Thursday, July 18, 2013

"cd" review: matt nathanson's "last of the great pretenders"

"If I bent like you said was best,
Would that change a thing?
If I spent myself til nothing's left,
Would you still leave me here?

You're so sorry about it all
Now that it's over?
Should I thank you for that dear?
So sorry about it all?
I hope you'll always be ..."

-- "Bent" by Matt Nathanson.  Not on this new album -- it's an oldie, and a goodie ...


It's been awhile since I've done one of these ... but this is one of two new releases in the summer of 2013, I've been highly anticipating.  (The other one is Brantley Gilbert's upcoming effort, which I believe is due to drop in late August.)

I first saw Mr. Nathanson back in 2008 at the Bottleneck, long before he became a smash hit.  You can click here to read my review of that night.  As mesmerized as I was that evening?  If anything, I love this guy's work even more, five years later.

(cough cough) Matt Nathanson will be performing at KC Live on Friday, August 9th.  (cough cough).  I'm just saying (cough).

Artist: Matt Nathanson
CD: "Last of the Great Pretenders"
11 songs, 40 minutes (approximately)

1. "Earthquake Weather".  I love the sound.  I just love the sound of this song.  It has a Maroon 5 / Gavin DeGraw type of vibe to it.  And if you know me at all, you know how freaking much I love Gavin DeGraw.  I also love the lyrics.  The song is about a dude who recognizes he's screwed up the relationship, and they get to you.  Really solid opening track.  If this is the opener, I can't wait to hear the next ten efforts.

Best line(s):
Scared dogs will bite,
And cowards cut and run.
And sun, it burns your skin.
It comes natural to be so cruel,
To be an a**hole,
To someone as good as you.

Grade: A.

2. "Mission Bells".  Interesting opening.  Another Maroon 5 / Gavin DeGraw style vibe.  One thing I really like about it, is that every time he hits a pause, and you expect him to take it more up-tempo leading up to the chorus?  He stops.  He lets the verses play out, and even then, he doesn't really amp up the chorus much.  Oh, song is about a dude who dreams his girl died, so he wants to let her know how he feels while he knows he still can.  A little creepy, but what the hell.

Best line(s):
I'm the end of a Hitchcock movie --
A little dark and a lot confusing.
I'm the last of the worst pretenders --
So lost, so lost in love.

Grade: B+.

3. "Last Days of Summer in San Francisco".  This song sounds like it could have been on "Modern Love", and especially "Some Mad Hope".  This is a more traditional sounding Matt Nathanson song.  I like the sound, but not as much as the first two tracks.  Plus, and maybe I'm just a clueless dolt who's had one too many glasses of shiraz tonight, but I have no freaking clue what the hell this song is about.  I'm guessing this won't be his next single release.

Best line(s):
Love?  Noone cares
About the stories they aren't in.
We'll fade out to whispers --
It's the last days of summer
In San Francisco.

Grade: B.

4. "Kinks Shirt".  Wow.  Look it, I irrationally love anything Matt Nathanson does.  But this is without question -- (allard baird voice) without question! -- one of my five or six favorite songs he's ever done*.  Trust me folks, you are going to love this song.  It's also kind of cool that he wrote this about someone specific, who he apparently met while recording this album.  This song is fun, catchy, and it's gonna be a hit.

Best line(s):
It's the way she walks!
The way she talks!
I can't stop thinking 'bout
The girl in the kinks shirt!

Take me home,
San Francisco!
Can't stop thinking 'bout
The girl in the kinks shirt!

You and my imagination!
You and my imagination!
You and my imagination!
I can't stop thinking 'bout
The girl in the kinks shirt!

Grade: A+.  Phenomenal.

(*: my five favorite Nathanson songs pre-this album, in reverse order: 5. "Answering Machine", a great "f*ck you!" song to that ex that you're still p*ssed about; 4. "Modern Love", if only for the epic line "who said one big exhale never did me no good?"; 3. "Come On Get Higher", which is the song that truly put him on the map, and it's so, so, so damned good; 2. "More Than This", the "Live at the Point" version linked here, and 1. "Heartbreak World", a song that has really appealed to me over this last year.  Also -- his cover of "Take On Me" is EPIC live.)

