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Friday, June 27, 2014

Math & Science - s/t

Name: Math & Science
Album: s/t
Year: 2001
Style: Smooth Pop
Similar Bands: Inflatable Men, The Eels, Apples In Stereo/Marbles, Bicycle, Lincoln, Fountains Of Wayne, Lightning Seeds, Marxy
"One Word" Review: Shiny Harmless Computer Pop
Based out of: Indianapolis, IN -> LA, CA
Label: Brick Red Records
  Math & Science: Cover (source: Amazon)
 Math & Science: CD & CD tray
Math & Science: Back
Math & Science (2001)
  1. Disguise 3:50
  2. Words 3:23
  3. She Left Me 3:38
  4. Soundbite 4:21
  5. Eternity 4:00
  6. Cool Me Down 3:48
  7. Airstream On The Highway 3:18
  8. Naked 4:31
  9. In Your Movie 3:09
  10. Forget About Here 4:03
  11. Fifteen 3:42
  12. Digitize 2:54

Album Rating (1-10): 9.0

Members & Other Bands:
John Wolf - Instrumentation, Producer (PJ Olssen, Crumb)
Aram Arslanian - Organ (PJ Olssen, Champion)
Goldo [Paul Goldowitz] - Scratching (Ye Olde English)
Phil Blackman - Mixing
Marina Chavez - Photography
Kristin Hambsch - Creative Director
David Mitson - Mastering
Janet Wolsborn - Art Direction
Peggy Zier - Logo Design

Unknown-ness: I must have heard of these guys back in 2001, but never paid attention to them. I got their album as a coverless cut out in a discount bin, but I have no idea what it is like. I must have liked something about it to buy the album back then, so I’m going to assume it is some catchy pop. With a name like Math & Science, perhaps it is complex, calculated math rock, which would live up to the nerdy/geeky & old fashioned nature of the album art.

Album Review: The album is pretty catchy pop-rock, with a concentration of electronic flurries and smooth production. It is basically a one man show on this album, it seems he is still using the moniker M&S and has a new(ish) album on bandcamp.

“Disguise” has a fun Apples in Stereo (especially their 2010’s Travelers in Space & Time) fade up, and electronic futuristic approach. Smooth, meek, nearly computerized vocals, overlayered for the chorus. But the dancy tune is instantly catchy and completely approachable. The delivery in the chorus is fulfilling as it explodes.
“Words” has a Lincoln-esq wha-wha, jammy band bass line, and is more straightforward pop. Again, the vocals are light and fey, and they again explode in the chorus with energy and sound. The melody is fun to follow along with and the chorus is a nice building hook. After two segments, they have a reprise of the melody slightly rearrange, but identifiably similar. The repetition of the chorus at the end solidifies the hook in your head. It ends with a fade out of the chorus spoken through a computer vocoder minus the music accompaniment.
“She Left Me” is a slower lament, but still has shiny production. It feels like the sadness in the vocals are leading somewhere, but they don’t really ever get there. The chorus feels exactly like Fountains of Wayne. No other way to describe it.
“Soundbite” has a liquidy Apples in Stereo pop guitar hook. The vocals are whispering in your ear, but come off as clear as sunshine. This song sounds like Fountains of Wayne covering a Lightning Seeds song, particularly in the side to side grooving chorus. The bridge that leads up to the chorus builds the anticipation nicely, even chipping in a dramatic pause or a glittery keyboard flourish.
“Eternity” is a nerdy computer programmed love song. It has a great build, but at the same time, its non-threatening nature is unparalleled. It floats along on mechanical, wobbly cloudy bursts of glee. There is a certain programmed aspect of this song that dates it to a type of production that was popular in the indie-pop music of the early aughts.
“Cool Me Down” is exactly as it sounds. The vocals come down from the euphoric high of the previous song. There is a summertime in the suburbs feel to the song, perhaps a dance in a sprinkler or an open hydrant via the twinkling keyboard and soothing vocals. Then the song breaks tradition and becomes energetic with a higher octave reprise of the chorus that just shows the depth of which M&S is capable. It comes back at the end of the song for a great “remember this” visit and expansion.

“Airstream On The Highway” is a head nodding groove with slightly distorted vocals and a care free atmosphere. Again, this song paints a picture that parallels the topic of the song very well, even throwing in a harmonic for a middle America cross country trip feel. The song ends with more harmonica.
“Naked” is sung through a bucket, and keeps that harmonica going. This is a darker, simpler groove that is grittier than the rest of the album.
“In Your Movie” is a funky guitar distorted and scratched pop song. The vocals are waveringly polite, and the melody flows very organically. As was popular in the time, there are a bunch of unnecessary record scratching sounds. This song sounds just like anything on the s/t album by Bicycle, which probably no one else would remember. The chorus features a mash up of so many styles from pop to a little Hawaiian guitar to the aforementioned scratching, to funky wha-wha guitars, which end the song.
“Forget About Here” is a quiet, sullen track, with just acoustic guitar, and a twinkling of keyboards underneath. A drum machine is added with a echoing crash style. This song reminds me most of Lincoln, again, and features more organic melodies. At the end of the song they take opportunity of the organic nature by offering other variants of the basic hook.
“Fifteen” starts with some basic power pop chord changes, filtered through the production of the era. There is no echoing power, the sounds are clean and precise. The chorus is a siren of energy, at least the synth in the background sounds like a siren. It is bold and dense yet still remains catchy and Fountains of Wayne-y. The song is a thoughtful tribute to being 15, and how it was the singer’s ideal year. The end features the main thoughtful lyric wind down, like a computer crashing, and the rest of the song fades out.
“Digitize” is a wind down from the album, and begins with an electric, fuzzy guitar. After two sets of the verse, the vocals are double layered to form a bridge that leads back to the verse, with an extra wha-wha guitar in the background. The liquid guitar plays a “solo” melody vocal parallel, and the song winds down before it ever has a chance to get going. Which, unfortunately is a apt metaphor for this album. It was really good, but never took off, and therefore, it winded down before it got a chance to get going.

Stand Out Track: Disguise


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