San Francisco's Matt Nathanson has released five independent albums and an EP in the past ten years, and through steady touring and a dynamic stage presence, has built up a loyal fan base. Beneath These Fireworks, produced by Ron Aniello, is Nathanson's major label debut, and he doesn't waste the opportunity, cherry picking a trio of songs from his earlier releases ("Bare," "Bent," "Lucky Boy") to re-record, and with some radio-ready new material, the result is an impressively cohesive pop album. Nathanson's songs are full of the fractured hearts and broken confessions of unhealthy relationships, and while his lyrics stray at times into an ornate despondency, the sheer pop smarts and giant hooks in the arrangements more than compensate. The brief opening track, "Angel," sets the tone here, with Nathanson's smoky tenor conveying a kind of knowingly pleading intimacy, the sort of thing Paul Simon does so well in his songs about relationships gone slightly askew. At other times, the cynical pop energy at work here is reminiscent of Marshall Crenshaw, with bright arrangements masking deeper concerns. The gorgeous "Pretty the World" is the real gem on this release, and its desperately infectious chorus ("show me how pretty the world is") deserves to be all over the airwaves.
Beneath These Fireworks Review
by Steve Leggett