Heralding from San Francisco, California, Matt Nathanson is one of those musicians you just can’t help but love, and respect. He’s been releasing good album after good album for years now; gaining a fan or two here, and a fan or two there, along the way. The fruit of his unscrupulous labors paid off about two albums ago, when he was picked up by Universal for the release of his major label debut Beneath These Fireworks. That disc was stellar in it’s own right, taking the route many songwriters do by combining a few of his better songs from past releases, and rerecording them, and peppering them in with some great new tunes. When it was released, I labeled Beneath These Fireworks Nathanson’s career defining album. At the time, I didn’t think he could get any better.
Luckily, I was wrong.
Flash forward a few years, with an insatiably delicious live album tossed in for good measure to fill the void, and we’ve found the present, and with it the release of Nathanson’s latest masterpiece: Some Mad Hope. Never has he made an album as complete as Hope. He touched at this type of cohesiveness with Fireworks, but looking back at it in comparison to this it’s easy to see that he still had a small ways to go. Some Mad Hope is like the great records of yore that just mesh and live together—so much so that it’d be easy to imagine that one song almost couldn’t exist at all without the others by it’s side; to give it context, and to give it depth.
The first single from the disc is the album opener “Car Crash,” and I couldn’t think of a better introduction to Nathanson’s signature full-band, singer-songwriter brand of tuneage. Things really pick up with the song-song “Come On Get Higher,” which employs an old gospel vibe in the chorus that will stick in your head for years to come. To continue on to my favorite diamond in the diamond bag, “Bulletproof Weeks” is one of the greatest songs Nathanson has ever written—period. Poignant closer “All We Are” ends the trip perfectly with the golden line, “Everyday is the start of something beautiful, beautiful.”
Indeed it is Matt, indeed it is.
Hatchie – Keepsake
Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars
Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.
There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.
However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.
The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.