Matt Nathanson’s new album, Modern Love (June 21, 2011), is a toe-tappin,’ knee-slappin’ new addition to his already impressive discography (including one platinum single, “Come On Get Higher”). This guy has been releasing material since 1993, so it’s no surprise that he has mastered the singer-songwriter sound.
Modern Love is laden with guitars that are thick when they need to be, changing their tone to match each song’s dynamics and lyrics. On a whole, the album is upbeat, even featuring trumpets and hand claps in the landscape of a couple songs. The guitars go from a silky smooth Steely Dan to a tin can overdriven crunch that’s completely unexpected. And while the album is heavy on the acoustic guitar, Nathanson doesn’t neglect his the benefits proffered by his electric.
This album is slightly predictable and pretty true to the traditional singer-songwriter sound: The acoustic track carries the chord progression all the way through the song while electric guitars form the punctuation marks, allowing the music to “read” smoothly. The piano on this album deepens the warm sound by adding a dark, brooding theme. I would say the most commendable element here is Nathanson’s use of minimalist electronics. The electronic drums in “Love Comes Tumbling Down” add a slightly indie tinge, and synthesizers give a distinguishing element to this song. With an album title like Modern Love, it’s obvious that most of the lyrics are going to center on one thing: girls. Amid all the lyrics of lost or desired love come a few lyrical gems, however. “They sleep with hornets and they wonder why they wake up stung” is a powerful double entendre from Nathanson’s “Room at the End of the World.”
Nathanson definitely has songwriting chops, but I would love to see him use these skills to expand his subject matter to reach beyond the realm of women and love. All in all, the album is sure to be a hit with his fans, and may even draw a few new listeners to his impressive sound.