Matthew John has a lot on his mind in The Best of Matthew John, and in the song “Shine for Me,” the rising star among indie singer/songwriters takes a few minutes to air out his thoughts on self-empowerment in a way that few pop vocalists have in recent memory. “You are my star up in the sky / Shine for me and light my way / Through good and bad, I’ll look for you / Shining bright for all to see – shine for me” he sings so gracefully, every word embodying the spirit of his narrative with breathtaking clarity. This is one of Matthew John’s best tracks, but it’s only one of the selected group of hits that you’ll hear in this stunning new disc.

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Where “Shine for Me” uses lyrics to get to the heart of the matter, “Reach for the Stars” employs melodic textures to get its point across, with phenomenally on-point results, I might add. John attacks the verses conservatively here, leaving lots of room for the instrumental backdrop to fill in the ends and give the track a warm, complete feel from start to finish. He’s relaxed as he broaches the chorus in a passionate volley with the string section, and even as we enter the climax of the song, he never backs off from the monolithic hook that is staring him down on the instrumental side of this single-worthy ballad. His confidence is striking, and it’s found all over the tracklist of The Best of Matthew John.

“You Are There” and “Let’s Begin Again” could have used a little more panache on the soundboard side of the glass, but the message that John is trying to send us with these two numbers is unmistakable. Matthew John is a songwriter who tends to avoid flashiness in his output, and by making these two tracks as raw and unfiltered as possible, we’re able to appreciate his natural, organic talents for all of the magic that they can conjure up without the assistance of a well-paid producer. He’s a bit of a blue-collar artist in this respect, but his creative ethos aside, John’s music scarcely needs anything but a volume knob to make a big impact on anyone who happens to be listening.

The Best of Matthew John is just what its title would imply that it is; its four tracks are undisputed classics for MJ’s discography, and wholly represent the best of a compelling young singer/songwriter with a lot of talent to go around. His pop campaign is far from over, but for those few listeners who have managed to go this long without getting familiarized with his work, this is a required acquisition this July. John has never been as on top of his game as he is in this incredible new extended play, and personally I would like to see him follow-up on its release with a live album capturing the essence of his stage show. It would definitely succeed this sophisticated studio look perfectly, but no matter what he dishes out for us next, you can count on me being there to review it.

Sebastian Cole