When he was the bassist in Weezer, Matt Sharp was the extrovert in the band, acting as the foil for Rivers Cuomo's introverted on-stage persona. As the leader of the Rentals, Sharp kept the party going with the group's cheerful new wave/retro-rock, but after their second album stiffed in 1999, he disappeared from the spotlight. When he returned with his eponymous solo debut five years later, he was a different person, at least on record -- a sullen, somber, serious songwriter indulging in introspection and sadness. In short, it's his spin on Beck's Sea Change, a deliberately melancholy mood piece indebted to country-rock and '70s singer/songwriters, with all the songs exploring loss and grief. It's more lo-fi and more work than Sea Change, and it's also moodier: all the tempos are slow, the dynamics are hushed, the melodies are subtle, and the vocals are whispered, creating an insular feel that takes some work to penetrate. Even then, it's arguable whether it's worth the effort to unlock, since it not only takes a few spins for the songs to cut through the atmospherics and begin to catch hold, but it's almost a necessity for listeners to share the same heavy melancholy as Sharp for this to be rewarding. If they do, this is an album that's tailor-made for bad breakups and heartache, the soundtrack for wallowing in self-conscious sadness.
Matt Sharp Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine