The second album from Parisian singer-songwriter/band Syd Matters is an exercise in autumnal nostalgia, full of finger-picked acoustic guitars, moody atmospherics and downcast lyrics. Normally I’d be all over that but something about this disc leaves me cold. Perhaps it’s the low-energy, second-hand meanderings or the way this disc tries so hard not to offend in its light rock mediocrity. Or maybe it’s just that Matters’ low, ever-so-earnest voice makes him sound mostly like a guy who just needs to get out more and who desperately needs to develop a sense of humor.
“To All of You” may be the most familiar song here, at least to regular watchers of The O.C. It has a bit more of a spark and hook to it than most of the other tracks here. “I wish I had an American girlfriend,” Matters intones. Occasionally Matters gets the balance of pretty and spooky just about right as on “Someday Sometimes” (which also appears as an unlikely and unwelcome dance remix) and the very Nick Drake-like “Lost Bird.” “I see hundreds of memories when you sigh,” he sings on the latter.
Elsewhere though, “Flow Backwards” and “English Way” sound like the painful result of listening to entirely too much Radiohead. Matters even imitates Thom Yorke’s phrasing. But the album’s biggest sin is just the preponderance of dull, overlong head-scratchers that extend the album’s length well beyond the one-hour mark. Life’s too short to spend that kind of time listening to this guy.
On “Battle of Olympus,” Matters offers this gem: “I swear I saw a fairy in the back of your garden/ But it was nothing at all for you to remember.” Kinda like this album.
Syd Matters: www.sydmatters.com