In the song “Is There Something Going On?,” Matt Shapiro emits one glistening verse after another against a subtle backdrop of ebbing instrumental harmonies that seem to linger in the air well after the music stops playing. The lumbering “Water’s Edge” takes a slightly different approach in smothering us with mountainous melodies, but don’t let its unassuming pace deceive you – once its mammoth chorus enters the picture, trying to escape its thunderous grip is next to impossible. Quaint percussion lends to the studded grooves of “Geneviève,” and though they wrap around us tightly, they don’t choke the life out of the swanky string play that injects its rhythm with an insatiable lust. These three tracks make up only half of the dreamy ballads that Matt Shapiro’s latest release Fade In dispenses seamlessly, and I must say that while I was expecting a lot out of this new set of studio recordings from the New York solo juggernaut, I had no idea just how enamoring a collection of songs they would be. Judging from what I’ve heard amongst my journalistic peers, I’m not the only one who has fallen in love with this record, which is due out March 8th.
The production quality in this EP is undisputedly superb, remarkably accessible and crisp in every instance, but in tracks like “The Addict” and “Rockaway Girl,” we really get to experience the strength of Shapiro’s songcraft at full capacity. Nothing gets in the way of the enraged riff-rock that fuels both of these songs with a visceral adrenaline, and despite the raw, unvarnished cosmetics of each track, they sound surreal, sleek and radio-ready. Unlike previous releases, Fade In doesn’t rely solely on Shapiro’s witty, biting lyrical style alone – there’s so much to be said about the arrangement of songs like “Johnny,” “Water’s Edge” and the closing track “Geneviève” from an instrumental standpoint, and despite the ambitious framework of the material, we’re never forced to endure a lot of added frills that do nothing to advance the narrative of each song. This is as tight and focused as Shapiro has ever been in the studio, and if you ask me, he’s tapping into a facet of his artistry that is more diversely-appointed than what most critics assumed him – or any member of his scene – capable of.
Matt Shapiro has found his signature sound, and it stands alone in a generation of deeply gifted and unique singers, songwriters and producers who share the same desire to reshape pop, but who inarguably lack the artistic proficiency that he possesses in spades. Fade In is an amalgamation of everything that he’s introduced to us so far in his career, and while it’s an extended play that is bursting at the seams with content (and occasionally sounds more like a concept record than it does a sample-sized offering), it doesn’t wear out its welcome halfway into the tracklist. We’ve seen some really awesome releases from artists spanning every genre in western pop music in the last three months, but when the end of the year finally rolls around, my gut tells me that Fade In will still be one of the most discussed studio records of 2019.