matcd042 / October 2006
#math and physics club
- Darling, Please Come Home
- I Know What I Want
- April Showers
- Holidays and Saturdays
- La la la Lisa
- Look at Us Now
- You'll Miss Me
- Cold as Minnesota
- Such a Simple Plan
- Last Dance
Highly anticipated debut album from indie darlings Math and Physics Club! The world fell in love with this Seattle band as soon as its debut 'Weekends Away' was released in 2005. The EP sold out of its initial pressing in just a few months and has now earned the distinction as the best selling single on Matinée. The follow-up 'Movie Ending Romance' was released later that year to worldwide acclaim and proved the success of the debut was no happy accident.
The band spent the past year writing and recording its debut album and the results are truly spectacular. The self-titled album features ten highly melodic songs about relationships and heartbreak. From the first moment of the opening track you know you're in for a treat and it doesn't let up until the final note some 30 minutes later.
The album kicks off with a new indie classic called 'Darling, Please Come Home.' The lyrics draw you in immediately with images of fireflies and coals burning low, while the jangling guitars, precise drumming, and keyboards keep things moving. What would normally be a difficult one to follow for most bands is handled with ease by second track 'I Know What I Want,' a strings-laden jangler that builds to a superb Softies-inspired finish. It swings!
'April Showers' comes next and shows that here's a band that holds the Housemartins in the high regard they deserve. A sweet valentine written staring out the window at the rain (of course...this is Seattle), it recalls the brilliance of the famous Hull act with its ba-ba-ba's and jaunty melodies. 'Holidays and Saturdays' is the moody one of the bunch, showcasing plaintive lyrics and some violin to match, while 'La La La Lisa' picks it back up with the story of a high school crush on a girl with a bass guitar that is made especially grand with some genuinely inspired trumpet parts.
'Look At Us Now' is perfect café music with its sparse bossa nova beat, ba-ba-ba's, and violin…perhaps the best Style Council song Paul Weller never wrote? 'You'll Miss Me' is classic Math and Physics Club with a surprise rollicking piano in the second chorus, while 'Cold As Minnesota' has a bit of Motown/Supremes flavor to it—full of tambourine, handclaps, organ and violin flourishes along with some very Peter Buck guitar work. 'Such A Simple Plan' is another perfect three-minute pop song with excellent lyrics and a toe-tapping quotient that can't be beat, and final track 'Last Dance' is a swanky little number that will make you want to dance like Fred Astaire.
Perfect for fans of the abovementioned bands, The Lucksmiths, Belle and Sebastian, The Smiths, or Acid House Kings, this is a remarkable debut that will surely rank among the best albums of the year.
Listening to Math and Physics Club's self-titled debut album is an unrelentingly pleasant experience. Drawing on influences like CD86-style indie pop, current Scot-pop bands like Camera Obscura, and Sarah label bands (Brighter, Another Sunny Day, etc.), the group lightly and politely strums and jangles through ten witty and gentle songs of love lost and found. Warmth is the key word to describe the record, whether it's singer Charles Bert’s dulcet tones, the subtle layers of strings (strummed acoustic and melodic electric guitars, melancholy violin) found on each track, the liberal application of reverb on the drums, or the tender emotions detailed in the lyrics. An autumnal mood of introspection pervades the album, but there's plenty of sonic variety to be found with a nice mix of ballads, mid-tempo tunes, and a few that would get even the shiest indie kid out on the dancefloor ("April Showers," "Cold as Minnesota," "Such a Simple Plan"). Sure, it's as derivative as can be -- sounding at various times like Belle & Sebastian (the songs Stevie sings), the Lucksmiths, or even a baby Smiths -- but there is enough emotion, melodic songcraft, and style to carry you past the obvious similarities and let you enjoy the record for what it is: a solidly crafted, sweet-as-sugar pop record. --All Music Guide
This Seattle group’s songs didn’t drop from the sky...that is, you can clearly hear the influences of other pop music from the last few decades in its songs. But it seems so beside the point, considering how perfectly crafted they are. It’s hard to offer a music-critic’s defense of this music as 100% new, but it’s so easy to hear these songs as truly special. The melodies are catchy but in a lasting, not disposable way; the lyrics are articulate, smart expressions of feelings (hope, heartbreak, sadness, wonder); the songs are played and arranged with such bare-bones grace that they begin to resemble Zen expressions of pop music’s essence. --PopMatters (Best Indie Pop of 2006)
