You won’t get too far in reading about Scott Matthew without Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons, coming up (and I, oops, have just added to the pile). But here’s the funny thing about that kind of RIYL short-cutting: its inherent superficiality, typically connecting a singer to someone else he or she sounds like, can be drastically misleading. I, for instance, don’t much care to listen to Hegarty, despite his obvious depth and talent. I don’t connect with his music, for whatever reason. But Matthew—whose theatrical, husky tenor bears a passing resemblance to Hegarty’s singular voice—is here singing a song I like a lot. Let us note once and for all that RIYL is a defective recommendation engine.
Anyway, “Sinking”: a languid, off-center ballad, at once minimal and luxurious, backed by piano, layered vocals, and the delicate strumming of a ukulele I can only, and unexpectedly, describe as lovely. The song’s unusual sense of pace is rooted in a 3/4 time signature at once deliberate and unsteady, and amplified by the drawn-out melody line, which extends to nine rather than the typical eight measures. And I would not want the Antony comparisons to distract anyone from the vividness of Matthew’s own voice, both musically and lyrically. To the extent that one can follow them, the words he croons are striking. The song is a keeper.
Born in Australia, Matthew moved to Brooklyn in the late ’90s. He was in a short-lived band called Elva Snow in 2002 with Morrissey compatriot Spencer Cobrin, then wrote music for a few movie soundtracks, including John Cameron Mitchell’s Shortbus. A self-titled solo debut emerged in 2008. “Sinking” is from Mitchell’s third album, Gallantry’s Favorite Son, which was released in March on Riot Bear Records.