5. "Sky High Honey".  And whoa, did he hit the breaks on where this album was headed.  Let's just say, this isn't an upbeat, happy track like "Kinks Shirt" or even "Earthquake Weather".  And yet, I like it.  I'm struggling to find another Matt Nathanson song to compare this to.  It's kind of similar to "Bent" in terms of tempo, but not sound.  Still, I like this.  Not love it -- but definitely like it.

Best line(s):
No more late night drives to Boston;
No more Cure songs to get lost in.
No more taxis, subway tokens --
Arms wide open, I'm sky high honey gone.

Grade: B.

6. "Annie's Always Waiting (For the Next One to Leave)".  And just when you're starting to doze off, bango!  We're back to a more upbeat, happy vibe.  You know what this song sounds like, honestly?  The theme song from "The Big Bang Theory".  It's very similar, and damned near as catchy.

Best line(s):
My life's a movie.
My whole life's a movie,
If movie's made you wanna
Jump off a bridge.

She said I got one,
Who really moves me,
And one who sees through me,
When all I want is a kiss.

Annie's always waiting
For the next one to leave;
But she's right on time
For me.

Grade: B.

7. "Kill the Lights".  Wow.  You'll like the song, you'll love the flow, and you'll totally and completely fall in love with the lyrics.

Best line(s):
I found religion at the record store;
I found heaven on your kitchen floor.
The church of your curves,
The ghost inside us --
The last temptation.

Kill the lights!
I'm afraid of nothing!
The church of your curves!
The ghost inside us!
The last temptation!

The night is young,
But we are younger --
Time is on our side!
Kill the lights!
Kill the lights!

Grade: A.  Another phenomenal effort.

8. "Heart Starts".  We're back to the Maroon 5 vibe again to open, but by the time it gets rolling, it sounds more like a Matt Nathanson effort.  This is decent, but it really doesn't do anything for me.  As my buddy Pickell would say, put it this way: it won't be on any of the (at least) ten to (hopefully) twelve Mixology efforts this fall.

Best line(s):
Found a dead girl to read my palm.
Yeah, she was into losing streaks,
So I let her take me on.

Grade: C.

9. "Birthday Girl".  Take a listen to the first verse, and tell me if my descent into a nervous breakdown is worse than I thought, but the verses, the music, I swear, you will think of "Leaving On A Jet Plane".  The bridge and the chorus?  Nope, unique.  But I kind of dig this.  Also, the drum solo entering the final chorus, you'll immediately think of the theme song from "the little show that could", my second favorite show of all time, "Friday Night Lights".

Best line(s):
I don't know what to do,
Once this gets started.
I never meant to be
So broken hearted.

Grade: A-.  A sneaky good track that you don't see coming.

10. "Sunday New York Times".  This is a song you want to put on if you're depressed as holy hell.  It will make you even more depressed.  Very slow, very much about a painful memory.

Best line(s):
You were the saint, I was the liar.
At least that's how I remember it.
Left all our dreams, all our desires,
On the steps of your apartment.

The Brooklyn Bridge,
Your olive skin,
Framed in black and white.
I miss how simple love can be.

Grade: B+.  Another sneaky good track that draws you in.

11. "Farewell, December".  An interesting choice to close the album down.  This song takes awhile to get going, but once it does (about halfway through), it's a pretty decent effort.  I like the sound, and I love the lyrics, so it's got that going for it.  But this ain't the track I'd close the effort out with.

Best line(s):
I felt alive for the first time in my life;
I held you tight, and the crowd sang Auld Lang Syne.
The sky was turning blue, like movie endings do.
This year was ours, ours, ours!
Farewell December.

Grade: B.

Overall: amongst the best $9.99 I've spent on iTunes in a very long time.  Every track save for "Heart Starts" earned at least a B-, and if I'm being fair, I was probably too harsh on a few of these grades.  This is almost a better album than "Modern Love", but not quite as good as "This Mad Hope".  Or "Live at the Point".

Overall Grade: B+.
Overall Grade, Theismann Scale: 12-4, conference two seed.

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