My reminder to write about this album came in the form of me making up this morning singing its first track, "Darling, Please Come Home," even though I hadn't listened to it in days. This isn't the first time it's happened with the song – it's a remarkable song, sweet but also gently sad, and it's been following me around since I first heard it, along with the nine other songs on the Seattle-based group's debut full-length. Math and Physics Club's two EPs, this album's predecessors, contained sensitive, absolutely catchy, smartly crafted pop songs created by musicians with an obvious sense for pop history (demonstrated by a Beach Boys cover and musical similarities to the Smiths, their US labelmates the Lucksmiths, and others). Their debut album presents more of the same (thankfully!), but with an album feeling replacing the EP feeling. That is, instead of keeping everything short and snappy, the songs slow down and breathe more, albeit within the classically 'pop' format of the under-30-minute LP. Melancholy + hopeful is the mood. They play their songs with a spare set-up, and often a carefree, affable breeziness…but there's heartbreak there too. Each song is perfect to my ears. The long-distance-love ballad "Holidays and Saturdays" has an unmistakable glow about it, aided by violin. "La La La Lisa" is an impeccable, classic pop sing-along. "Cold as Minnesota" swings, from handclaps and a tight rhythm section, in an almost dance-party way, while also being a sad break-up song, hooked on the great lyric "there is a chill as cold as Minnesota / telling me it's over." The album's filled with gems, ending appropriately with an end-of-the-night "Last Dance." This was a quick night, but an unforgettable one, given to us by a rising star of a band, already creating timeless pop music. --Erasing Clouds
A decade has passed since Belle & Sebastian released their first two albums. More than enough time, anyway, for awkward American youths who came of age to If You're Feeling Sinister to put their own stamp on the bedsit melancholy of Stuart Murdoch and fey precursors like the Housemartins and the Smiths. Austin indie-poppers Voxtrot have been widely praised for doing just that, but professional droolerati have paid markedly less attention to talented young library-mopers from outside the convenient South by Southwest ZIP code. Math and Physics Club, for example. The Seattle quintet's self-titled album should get some warm looks from a new generation of tender-hearted, bookish music listeners. Following a pair of solid (if by-the-book) 2005 EPs, Weekends Away and Movie Ending Romance, MAPC's full-length debut dusts off another 10 brazenly sweet songs of quiet heartbreak, late-summer acoustic guitar, reverb-laden Rickenbacker, tambourine, and occasional violin. "We've been down this road before," bespectacled singer/guitarist Charles Bert croons softly on "You'll Miss Me", and it won't take twee kids long to play spot-the-influences. But, in the words of distinguished Australian forebears (and labelmates) the Lucksmiths: "Once more won't hurt/ So let's do it once more." Indeed, like that underrated band Down Under, MAPC tend to obsess about the weather-- and not just in their breezy melodies. The ba-ba-ba chorus of "April Showers" is a fine excuse for staying indoors, while "Cold as Minnesota" confronts a selfish lover with a bitter frost beneath deceptively cheery handclaps: "Stop wearing all my clothes and watching television/ I used to be your favorite show." The happier times and languid strums of "Holidays and Saturdays" call for swimming pools, croquet, and all-night conversations, perhaps between Field Mice listening sessions. Bittersweet opener "Darling, Please Come Home" conjures sunsets and fireflies to save a troubled relationship: "You said I seem like a stranger/ Well, I guess that makes two." At times, the songs come tantalizingly close to discovering themselves, though no one will mistake MAPC for Tullycraft anytime soon. "La La La Lisa", with requisite la-la-las, reminisces about a nervous punk-rock crush-- how "there's just something about a girl with a bass guitar." Meanwhile, the lonely protagonist of "Such a Simple Plan" wishes for a love instruction manual while "typing away to another sad romantic on the internet." Finale " Last Dance" offers love one more chance to conquer all, or at least another human being (oh lawd, just one). It's this unfettered sentimentality that should set MAPC apart as big-tent indie races to crown the next Dishwalla. Drummer Kevin Emerson may have a surprising funk pedigree, but this is music to hold hands to. --Pitchfork
You know when they talk about brilliant debut albums, like ‘The Smiths’ or ‘Ride’, well, they don’t know anything. For sure, MAPC have joined the Ace Eponymous Debut Album Club, but their record far surpasses the other two mentioned. It’s hard to put into words how great this record is. Imagine that sour puss of a Belle and Sebastian album that came out this year was exactly how you wanted it to sound, instead of a band treading water. Well, MAPC have made the best Belle and Sebastian album you’ll ever hear. That’s not to say they’re copyists (although the influences are there), but this is just about the most perfectly whole album you’ll ever here. From the gentle yearning of ‘Darling, Please Come Home’ to the very Smiths-y ‘Look at Us Now’. But it’s ‘Cold as Minnesota’ which is the real centrepiece. On the surface it’s a dainty motown ditty, but try walking round town on a cold autumn’s day with this in your ears, and you’ll realise its worth. MAPC have delivered, big style. If you think you’ve heard your album of the year already, think again. Because this is it. --Tasty
Its been sometime since we’ve had a band that can thread together such brilliant lyrics with great tunes, yes we have the Lucksmiths but the last time I remember getting so excited about a pop album like I did when I put this on was when I first purchased If Your Feeling Sinister by a little known Scottish outfit going by the name of Belle & Sebastian, yes its that good. In the world of Indie Pop there is an elite, bands that are capable of writing classic albums that will get ignored by the vast majority yet will bring great joy to floppy fringed boys and flowery dressed hair clip bearing girls, songs they will dance their pants off to in the corner of some grotty indie bar on Friday night, as the “cool” kids walk by not getting it at all, we’re talking bands like All Girl Summer Fun Band, The Aislers Set, Of Montreal, Hefner, Heavenly…if you’d be kind enough please add to these Math and Physics Club. You’d be forgiven for drawing on Belle & Sebastian as being an obvious influence, just take a look at the cover, reminiscent of one of the few early B & S press shots, you’d also swear it was Stuart during the la la la’s of the fantastic La La Lisa sounding like it could so easily of slipped onto Sinister as the trumpet solo comes in. Math and Physics have never sounded so cool, this is THEE indie pop album of the year, maybe of the decade thus far. --I'd Rather Be Fat Than Be Confused
