him trolling the byways of he-said, she-said cognizance.

Nathanson translates thought to mouth without so much as an extraneous breath. “I found religion at the record store, I found heaven on your kitchen floor,” he sings in “Kill the Lights;” his carefree command of the bliss his songs embody is infectious, and his fearless acoustic/folk accompaniment hammers home the instrumental ideals with just enough delicacy, never falling limp. “Last Days of Summer” is another such track; amid gray-shaded piano and slightly jittery lip, Nathanson muses how “no one cares about the stories they’re not in,” while dispensing lopsided optimism.

Fans of everything from Bruno Mars to Jack Johnson will rejoice in cuts like “Mission Bells,” a reaffirmation of headstrong love set to a loose hip-hop beat – Nathanson takes the verse/chorus framework and blurs it to the point where the listener hangs on every line. Whereas in the past, Nathanson could be accused of flirting with bubblegum territory, but on this release, he fully graduates to a much more charismatic, mature songwriting presence. “Sunday New York Times” is just such a slice of ante-upped class that displays Nathanson’s lyrically structured growth.

Everyman-accessible pop with a defined vision and gorgeous lyrical form, it’s easy to interpret Matt Nathanson’s music as art cut from a million memories. He’s stumbled onto a winning formula for sure.

Matt Nathanson ‘Last of the Great Pretenders’ Rating: W W W W

-Mark Uricheck, Weekender Correspondent