The sway of the lightly overdriven guitars is almost paralyzing, but just as it seems we’re about to be overtaken by the powerfully melodic opening bars of “You Are There,” Matthew John comes sliding into focus with his soft voice and tender lyricism. This track comes to us on the appropriately titled The Best of Matthew John, and with its slinky hook, it dispels the boredom induced by modern pop radio with a sexually-charged swing that has become a bit of a staple in John’s music. This is pop for adults, but moreover, it’s a sound that was decidedly conceived with late summer nights in mind.
“You Are There” is a really tough act to compete with, but for an artist of John’s caliber, making provocative percussion and glowing guitar harmonies into rock-hard jams comes all too easily. He shows off his versatility as a vocalist with “Reach for the Stars,” one of the slower songs on The Best of Matthew John, and employs a bravado in the mild piano parts that makes the track feel so much grander than its simple structure actually is. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record, and possibly one of the most immaculate in terms of production value.
A smorgasbord of stately string play is something that listeners are guaranteed to find when taking a look at Matthew John’s new EP. When he’s composing a ballad, it’s clear that a guitar is never far from his reach; every one of these tracks features a really moving arrangement, and though there aren’t any flashy distorted solos or palm-muted breakdowns in this mix, the tonality of the instrumental melodies more than compensates for the lack of virtuosity. John doesn’t waste our time with lavish licks that we’ve already heard a hundred times over here; this record is pure substance, no filler.
“Shine for Me,” like “Reach for the Stars,” patiently spreads out the tension in its ascending verses before dropping a cathartic hook on us in the chorus that we’re not prepared for but nevertheless embrace with open arms. It’s not as efficiently produced as “You Are There” is, but there’s still enough glitter in the grooving to satisfy traditional pop fans. “Reach for the Stars” is the most surreal of the four songs in The Best of Matthew John, but even with its spacy sound, it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to delivering vibrant vocal gold.
Nothing quite sums up this EP like “Let’s Begin Again” does, and while its carnal crooning is its biggest draw, the pick-up in its blues swagger comes close to being just as fetching a feature. John, who is rarely photographed without his trademark shades, brings the cool to the party with The Best of Matthew John, and if you haven’t already taken a moment to give it a spin, I would tell you to do so the next time that you’re looking for new summer music. These are tracks that his fans know well, but they definitely sound just as innovative here as they did upon their original release.