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Scott Matthews' Study in Worried Beauty

It's hard to keep track of every high-voiced, vaguely Jeff Buckley-esque singer-songwriter to join the fray in the last five years — especially when they have names like "Scott Matthews," which doesn't exactly sear itself into the memory banks on first reference. But that's no knock on Matthews, whose impeccably chosen influences (Buckley, Nick Drake) signal his sizable creative ambitions. This is, after all, a guy whose debut album, Passing Stranger, features two tabla interludes.

That said, Matthews displays the most promise when he strips down to the essentials of his songwriting: a dusky croon, gently strummed guitar strings, a hypnotic melody. Opening with a beleaguered sigh and getting only incrementally more cheerful from there, "Elusive" doesn't exactly generate heaps of momentum as it ambles along. But the song is a study in dreamy beauty, as Matthews maximizes the impact of his straightforwardly worried words: "If it's true, I am doomed / What more is there to hold onto?" Matthews may have joined a veritable army of big-voiced male singer-songwriters, but few are this gifted at the art of understatement.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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