erasing clouds

Math and Physics Club, I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do

review by dave heaton

On their second LP, Math and Physics Club sound like they’ve shaken their influences and fully settled into their sound. (Reviews should never mention the Lucksmiths, or the Smiths, again.) This album is packed with catchy pop songs that can be breezy, punchy or bittersweet, and do so in a minimum of strokes. Overall the band’s approach is minimalist, but it serves to showcase the sound of each instrument.

The least minimalist song, “Everybody Loves a Showtune”, tells a showbiz story and gives it a circus sound to match. Other less flashy songs are just as colorful in content, telling us detailed stories in their own way, but more often focused on pairs of lovers or would-be lovers. There are plenty of domestic scenes, with couples caught in nervous (“I’ll Tell You Anything”) or sweet (“We Make a Pair”) moments, or in a state of confusion (“Love or Loneliness”).

There are secrets beneath the surfaces, disappointment and longing within intimacy. The album begins with a robust and energetic but rueful summer single, “Jimmy Had a Polaroid”. It’s short, in the best way. The song, and the album, use brevity for charm and impact.

Overall the tone of the music is genial and easygoing. That sets us up for a couple truly disarming songs of emotional directness: “I’ve Been That Boy”, a shy what-could-have-been musing, and “Trying to Say I Love You”, a bittersweet confessional. I can think of 1,000 songs where someone is trying to say ‘I love you’ to someone else, and can’t find the words, but this songs sets that up especially sharply. I’ve heard few, maybe no, songs this year that get to the crux of the matter so efficiently. It’s a time-stopping moment, each time I hear it.


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