Album track-by-track: Matthew Dear

According to Matthew Dear’s website, the subject of his soon-to-be-released album Black City, “can’t be found on any map. It’s a composite, an imaginary metropolis peopled by desperate cases, lovelorn souls, and amoral motives.” According to Matthew Dear, his PR people are very good writers.

Approaching his fifth album under the ‘Matthew Dear’ guise with no “preconceived notions”, Dear’s surroundings got the better of him and suddenly the “weight” of his experiences of living in New York were appearing as a strong part of his work.

“It’s not dependent upon the history of the music or themes that have come in and out of New York,” tells Dear, “but more just this total metropolis environment that can represent this massive machine, working day-in and day-out. It takes on a life of its own almost.”

In order to get a better idea of just what inspired this latest offering, inthemix gave Dear the somewhat tedious task of explaining the album track by track.


[Laughs] “I guess we’ll see how good I am at this. It’s always difficult to though, because obviously each track isn’t an overt story or connection to pieces of my life in the city.

Honey is just a soft atmospheric one. I remember setting up the drums with my drummer Mark who is in the Big Hands and tours with me live. He brought his drum set over to my old place in Brooklyn and he left it there for about a week. I started playing around on them one day and recorded that intro drum loop and just kind of built the song from there.”

I Can’t Feel

“That’s definitely about New York, in the sense that all of my friends moved to New York around the same time. We’ve all kind of lived there off and on periodically, but about a year and a half ago everybody moved back at the same time – friends from L.A, Michigan and then some that were already in New York.

“We all thought it was going to be this amazing experience of rejoice, but we found we all hung out with each other more when we lived on opposite ends of the country. New York is that kind of city; it’s very easy to get sucked into your own routine and your own schedule. I Can’t Feel is about growing apart from your friends in that sense – even if you’re in close proximity.”

Little People (Black City)

“That’s pretty blatant. You know…what are they lyrics to that one? I always forget, but there are specific moments in there where I refer to, ‘looking for love, the black city, it’s all around the black city, days don’t go right.’ That song just kind of represents getting in an old car, a race car of some sort, and it’s just driving through the Manhattan streets at two in the morning and just searching for something amidst this concrete machine. Searching for humanity and warmth.”


“That one is, I guess, that’s the love song, the ballad, you know? It’s kind of like, ‘Here we go all over again’. I make these weird I don’t know…numbers…of some imaginary love and imaginary relationships of people somewhere and it’s hard to explain what exactly they mean.

“I leave them open ‘cause I want them to be absolutely important to each and every listener in their own right. I want them to sing along or look at that song and be like, ‘Yeah, that’s me in that place.’ It’s open-ended. Some of them you can’t say what they’re about. They’re about the person listening to it at that right exact moment.”

Soil to Seed

“That’s a fun one. That was one of the quicker songs I wrote on the album. It took two hours, so yeah, it’s a short song lengthwise, but it’s also short in its breadth and the verse repeats. It’s just about…well, you tell me.” [laughs]

You Put a Smell on Me

“I think that’s the most overt, blatant story. That’s about literally riding in a car with somebody, a big black car. It’s about this character who I think comes from this Tokyo Vice book that I read. It covered one story about a Japanese man who was drugging women and taking them to a house by the sea.

“I don’t think the character in my song is malicious, but I picture that [the women] get to this place and he asks them to put on this red night gown. So I think the image was first branded from the story, but it’s totally not dark in that sense. It’s more about escape; mutual escape between a woman and a man.”


Shortwave is a fun one. I wanted to make something very loose and silly, but at the same time have this narration. Each verse is about an experience of doing something wrong with somebody, but asking them to trust you and stay there with them.

“You know, ‘I’m going to light a fire in a bad location, wait beside the van, try to be patient, we’ll have to run away when the flames are blazing.’ So each one of those little anecdotes are kind of, I’m going to do something bad but you’re going to help me and you’re going to have fun doing it. ‘We’re in this together’.”


“Oh, that’s fun. It’s just about, I guess just realising your simplicity in life and not taking yourself very seriously at all, but still having love. ‘I’m your monkey, sleeping monkey in me’. I guess it’s a pure animalistic existence, but amidst that having just ultimate passion and caring for another monkey.

More Surgery

“That’s just about getting older and realising you have to trudge through life. Life’s going to get harder, but the only way to get through it is to keep fixing things on you that are breaking. And realising that it’s not going to get any easier, to a certain extent. You’re going to need more surgery as you progress through the hardships. But I guess it’s coming to grips with that and understanding it’s the way it goes.”


“I wrote Gem a long time ago. It was kind of an old file that had been collecting digital dust on my computer. I wrote it around the time I wrote Deserters, around 2003. I went back to it for this album and really started playing with it again. I re-did a lot of the vocals and I added the last chorus.

“That’s just a pure love song about growing, realising your place and how once all of the insanity of life and the confusion goes away, having someone that stays there and waits for you.”

Black City is out now on Ghostly International through Inertia.