Personnel: Aaron Tap (guitar, piano, background vocals).
Recording information: Decibelle Recording, San Francisco, CA; Jerry Becker Mobile Recording, Atlanta, GA; Jerry Becker Mobile Recording, Toronto, ON; Tiny Telephone Studios, San Francisco, CA.
Photographer: Brendan Walter.
Matt Nathanson's tenth studio album, 2015's Show Me Your Fangs, finds the Massachusetts-born artist expanding his textured, literate singer/songwriter pop with a robust, exuberant production style. The album follows up his love letter to his adopted home of San Francisco, 2013's The Last of the Great Pretenders. As with that album, Show Me Your Fangs reveals an attention to emotional detail, but with more of an ear toward crafting hooky, often dance-oriented pop anthems. A folkie at his core, Nathanson is an acoustic-guitar-and-notepad sort of songwriter, and his best albums reflect this kind of traditionalism. However, he's never been afraid to flesh out his songs in the studio, bringing in keyboards, drum machines, and sundry instruments as needed. That said, Show Me Your Fangs is easily Nathanson's most adventurous album to date and successfully balances his acoustic songwriter skills with his grand pop inclinations. Helping Nathanson achieve this goal are a handful of pop and R&B-savvy producers including Rob Kleiner (Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Sia, the Weeknd), Jonny Coffer (Leona Lewis, Tinie Tempah, Naughty Boy), Azeem, and Jake Sinclair. Rather than the "too many cooks" analogy, the collaborative process seems to have worked, and cuts like the Afro-pop-inflected "Giants," with its kinetic mix of steel drums, horns, and organ, the '70s soul-infused "Gold in the Summertime," and the bittersweet, falsetto-steeped "Playlists & Apologies" make for a remarkably cohesive listen. Of course, longtime Nathanson fans will also be happy to find that he hasn't abandoned his singer/songwriter soul, and tracks like the confessional "Washington State Fight Song" and the sweetly fantastical "Bill Murray," in which he dreams that he and the ghostbustin' actor take a bonding road trip "from Boston to Japan/Blasting old Van Halen," retain all of the quirky, personal minutiae that make his songs so affecting. ~ Matt Collar