A gem of an album and possibly this year's best-kept secret.
Helen Groom 2007-07-20
Scott Matthews, another singer/songwriter amongst the millions that seem to have emerged in the wake of David Gray. Easy to dismiss, but to do that would be to miss out on one of the best debut albums of the last year.
Matthews picked up one of the highest accolades going in the music biz, the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Both Musically and Lyrically for song ''Elusive'', and on the back of this, his debut album has been released in an all-singing all-dancing special edition.
The special bit of this version of Passing Stranger is a 5 track second disc with Matthews backed by a string quartet, produced by John Leckie (Stone Roses, Radiohead, and a veritable who’s who of others). Some of the tracks here really benefit from the treatment, such as ''Dream Song'', but others, namely ''Eyes Wider Than Before'', make you wonder what the point was.
Passing Stranger itself is simply a gem of an album. Matthews’ singing voice, surprisingly devoid of his Wolverhampton accent, is beautiful and intense, and despite the album having a relatively stripped-back acoustic sound, it is music that swirls around you, envelopes you in a rich, layered sound, and just makes you feel good.
Think of Matthews as the love child of Neil Finn, Thom Yorke, and Jeff Buckley, with a good old dash of psychedelia, Eastern influences, a bit of folk, and some fantastically mysterious lyrics, and you’d be about there. Unsurprisingly, he’s created something truly fantastic here.
Naturally there are highs and lows on the album, the highs being ''The Fool’s Fooling Himself'' (just try to not sing along) and ''Elusive'' (about as beautifully honest as you can get), with the lows being ''Prayers'', which errs just on the wrong side of dull, and ''White Feathered Medicine''.
Bottom line, if you already own Passing Stranger, rather than buy this version in addition, you would better spend your money seeing him play live. If you don’t own it already, get yourself down to the shops. Immediately.