Almost ten years ago, Matchbox Twenty released their third album More Than You Think You Are, and rode it for about a year or so before going on hiatus. More of a rock record, the album was a full band project, relying on the song writing talents of Paul Doucette and Kyle Cook for a more diversified track listing. Certainly the “Rob Thomas Show,” as it’s often called among critics, took them to stardom and More Than… broke the mold of the Matchbox Twenty album. I often remember conversations in college with a friend who hated the song “Bright Lights,” citing the main message of the song as cruel and unlikable. It had a Broadway kind of production to it, but it’s message was never pretentious, more earnest than anything. That’s probably why I liked it so much.

The release of their new album, North, crept up pretty quick in 2012, so much so that I completely forgot that it came out on September 4th. One had to wonder whether the band would return to the “Rob Thomas Show” or pick up where they had left off. The latter emerges with resounding embrace, as the band puts forth it’s most pop oriented album to date.

The title of the record certainly suggests a new direction for the band, as it their most polished and diversified record in their discography. The album doesn’t feel completely tied to the early 2000’s, but the connections can be seen on a few tracks. “I Will” for instance, feels very much like the “Bright Lights” of 2012, relying on a similar message, if not more personal and successful. It’s wonderful acoustic nature breathes some fresh air in the six hole of the album. The track, “The Way” feature lead vocals from Kyle Cook, who’s voice has a strange tinge of Phil Collins to it. The track’s guitar melody soar like some of Coldplay’s early work.

Pushing the band’s sound further, they embrace a sort of disco-rock on North. Certainly, it’s the albums most abundant flavor, and for the most part, they manage to pull it off. Tracks like “Put Your Hands Up” and “Our Song” will fit comfortably on modern FM radio stations. “PYHU” may even find a comforting home in clubs, sounds strange, but it has the ability. The track, “How Long,” embraces the bands rock and new electronic influences the best among the songs of North. The album closes with a sleeper track, “Sleeping at the Wheel” which I don’t recommend that you do, but the song is pretty good anyway.

It’s rare that you find a band that can pick up right where they left off, push new boundaries, but make a largely enjoyable record. North isn’t a record that can replace the nostalgic feel of Yourself or Someone Like You or tries to replicate More Than You Think You Are, instead, we have an album from a band who is trying to catch up on what it missed in the last decade. In most cases, this should be a scatter brained album, but it’s not, it’s focused, streamlines, and more importantly, it’s a joy to listen to. Yeah, it’s pop, and while pop does have its share of face palms and head desks, I’ve always had a soft spot for this band, and I’m not the only one.

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Listening co-efficient: Passive Listen

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