Rock’s newest heartthrob comes just in time for summer: Matt Nathanson’s ninth studio album to date Modern Love (Vanguard Records) keeps up the acclaim Nathanson recieved on his last album Some Mad Hope, which went double platinum. He has been working relentlessly for this recognition since his debut album Please (Acrobat Records, 1993) which he released while still attending Pitzer College in Southern California. Nathanson is now based in San Francisco and records his albums there and in L.A., with an ecletic collection of musicians including Jason Mcgerr, drummer of Death Cab for Cutie. His songs are co-written by Mark Weinberg.
The stand out-track from his newest album is certainly the title track: his lyrics, voice and music ache with longing for authenticity in the romantic connections we have today. He sings of a girl hardened by heartbreak, in a way that makes any girl wish all the guys out there could have the insight of Nathanson’s music: “She said one big exhale never did me no good. I let them in, oh I let them win. I burned my house down just to hear them scream my name. I carried hope and heavy day dreams…This modern love is not enough. She said watch your back, I’m nobody’s girlfriend.” This album of deep contemplation over elements of attraction, sustaining connections, and of course loss, comes just in time for listeners to really dig into the narrative.
Take a walk or lay out in the sun while listening to this one: and don’t worry about ending up covered in tears-Nathanson throws in enough bouncy fun pop songs about falling in love (“Faster”) to keep you above water; while he also sings to you of romantic turmoils (“Kiss Quick”) that you may know all too well. There are motivational anthems such as “Mercy (Less Drowning, More Land)” as well.
“Everyone I know was going through a personal relationship crisis,” Nathanson explains on his website. “Divorce, affairs, being alone, being newly in love. I was watching the people around me struggle and transition. The songs are about them. About me. The struggle to actually love. And find love. And accept love when someone is actually giving it to you.” And he dosen’t live in the bubble of personal relationships- “Room at the End of the World” was inspired by Japan which is, as he puts it, “a place where modern architecture was smashed up against tradition. Against history. Bullet trains. Everything moving fast I read a ton of Haruki Murakami- sexuality. And lust. Against the cold backdrop of tradition”. He sees this album as a departure from his singer/songwriter work and a launch into a full on rock band. He finds inspiration in everything from Tears for Fears’ “Songs from the Big Chair” to David Bowie’s classic “Let’s Dance.” Nathanson is what listeners look for in an alternative rock artist: his songs reassure you about what you’ve been going over and over in your head, and remind you that you are among many who know how you feel.