CD Review of Some Mad Hope by Matt Nathanson

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Some Mad Hope
starstarstarstarno star Label: Vanguard
Released: 2007
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There have been so many male singer/songwriters backed by rock bands in the last few years (Michael Tolcher, John Mayer, Marc Broussard…we could go on all day), that some of the better ones have ended up as casualties of a simple numbers game – such as Matt Nathanson, whose major-label effort, 2003’s Beneath These Fireworks, was hooky as hell but maybe didn’t sell enough units for Universal to retain him. Enter indie powerhouse Vanguard Records, which seems to be plucking talented artists like Broussard or Kim Richey off the waiver wire lately and helping them continue their solid, if under-the-radar, careers. Vanguard did nothing to sway Nathanson’s sound either, instead letting his colorful stories and soaring melodies speak their own language on Some Mad Hope, his debut on the label and possibly his best effort to date.

Right from the start on the opener, “Car Crash,” Nathanson likens getting over a failed relationship to a car accident, and wanting to fully feel the impact of the pain so he can move on. That’s powerful stuff. And hooks abound in songs that have Nathanson’s trademark sound, such as “Come on Get Higher” and “To the Beat of Our Noisy Hearts.”

But when Nathanson turns the volume down, as he does on the riveting ballad “Bulletproof Weeks,” he not only shows his versatility but puts himself alongside the likes of John Waite. In fact, close your eyes and you just may think that’s who you’re listening to. And the closer, “All We Are,” is a singsong gem that is sure to stick to your eardrums for a while.

With all of the musical acts out there seeking exposure and with so many outlets for them to be heard, the fact is that real talent finds a way to emerge and be heard. Matt Nathanson is one of those artists, and he should indeed be heard, because there are flocks of people out there that eat up this kind of melodic music. But beyond that, with Some Mad Hope, Nathanson cements his place as a people’s songwriter, writing about real things and conveying it all with heart and passion.

~Mike Farley