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Matthew Shaw - Convenience EP Review

by Patrick Muldowney

In discussing Convenience, there are two immediate reasons Matthew Shaw's EP appeals to me. The first reason involves one of my pet peeves about independent music, in that bands and artists tend to believe they must make a full-length album, even though many do not have the resources (basically time and/or money) to carefully construct ten to thirteen tracks. Thankfully, Matthew Shaw had five solid tracks and went with them, rather than strategically placing them around six other sub-par songs. The second reason involves a personal fantasy I've tossed around for the past decade, or more specifically each time I play The Notwist. It seems on each album I adore a few songs, and think about how much I might enjoy The Notwist if each song were like "Day 7", "Pick Up The Phone", or "One With The Freaks". Matthew Shaw gives me a pretty good idea how much I might appreciate such an effort on the Convenience EP.

Each song is a studio creation, heavily dependent upon the electronic beats and samples that have been successful for groups like The Postal Service and The Headphones. Unlike The Postal Service though, Matthew Shaw uses a less busy approach to composing, which makes it easier to imagine each song live with a full band. There is also the presence of guitar sounds during moments of Convenience, which adds texture to the rhythm with driving power chords. One of the songs with guitar, whether processed or legitimate, begins the album. "The Drunk", with its pounding programmed drums, which is a difficult accomplishment in itself, and the chorus breaking into half time for the electronica moshers, is the signature tune for the EP. Matthew Shaw reveals lyrics that many of us can relate to, though few would admit, about being the rugged individual not celebrated in America. This individual uses alcohol as a trapping for a relationship that is completely unrewarding and emotionless, but stays because he is "too scared to leave" the immense boredom. "The Drunk" could easily be found in droves on any college campus, although most would swing belligerently at the reality painted by Shaw. This song, in particular, could be filed under "Pedro the Lion for the Agnostics".

Matthew Shaw has a sad, fragile voice, which fits the depressing tone of his words, but what makes this truer than some whiny, emotional garbage, is the raw honesty. Convenience shows a songwriter who is aware, accountable, and somewhat hopeful. Whether it is the friend who is trying to remind a loved one how to smile and laugh, but is turned down, or the one who "figured out that I am the a**hole that plagues your life" because of a careless relationship, the songs consistently deal with the darkest moments of intimacy. In many ways, Convenience should make listeners feel a bit more secure about their experiences, or, at least, less lonely in their pain.

I'm almost laughing as I finish this review because I think this EP is great, but I'm depressing myself just writing about it. Our society is so desperate to ignore sadness, whether it is through medication, media, or sheer ignorance, that writing about such a subject for any extended period of time seems torturous, although probably more therapeutic than the ready-made suppressions to which we are consistently exposed. This reminds me of something my first, and best, philosophy professor, Donald Hanover, told me: "Philosophy will not make you a happier person." This was true, yet I still went on to earn my degree, and feel as if my life was enriched. Similarly, yet without needing to dedicate four years of study, Convenience is not a happy pill to swallow, but Matthew Shaw will enrich those who listen to him.

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