Somebody give Matt Maltese a hug, quick. The savvy balladeer’s second album finds him once again entrenched in heartbreak, reflecting on love and loss in his early 20s. But as on 2018 debut Bad Contestant which flecked cutting humour over a canvas of similar misfortune, this album finds Matt looking for the silver linings and embracing change as a means of self-reinvention. “New day, wet shave / this is a different phase”, starts ‘Rom Com Gone Wrong’. Welcome to Matt’s grand reopening.
It’s a common trope that male songwriters playing the ‘woe is me’ card on break-up records are often, well, a bit douchey. But Maltese’s brand of self-deprecation is seldom less than genuinely charming. On the lilting ‘Tall Buildings’ he offsets “I am not yet dead inside and that’s because you are alive” with “I’m just gonna say it once, all we need is-”, a rogue note popping out of nowhere to cut out the word ‘love’. The whole affair is innately British: sad but funny, playful melodically but dismal in subject matter. It’s no wonder Matt himself has deemed his own style as ‘Brexit Pop’.
‘Krystal’ is a textbook example of quality over quantity, clocking in at only half an hour but boasting an impressive cinematic soundscape to get lost in. Written and recorded almost exclusively in Matt’s bedroom, it’s steeped in analogue goodness with keys that could be cut straight from a lost Beach Boys record, and crackling drums in the vein of Tranquility Base-era Arctics. There are hints of surf rock on the sepia-tinted ‘Tokyo’ and ‘Intolewd’ lounges up a bluesy riff while Matt concedes that “what will be will be”. His increasingly versatile vocal is the icing on the cake; check out ‘Jupiter’ for harmonies that flow like hot caramel.
Leaving behind the buzz cut and the suits that helped introduce him as an oddball troubadour with a heart (and a voice) of gold, Matt comes out of his shell on ‘Krystal’, baring his true self magnificently as one of today’s most talented (and underrated) young songwriters.