“Simple values never lie,” sings baroque-pop throwback Eric Matthews midway through his second solo album, The Lateness of the Hour. And although Matthews has hardly cut back to a single acoustic guitar to back his now-trademark whispered vocals, the new record’s arrangements are slightly less elaborate than on 1995’s überlush masterwork It’s Heavy in Here; despite Matthews’ stated wish to add “three new instruments” to the mix on each subsequent album, there is actually a good deal less than the kitchen sink piled into the bitstream here. Further, for all of Matthews’ proclaimed dislike of loudness, guitarist Jason Falkner is positively front, center, and cranked in several spots, including on “Everything So Real.” Not that there aren’t strings, sax, and euphonium(!) galore, but the pleasures of Matthews’ hooky songs and the surprises of his palette are laid on in a thoroughly more subtle manner this time. Lateness is, fittingly, a lighter-feeling work than, uh, Heavy: Instead of the allusions to illness and loss that seemed to permeate the earlier album once you’d listened to it long enough, Matthews now indulges in happier love songs and, on “The Pleasant Kind,” an apparently unironic reference to “this promised land.” Still, among the likes of “My Morning Parade” and “Festival Fun” is one wry shot at common alt-rock drug habits, “Dopeyness.” Even there, though, Matthews makes his complaint sound…polite.—Rickey Wright