PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Matt Nathanson: Some Mad Hope

A strong contender for Most Generic Album of the Year. Wait, who was singing again?


Matt Nathanson

Some Mad Hope

Label: Vanguard
US Release Date: 2007-08-14
UK Release Date: 2007-08-13
Amazon
iTunes

Matt Nathanson released his first album back in 1993 -- a low-key folk-rock disc called Please. Fourteen years later, little has changed.

Oh sure, he's toured around the nation and has a tighter backing band, but he's only gotten more generic with time. His first recordings sounded like a one-man Dispatch: acoustic-leaning DIY numbers that were perfect for late-night fratboy singalongs. Nowadays, his gaze is aimed straight at those 30-second spots on MTV shows where a dramatic pop number is played over an even more dramatic scene from The Hills or Laguna Beach or whatever pointless rich-girl drama show comes out next (my bet's on Boston Harbor).

Some Mad Hope follows his major-label 2003 disappointment Beneath These Fireworks, an album that felt completely robbed of any sense of originality. Knowing his mistakes, he largely drops the acoustic-and-mic numbers for a more fleshed-out approach this time around, and boy does this thing gleam. Every track has enough studio sheen to polish a car (or three). In listening to "Falling Apart", each element (the piano pumps, the bass, Nathanson's own multi-tracked backup singing) can be heard rather distinctively -- none of that basement muddiness of his early tunes. While this all sounds great on an iPod, however, a little more time could've been given to the actual songs and the real problem at hand: Nathanson's vocal presence.

Just like Beneath These Fireworks, Nathanson does absolutely nothing to distinguish himself from the crowd. He has no vocal presence and no discernable personality whatsoever. If you heard "Gone" on the radio, it would be damn near impossible to determine whether this is the work of Matt Nathanson, Howie Day, Savage Garden, or Evan & Jaron (or whatever guitar-slinging crooner is vaguely popular at the time that you're reading this). However, it should be pointed out that -- this being a pop album and all -- the melodies still pack a punch. There are still hooks, catchy little trills, and even the occasional guilty-pleasure pop-rock number lying about (which, in this case, is the carefree-yet-horribly-titled "To The Beat of Our Noisy Hearts").

Yet, the biggest point of contention (undoubtedly) will be Nathanson's lyrics. If you're over a certain age (or just really jaded), then lines like these may feel like wordy tripe:

I remember honey lips and words so true

I remember nonstop earthquake dreams of you

You're coming on fast like good dreams do

All night long

I still can feel you kiss me love

I still can see your brown skin shining, shining

I still can feel you kiss me love

Come on and drive me wild

If you are still collecting watching your O.C. DVDs on constant repeat, this just might be moving. If you can't wait to hear the new Radiohead record, you probably have never heard of Matt Nathanson. Additionally, in a case of horribly mixed analogies, opening song "Car Crash" has oddly apocalyptic lyrics that -- unfortunately -- can get misconstrued horribly out of context:

I want to feel the car crash

I want to feel it capsize

I want to feel the bomb drop, the earth stop

'til I'm satisfied

I want to feel the car crash

'cause I'm dying on the inside

Yes, we get that the narrator's need in the song is just to feel something, but "I want to feel the bomb drop, the earth stop / 'til I'm satisfied"? Some say subtlety is a lost art...

Joseph Arthur was dwelling in the indie-folk scene for many years before "Honey and the Moon" -- a sweet yet poignant acoustic ballad -- got picked up by the ad agencies, soon appearing everywhere from the first O.C. mix-tape (aka Now That's What I Call Indie!) to the soundtrack for American Pie 3. Arthur had bigger concert draws, appeared on Letterman, and then... continued to make the same folky/arty albums that he's built his career on. He didn't let monetary success faze him in the least, and for that we can be grateful. Matt Nathanson is following the opposite path: his writing is getting weaker and more generic as his studio budget escalates. Is Nathanson an artist worth saving from the lures of commercial stardom? Absolutely -- but at this rate, changing his mind will be a monumental task in itself. Some Mad Hope indeed.

3

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.