This article was first published on Louder Than War on 17 October 2012.
Well, this is an odd and somewhat sad New Artist of the Day to be writing.
The artist we want to bring to your attention isn’t some new-to-the-scene hot-young-thing but an artist who sadly died in 2003, aged just 24. Let us tell you about Matthew Jay.
Matthew Jay might well be the ‘best artist you’ve never heard of’ – he was signed at the age of 20 and his debut album Draw was released to critical acclaim.
In fact, that album has been a pretty regular spinner in my collection since its release in 2001. It spawned a couple of hit singles – Let Your Shoulder Fall and Please Don’t Send Me Away led to comparisons to Badly Drawn Boy, Elliott Smith and Jeff Buckley.
It was, is, a great folk pop record – jangling upbeat melodies, introspective and intimate lyrics. But he also wasn’t afraid to experiment and added digital touches, subtly, to many of his pieces. In short, he more than warranted the comparisons.
He was working on follow up material when he died in a fall from a seventh storey flat in London in September 2003. He was just 24 and the reasons for his fall are still unexplained, an open verdict returned at the inquest.
A tragic end to a short life but, due to his family and friend’s ongoing efforts, far from being a full stop at the end of his musical career. In fact it is the wealth and quality of the work-in-progress Matthew left behind that turn this from mourning a life and career cut tragically and inexplicably short to melancholy exploration of a catalogue belying his youth.
In the last nine years there have been two posthumous releases of his material – the b sides and EPs collection Too Soon and Further Than Tomorrow, an album of unfinished material made whole after his passing.
Prolific in his short recording career his family say there is still a lot more material which was never released. The latest, out last week, is single Holy Details.
This song starts to point toward the more pointed singing style Matthew was exploring having become fascinated with hip hop on trips to New York. Sure, it’s still not a million miles away from his folk-pop early records but you could pontificate that, had he not died, this would have been a stepping stone on a rich creative journey. That’s the loss I feel most keenly here; that of what might have been.
Whether this is the first time you’ve heard of Matthew Jay or whether his music is ingrained in your collection the latest single provides a good excuse to discover or reacquaint yourself with his music.
All words by Sarah Lay.