Matthew Browning’s Love & Grief
For being a debut record, it’s hard not to marvel at the maturity displayed in Matthew Browning’s Love & Grief, which was released earlier this year to massive critical acclaim in indie rock circles. In the singles “Underneath the Willow Tree” and “I Walked Over the Edge,” we’re presented with an artist who sounds much less like a rookie and more like a seasoned recording veteran who mastered the complexities of the studio long ago. His confidence is absolutely sublime, and although I have the opportunity to review literally hundreds of artists every year, his brand of swagger is one that I rarely encounter – if ever. Listening to Matthew Browning isn’t just a treat for me as a critic, but moreover as a fan of incredible talent.
“Underneath the Willow Tree” is a haunting, dark song that on the surface is full of enigmatic charm and intoxicating harmonies. When we dig a little deeper, we discover in Browning’s delicate lyricism that his darkness can be a bit more inviting than some of his contemporaries’, which is something I personally haven’t seen an artist outside of the post-punk community accomplish with any success (until now that is). His melody might be synthetic, but his emotions are quite authentic and stunningly vulnerable. I wasn’t anticipating the intimate melding of vocal and instrumentation that comes about a minute and a half into the song, and it ironically reminded me quite a bit of Opeth’s melodic stuff, which indisputably changed heavy music in the 2000’s.
The second single from Love & Grief, “I Walked Over the Edge,” goes in a slightly different direction. A shimmering, glassy track, “I Walked Over the Edge” does exactly what its name implies; Browning pushes us to the edge of his sonic capacities and lets us look over the cliff for a minute before bringing us back to a center and letting us bask in the safety of his embrace. It’s smoky and more aggressively styled than “Underneath the Willow Tree,” but it maintains the same subtle charisma that is consistently present throughout the whole of Love & Grief. Matthew Browning’s music doesn’t just grab the light, it reflects it back at us and forces a reaction out of us, for better or worse. It just so happens that in his case, it always ends up being for the better.
His next album is due out in late 2019, and I highly doubt that I’m the only new fan already eagerly awaiting its arrival. There’s something very unique about what Matthew Browning is doing professionally right now, something inspiring that could be a hint at what pop music could look and sound like in the future. I’m in no rush to crown anyone as the king of tomorrow’s pop, but I am perfectly comfortable endorsing this burgeoning singer/songwriter as a serious contender who should be closely followed. Until we get to hear his follow up, audiences will have to enjoy all of the wonderment that Love & Grief contains for us to behold.