Matt Nathanson | Some Mad Hope (Vanguard)

cd_nathansonI hate to think that contentment kills creativity—really, must all artists be tortured and miserable?—but numerous listens to Some Mad Hope have left me uninspired.

 

 

 

 

 

Since he wrote the songs for his last album, major-label hurrah Beneath These Fireworks, Matt Nathanson has changed. He got married, for one, leading to speculation on his songwriting. Would he be as lyrically effective now that his supply of heartache and longing had been extinguished? He also left the major label, returning to the indie world with his Vanguard signing.

I hate to think that contentment kills creativity—really, must all artists be tortured and miserable?—but numerous listens to Some Mad Hope have left me uninspired. The songs are slower, less catchy; what pop there is seems more understated. On the occasional song, this would be OK, but a whole album's worth? Some Had Hope has no "Curve of the Earth," no "Angel," no lines as heart-grabbing as "What I wear like church clothes/ you wear just like jewelry."

Even last year's Live at the Point, recorded solo acoustic, held more rock and emotion than Some Mad Hope. Twelve songs, and the only one I'm really able to sink my teeth into here is "Detroit Waves." It rushes ahead, not holding back; here-and only here-Nathanson really spreads his wings and soars.

Some songs try valiantly to rise above the fray. "Gone" flaps its wings, and "Bulletproof Weeks" raises the age-old question of lost love: "What happened?" And were the stripped-down "Still" an anomaly amid a sea of upbeat rockers, it would stand out better for the at-times funky remembrance it is.

You want the indie world to be fair to a talented singer-songwriter like Matt Nathanson; a major label's no place for his biting and introspective lyrical ability and storytelling. But he's going to have to do better than Some Mad Hope to prove the departure from the major label was of his own making. C- | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: Howie Day, The Fray, Duncan Sheik

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