Matt Wheeler | photo courtesy of the artist

Matt Wheeler often performs with a backing band, but on his new EP Matt Wheeler On the Hill, the Lancaster singer-songwriter experiments with a solo acoustic sound.The record features a mix of old and new — while it begins with some reworked acoustic versions of songs that Wheeler has already recorded, the EP’s second half includes the two new tracks “Cedars” and “Lexington.”

Wheeler’s previous arrangements with his band Vintage Heart made use of violin and cello, but the solo versions on Matt Wheeler On the Hill are more compelling. On “Indigo,” Wheeler’s deft guitar work is crisp and moving, and the track has a somber energy that the full-band version lacks.

While most of the EP is rather upbeat by singer-songwriter standards (on “Avalanche,” you could be fooled into thinking the track is an acoustic pop-punk cover), the highlight of the record is the dark final track, the heartbreak ballad “Lexington.” As Wheeler reflects on his failed relationship (“I wrote you this letter / that I may never send / Tears and ink were spilled / my bones in time will mend”), his slowly gathers energy, his guitar strumming filled with chaotic anguish.

Wheeler is set to perform downstairs at World Cafe Live on April 22. Grab tickets at the XPN Concert Calendar, and listen to “Lexington” below.