Essential New Music: Eric Matthews’ “Too Much World”

Eric Matthews didn’t invent chamber pop, but he certainly set an impossibly high bar with his 1995 debut, It’s Heavy In Here, which hit with the impact of a velvet-fisted sucker punch telegraphed with hypnotic whispers. Matthews sublimated his solo career after the lukewarm response to 1997’s The Lateness Of The Hour, becoming a utility player for the Dandy Warhols, Tahiti 80 and Elliott Smith before relaunching his brand with a trio of return-to-form releases on Empyrean, including 2008’s The Imagination Stage. For his first album in nine years, Matthews brings his estimable gifts to bear on a 12-track rumination on the stunting effects of the material world on his spiritual growth. Jazzy flourishes animate “Factual Extreme,” “Dragonfly” hints at Andy Partridge’s English Settlement pastoralism, and “God Loves His Children” mirrors John Cale’s orchestral majesty. Matthews even flexes his indie-rock muscles, particularly on the forceful “Ten More Masters” and the haunting “Exactly Like Them,” which bristle with Bowie-like revelatory power. (God, he’d better not be dying.) With a few new wrinkles, Too Much World reflects and transcends the typical and sporadically consistent brilliance that Matthews has exhibited over the past two decades.

—Brian Baker