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    Album Reviews: Six Kinds of Passion Looking for an Exit by Eric Matthews

    Eric Matthews seems to take himself very seriously. Gravity is audible in his majestic-minded pop arrangements and readable in his oft-overcooked lyrics (“Thanking God at midnight sometimes leaves my soul in flames”). Even his brief liner notes chime a few notes of self-importance, all of which doesn’t do much for chasing away the stereotypes of musicians with classical training.

    Matthews can be forgiven, though, for relishing his return to the recording limelight. The mid-'90s saw a promising band (Cardinal) go belly-up because of internal strife, then saw his solo career get axed during Sub Pop’s nadir, when nu-metal and rap rock began to rule the radio roost. 2005 should be a friendlier environment for Matthews, who has nonetheless quieted down his inner Bacharach. That’s a shame, as the merrily tooting “Black to Light Brown” is one of the album’s best tracks. His syrupy, breathy vocals can be an acquired taste, so it usually works best when he dresses them up. “Do You Really Want It?” is further proof for this, a pleasantly surprising track that almost qualifies as a dance song, featuring a pulsing beat, some boogie-down keys and Matthews at his most vocally frantic.

    While the latter half of the seven-song album is superior to the first, “Cardinal is More” is an exception off the front end, notable more for its brave storytelling than its rather prosaic melody. Even with some typically clumsy lyrics, “Cardinal is More” is a poignant bridge-mending directed at an estranged friend and erstwhile bandmate. -- Adam McKibbin

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