‘New Skin‘ is Scott Matthew’s new album. More than new album, new guise. It’s a step into soundscapes and sonic environments that break from his cannon of work. Since 2006, Matthews has built up a body of fragile acoustic arrangements that weave through his six main releases. But here things have shifted, reached out and reshaped, into woozy and soft 80’s synths.
The new feel and it’s it warmth fit him snugly, with mellow and slowly-go easy-wrap swells that mirror his smooth open vocals. As the title track opens, metronomic and glossed, with a backing of only-just vocoder’d voices, and the gentlest of jittering basslines, there’s hints of Bon Ivor, Thom Yorke. With touches of old-radio new-wave tinged pop, it’s calming, pulsating and careful.
Through the album, the synthwork gets warmer. ‘Wait In The Car‘, the release’s second single, is a ripple of spacious guitars, where Cocteau Twins style electronic percussion plays with high drifts of lingering keys. ‘Anniversary’ works with a chilled Top Gun bass sound, which once heard, cannot be undone, before opening up into soft plucked cascades against the faintest of synthesized wisps. ‘The Tide‘ and ‘Our Time‘, more highlights of the album, seem to quietly twist between lo-fi high-shine pop and the dreamwave of Beach House and Cults. But however the sonics get played with, Scott Matthews is always at centre. With guitar lines that jangle or use notes like anchors, and with his vocals always the main draw, everything else fits around him. And it should. It’s a hell of a voice.
The result is an intimate stretch of 10 tacks, where the least good are just not as pretty as the prettiest, where each song is a lush wrap of textures. Scott’s gift for wordplay and heartfelt conveyance might have found new surroundings to move in, but the light boyish charm of his wistful romance, that’s as intact and on show as ever.
If ‘New Skin’ doesn’t drive that charm home, then it doubles down watching him live. Through snatches and glances I caught through the downfalls of my new rural wi-fi connection, Scott played as open and honest and natural as any of his work suggests, complete with a shyness and ease. New songs bled into his back catalogue with a confidence that only broke once. And in the intimate setting of a solo live stream, where there’s no noise or crowd to give cover, any glitches are more than forgiven – as I hope he forgives my connection.