Did I say first listen? I meant first, second, third and maybe even fourth.
Nathanson, a veteran of folk-laced rock, sings a path to my heart with this latest amalgam of longing mixed with bouncy fun. His many references to San Francisco also hit close to my part of the globe and bring the album a fresh, sincere vibe. Last of the Great Pretenders is a window into what it’s like to be inside Nathanson’s head.
Nathanson broke through the noise in 2007 with his platinum-selling single, “Come on Get Higher,” off his release, Some Mad Hope. Modern Love followed in 2011 and featured the hits “Faster” and “Run” as well as the infectious title track.
Many cuts list among my favorites on Last of the Great Pretenders, but perhaps the most memorable is “Kinks Shirt,” which delivers a flippant beat with clever lyrics and vivid details that grab you and pull you along for a head-bobbing ride. My 17-year-old daughter walked in while this cut was playing and asked, “Is he saying pink shirt?” When I told her no, he said Kinks shirt. She replied, “What’s that?” Sigh.
Nathanson has a knack for writing toe-tapping grooves and bouncy syllabic vocal riffs. “Heart Starts” is a prime example. Like most of the cuts off Last of the Great Pretenders, “Heart Starts” covers yearning, achy subject matter but has a free-feeling vibe that is very endearing.
The arrangements on the album are rife with hand-claps, lively beats and jangly guitars, all solidly recorded and mixed to back Nathanson’s penetrating vocals. The performance is consistently good with just enough variation. When I got to the end, I thought, too bad it’s over.
But perhaps even better than the excellent performance are the lyrics. Ooo la la. A veritable smorgasbord of detail-ridden references, unique hooks and visual-inducing stunners. Nathanson goes two steps beyond his past writing with a selection of songs that grab and hold on fast. In the end, I just want to give Nathanson a hug and say, nice job, hope your heart heals soon.
For more info, check out mattnathanson.com.
Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents Dean Markley, Agile Partners, Peavey, Jammit, Notion Music, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the founder of the Women's International Music Network at thewimn.com, producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.