The music of Matthew Connor hangs in the air like a specter. It floats, twists, and winds its way through a storytelling arc that unfolds like a novel, its theatrical expansiveness dancing through empty spaces and unfamiliar places as a larger, and often unsettling, theme emerges from the shadows. On Friday, September 23, a new chapter surfaces from his forthcoming album Disappearances as the evocative Boston songwriter and composer releases “Don’t Wait Up”, a haunting tale of a missing teenage girl and the world that carries on without her.
The story of missing people and the lives of those they leave behind is one that runs through the 10 tracks on October’s cinematic Disappearances. But “Don’t Wait Up”, perhaps a non-traditional selection as the LP’s second single – the follow-up to August’s captivating “Lose This Number” and the last new music before the album drops – stands on its own as a rather ghostly composition. It also finds Connor conducting a string quintet at Hive Mind Recording in Brooklyn, utilizing his falsetto voice as its own instrument, and collaborating with folk guitarist Will Stratton (Bella Union) and backing vocalist Blake Cowan, better known under his Wickerbird moniker.
There are several layers at work on “Don’t Wait Up”, and they all come together over the track’s featherweight four minutes. Where “Lose This Number” was a dramatic, alt-country-leaning torch song about two people going their separate ways after realizing they perhaps never knew each other at all, “Don’t Wait Up” leans into more clandestine and atmospheric territories, and focuses on the worlds of those taken from us.
“‘Don’t Wait Up’ is the story of a teenage girl in a small town who didn’t come home one night, and about how the life of the town kept right on going, although forever changed,” Connor says. “I barely remember writing this song, which means it must have come quickly and easily. I do know I had the sounds of Will Stratton and Wickerbird in mind, so I was thrilled that they both agreed to be a part of it after I sent them my first demo. I also had always wanted to write a song that sat entirely in my head voice and falsetto, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for that. I think it lends an air of ghostliness to the song.”
Disappearances features a fictional cast of characters that show up in various songs across the album, and here, we’re introduced to a few of the players: Marie was unassuming but well-liked and trusted by parents and teachers, and her disappearance has rattled those around her; Nora was the cool kid we all wished to be; Lila carried her secrets close and desires of adulthood closer; and Jennifer was destined to leave this fictional small town for as long as she knew how to. Their lives entangled, their decisions impactful, their stories unfolding.
“Like every other song on the album, it tells the story of a person who has disappeared, although in this case the disappearance serves almost as a backdrop to a portrait of ordinary swooning teenage rebellion: the kids are still hanging out in the woods and breaking into their mothers’ liquor cabinets despite what’s become of Marie, but there’s a lingering chill of uncertainty,” Connor assures. “While ‘Don’t Wait Up’ tells more of a straightforward disappearance narrative, both songs feature – perhaps – unreliable narrators asking question after question to an unknown ‘you’: ‘Do you know where your mother hides the brandy? Do you know what goes on behind the trees?’ in ‘Don’t Wait Up’; ‘What have they been telling you? Where have those flowers gone?’ in ‘Lose This Number’. Both songs are mysteries with no solutions, each bursting into an emotional climax before dispersing into an unsettled non-ending.”