Last updated December 14th 2015
Love is like fire, and fire is a strange thing: beautiful and dangerous, with the power to create and destroy. Scott Matthew calls on the image of fire in Effigy, the first track on his 5th album This Here Defeat, a poetic investigation of love and loss. It’s difficult to discuss emotion on a grand scale in the 21st century, but strong imagery, tight wording, musical arrangements with the occasional unexpected infusion of lightness, and the minimalist structure of this album prevent it from becoming maudlin or slipping into pop simplicity. Matthew’s voice – a gray sky pierced by sunlight, makes you want to lean in closer to listen.
The Australian-born, New York based singer/songwriter will be coming to Israel for one performance only on December 15, 2015 at Levontin 7 in Tel Aviv. A perfect venue for the intimate, otherworldly ambiance of this performer, who has no fear of elegance or intelligence, and sings with searing honesty.
The Cello comes in on the mournful Effigy with a sound so warm and deep, the music connects the listener to feelings wider than one individual, then the guitar takes it in close. Harsh and bold, the image of a disintegrating relationship as a “burning effigy” is balanced by the ethereal musing of Matthew’s vocals, always questioning – a haunting, intriguing opening to the album.
If Effigy sets the mood, Skyline lifts the perspective to a wider, all encompassing vision, singing the pain of a generation, an era. In an age when disaster strikes from above, looking up to the sky offers no hope, and the most relevant question is: “Does anyone want to leave this place/c’mon.” The song does not refer to a specific place, although the phrase “skylines change” might well be a reference to 9/11. Leaving the location unstated gives the sense that this troubled place is not just one city or country; it’s everywhere, and there is no escape. Where is hope? If there is any hope in this song it is the hope we find in one another: “don’t we feel the same?” There is a beautiful image of healing in this song – “if you stitch your head to my shoulder” – expressing at once the impossibility of the task, and the possibility of solace. The chorus, rhythmic, almost ritualistic, makes Skyline an anthem for the “disaffected.”
When the world lets us down we look to the ones we love, and when love is gone, what remains is a song – that is Constant.
Ruined Heart begins with a breath, a sound barely there. “A life sacrificed for/ something I can’t find/ has left me in ruins.” A heartfelt lament, poignant and precise as a wound.
The rhythms shift on the title track, a touch of self-aware distance nicely placed in the center of the album. Lovelorn in an ironic mode, This Here Defeat shimmers with pop echoes and amusing lyrics: “I won’t pen a rhyme/to justify this wasted time.”
Bittersweet continues the light take on heartache with a catchy tune and witty words: “you like to laugh but just at me” Makes a great sing-along for the broken hearted.
If Bittersweet is the perfect addition to one’s “lost love – the recovery playlist” then Here We Go Again is a must for the wallowing stage. An intelligent, elegant, exposition of loss: “now you’re the enemy just a friend.”
Ode is a beautiful elegy, an evocation of a different time, when people remembered to take the time to mourn. A tribute in word and song from a grandson to his grandfather.
Palace of Tears closes the album with an enigmatic feel, evoking a fictional realm of private associations, a place we cannot enter, but only gaze from a distance.
Scott Matthew will be performing at Levontin 7 on December 15, 2015 at 21:00. This concert is produced by Zuzz Agency, who brought the memorable performance of Low to the Barby last January, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Los Mutantes this fall. Tickets are available at 119 NIS advance purchase, and will be 140 NIS at the door (if any are left). Tickets may be purchased online via this link. Link to the facebook event page here.