North

Torn hearts, funk-fed beats and eloquent balladry – the first Matchbox Twenty album in more than a decade is a plush showcase for Rob Thomas' smooth-as-ever singing. On "She's So Mean," a droll look at addiction and a master class in snappiness, he gets sucked in by a Bacardi-guzzling, record-scratching, crazy-making girl; on "The Way," romance ends, rich harmonies ricochet, guitars go astral and Thomas' composure cracks; on "How Long," a guy yearns for the next level of "carrying on," as gawky verses progress to pop poise. Every song here goes for immediate payoff – as Thomas broadcasts on "Radio," they have been built for lifetimes.

From The Archives Issue 1165: September 13, 2012