“3 AM I scream your name
I don’t sleep, I don’t change.
There’s no magic left ,
No card up my sleeve,
Forever’s gone
And I watched it leave.

Maybe I get drunk enough to call you
Admit the thing I’m finally seeing clear
I can make good turn amazing
Then disappear
Matt Nathanson, Show Me Your Fangs

I’ve never been turned off by a Matt Nathanson album before, there’s always at least two or three songs that are these brutally honest and beautiful takes about how hard it is to love and live with abandon, or some equally heart-wrenching theme. Though Nathanson is an artist whose radio airplay is a footnote of his discography and hardly a household name, his songs often have something of a commercially appealing sound with these provocative or vulnerable twists, never safe but never at the cost of pleasant-sounding melodies.

On his latest record “Show me Your Fangs,” the ballads are what gets me, coming in a one-two punch midway through the album on “Disappear” and “Washington State Fight Song,” using an orchestral setting in the former and his trademark solo acoustic accompaniment in the latter.  These songs arguably the most depressing on the album, but I think they’re the most effective – while the happier takes in the beginning of the album might be good for a toe-tapping listen once or twice,  Nathanson continues to be at his most successful when he lets his guts spill out on the floor.

It’s hard to tell, with an artist who has been around the block once or twice like Nathanson has, whether these songs are the result of pure emotional inspiration or a more imaginative, fictional spark. But either way he succeeds in bringing forward something real — and really catchy. I’ve had these songs swirling my head the past few days and while I don’t think I’ll come back to them as often as I do “Beneath These Fireworks” and that era, they prove Nathanson is a modern songwriter worth following.

“I wish that I could be a sucker for love
The way I’m a sucker for lying
But I like getting lost
It’s easier than finding my way.

I want to start over, pack up, disappear
And come back treating you better
But there’s a girl up in Spokane
And I’m like a moth to a flame

Oh, the mistakes I’ve made
Oh, in Washington state.

~Washington State Fight Song
Matt Nathanson, Show Me Your Fangs