Just in time for the chilly onset of fall, Math and Physics Club have quietly released the year's best pure indie-pop album. Sure, I love The Pipettes' retro-rock and Camera Obscura's mock-Motown, but this record -- the band's self-titled debut, coming in the wake of a few tantalizing EPs -- is sweet and beautiful in a way that defies reference or analysis. It's like a flawlessly blended twee mixed drink, equal parts early Belle & Sebastian, Lucksmiths, and Softies. If I didn't feel guilty about my stack of promos, I'd probably listen to it four times a day. As is, I can't help but spin the self-titled debut twice in a row every time. This one gets my highest possible recommendation, friends. --Rawkblog
You can take the pop out of the sun, but untangling sunshine from pop music is another matter altogether. Especially in California, where “pop” really means “Beach Boys” and “Another Sunny Day” is both a Belle & Sebastian song and an uninterrupted way of life. Yet in a place where summers are endless and nights last until hung-over afternoons, autumn is perhaps the year’s one turning point. Winters are meaningless in a state where it never snows, but ah, the fall: trees turning to red and gold, the impatient wind, the autumnal chill. It’s the closest thing there is to a season here, but it takes an introspective sort to appreciate it. It’s fitting, then, that the Seattle, WA-based Math and Physics Club record for Santa Barbara’s Matinée Recordings. Santa Barbara is a coastal, collegiate Shangri-la where the wealthy sun themselves and the young and beautiful live out their hedonistic fantasies along the beach. Where better to know the slings and arrows of the summertime, who better to answer May flowers with October chill? The band’s brand of indie-pop is hardly cold or abrasive; it’s just that its warmth is that of apple cider and knit sweaters rather than the unflinching sun. That’s not to imply that Math and Physic Club is without reference points. The album’s production, far from the genre’s typical lo-fi, has a clean, austere quality to it that distinguishes it (at least slightly) from the scuffling scratch of early Belle and Sebastian, to whom the band is often compared. The group’s debut full-length will likely evoke more comparisons to the Club’s twee forebears, though the similarities rest largely in singer Charles Bert’s fey faux-accent. Still, the band has perhaps a closer resemblance to the Clientele or the Softies, at least in its use of the electric lead guitar as an omnipresent melodic voice. Like the Clientele, the Club recognizes the emotive weight of a liberal use of delay pedal, letting notes linger on like tearful summer lovers not quite ready to move on with their lives. If you haven’t figured it out already, these are songs for romantics. If you’re too cynical to hold hands or appreciate girls who play bass guitars (“La La La Lisa”), this is probably not the record (much less genre) for you. James Werle’s playing embodies this perfectly, with the band borrowing the Softies’ lead guitar-friendly framework. There are flourishes, though, and while the record is driven by the basic interplay between acoustic rhythm, electric lead and tight bass and drums, there are tasteful appearances by piano, strings and horns. There are the strings that weep quietly over the build-up to the chorus of “Look At Us Now,” the coy xylophone notes that help “Darling, Please Come Home” take a brief, evocative detour from jangling, and the horn playing that brings such major key joy to “La La La Lisa.” -- among the album’s many great moments. And make no mistake, these are great moments, as well-crafted and accomplished as the genre is perhaps capable of. In a year rife with notable retro-referencing indie-pop releases, from the Pipettes to Camera Obscura, the Club seems to exist in a timeless void; this is a record that would’ve fit in well ten years ago and will likely sound as smooth and sweet a decade hence. To that end, the lyrics tread well-charted waters -- the abstract, bittersweet complexities of unrequited love and relationships on the rocks. But Bert approaches his themes with charm and poetic sensibilities, rational one minute (“Now I’m back here at your door / We can end this pointless war”), hopelessly romantic the next in “I Know What I Want” and a crush-laden kid in “La La La Lisa.” The optimistic closer “Last Dance” is as satisfying a narrative finish as the album could want: “Why does it have to be sad / Now darling, don’t be mad / Let’s put the past behind and hit the floor before the last dance.” The ten tracks of Math and Physics Club are as snug as your favorite track jacket. It’s brief, the songs unbarring their hearts and melodies and moving on, like a red-gold rush of leaves blowing down the sidewalk. But then, autumn is always over too quickly. Math and Physics Club sing songs about girls you can’t forget and play music for seasons you already know all too well; there are plenty of pop albums offering sunshine, but this one will warm your heart. --Coke Machine Glow