Thin Lear 2024
Photo: Shervin Lainez / Chromatic PR

Thin Lear Reveals an Uncanny Ear for Melody

Thin Lear’s EP is a unique and instantly lovable combination of indie folk and chamber pop and a superb showcase for Matt Longo’s immense songwriting abilities.

A Beach of Nightly Glory
Thin Lear
Metropolitan Groove Merchants
7 June 2024

It may have been nearly four years since Matt Longo – under the moniker Thin Lear – released his last album, Wooden Cave, but judging by his latest EP, A Beach of Nightly Glory, the New Jersey-based singer-songwriter hasn’t missed a beat. He continues to craft a unique and instantly lovable combination of indie folk and chamber pop that largely follows along the same lines as its predecessor (which made PopMatters’ list of the best albums of 2020). The only thing disappointing about this new work is its length – the five-song EP clocks in at just under 15 minutes, with not an ounce of fat.

While Wooden Cave was lyrically instilled with a sense of danger and doom, unintentionally mirroring the terror and uncertainty of the COVID pandemic (Longo explained in that album’s press release that his favorite songs “deliver terrifying images in gorgeous packages”), A Beach of Nightly Glory seems a bit more empathetic and hopeful. The EP’s self-reflective nature is partly due to fatherhood, as Longo’s daughter was born while he was working on these tracks.  

Recording over several weeks at Spacebomb Studios in Richmond, Virginia, with production courtesy of Matthew E. White (Bedouine, Natalie Prass, Dan Croll), Longo recruited the Spacebomb house band – Alan Parker on guitar, Cameron Ralston on bass, Daniel Clarke on keyboards and Brian Jones on drums – to create a lean sound that suits the songs perfectly. Three of the five tracks have already been released as singles over the last couple of months, but it’s a treat to hear all five included in one package.

Opening with “Overnighter”, Longo sings in his usual impeccable croon that veers between Harry Nilsson and Paul Heaton over a simple waltz tempo as he witnesses a loved one go through a difficult time. “Though it kills me to sleep every night,” he sings, “Dream of you there with this thorn in your side / If I could give you what you need for this stay / It’d flood on and on and on and on ’til I faded away.” Longo doesn’t just give off the sonic feel of an artist like Nilsson or Heaton – his songwriting chops and his way with melody are a throwback to the timeless compositions of artists like Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison, and David Berman.

While Longo’s acoustic guitar is a primary force behind A Beach of Nightly Glory, the songs also appropriately stray from the folk template. A perfect example is the crunchy groove of “Bowie’s Ley Lines”, a track about the idea of warm memories to distract us from the present (“What good is this memory that rips me from my day / To a beach of nightly glory / With cassettes of Hunky Dory” is a killer line that brings to mind the power of music to color our experiences). The fuzzy guitar that runs through it gives the EP a warm, new wave/power pop kick in the pants.

The anxiety of impending parenthood and worst-case scenario anxiety inspired “Richard Out in Space”, another folk-tinged waltz that takes advantage of the Spacebomb musicians with Band-like guitar licks and simmering organ lines as Longo sings with trepidation, “They lied / Singing love is all you need / Not the freedom and anger and weed / An apartment off the BQE.”

But at its heart, Longo’s repertoire benefits greatly from a more sedate atmosphere, as “A Debt” glides along a warm, bouncy groove with mature, self-examining lyrics that seem to shake off some of the tension that appears elsewhere on the EP. Elsewhere, “Impossible Man”, which closes things out, seems like an apology to, and appreciation of, his partner – and possibly his young daughter – for manifesting his anger and anxiety in palpable ways, sort of an honest, emotionally naked love song. “There’s nothing new under my sun,” he sings. “Morning just breaks me down / Evening shakes me ’round.” Life is hard, parenthood can seem impossible, and Matt Longo is fully aware that he’s not immune to the peaks and valleys that come with it.

Thin Lear’s A Beach of Nightly Glory is a superb showcase for Matt Longo’s immense songwriting abilities, not to mention his uncanny ability to translate everyday life’s trials and tribulations artistically. It’s so good that you wish it were three times longer, or maybe at least a teaser for another full-length album.

RATING 9 / 10