Album Review: Matt Martians’ The Drum Chord Theory

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The Internet blew me away with Ego Death in 2015. The album was cohesive, masterfully produced, and showcased the talents of each individual in the group. Now, two years later, the members of The Internet have decided to take a break from their group act and pursue their solo careers. The first of The Internet to release a solo project is Matt Martians, the group’s keyboardist. His first solo album, The Drum Chord Theory, can easily be traced back to the sound of his collective, but he also manages to venture into areas unknown and take the listener on a psychedelic-albeit scattershot-journey.

One of the most striking characteristics of the album is its dependency on the drums. Despite Martians experience with the piano, the drums play a larger role in driving each song forward and maintaining the melody (if the album title wasn’t already a giveaway). That’s not to say that Martians doesn’t utilize his piano skills or experiment with other instruments. The instrumentals on the album take a hefty amount of risks, most of which pay off. A majority of the time they take precedence over Martians’ singing, playing long before and after Martians sings. One song in particular, “Where Are Your Friends?” sounds like it was intentionally recorded in a factory, with the instrumental miming the sounds of hammers and whistles. The sound of that would normally be annoying, but Martians uses the sounds to add a playful mood to the song. Others don’t pay off as well, like on “Alotta Women/Useless”, where the piano chords overwhelm the other instruments and Martians’ repetitive lyrics wear themselves out.

This brings me to one of the significant issues with The Drum Chord Theory. Martians depends too much on the instrumentation to create a quality song. Each unique instrumental is paired with lyrics that are too sparse or shallow to derive any meaning from. Take the song “Found Me Some Acid Tonight”; Martians repeats “I found me some acid tonight/And we gon’ trip to the other side” before the song abruptly cuts off. This is not the only instance where Martians is caught repeating himself, and it continually dulls down the album to the point of boredom.

Martians also lacks a concept to attach to his album. He mostly croons about love and his search for the perfect companion, but never really connects these songs together to create an overarching theme. Concept albums aren’t a mandatory staple of the music industry, but it helps to have an idea that the artist can work around and build off of for an album. J. Cole comes to mind when thinking about this, as he did a fairly nice job with a concept on his latest album 4 Your Eyez Only, choosing to base the album off of his friend’s death.

Despite the issues with The Drum Chord Theory, Martians has released a solid album. Numerous songs include inventive beat changes that force the listener to stay on their toes. The groovy bass and guitar lines sound reminiscent of Thundercat and Tame Impala. Martians’ features absolutely crush their appearances (Steve Lacy and Tyler, the Creator produce; Syd, Steve Lacy, and Kari Faux feature). The lyrics, however, are nothing to ride home about and hang on the verge of redundancy. The absence of a concept also makes the album impossible to comprehend as one single work. The Drum Chord Theory doesn’t break the stratosphere, but it’s not supposed to. This album has proved Martians’ potential, and that we should be prepared for what he has to come. Listen to The Drum Chord Theory here and catch The Internet at The Neptune on March 17.

Archie O’Dell

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The Bad Plus The Neptune Theater: Live Show Review

This past Thursday night I had the honor of seeing, The Bad Plus, at The Neptune Theater in what turned out to be an incredible performance. I have been a fan of The Neptune Theater ever since my first show there which was Snarky Puppy. I think the venue is an excellent size, and usually has pretty good sound as well. Upon arriving Thursday night, I was surprised to find seats on the floor right in front of the stage. This was my first concert at The Neptune that has been seated, but looking back on the performance it fit the atmosphere very well.

Having no opener for them, The Bad Plus came out on stage and instantly started burning on a tune I didn’t recognize, and eventually morphed into a roaring chart titled “My Friend Metatron”. Instantly blown away, I knew the entire performance was going to contain the highest level of musicianship. It was after this tune that bassist Reid Anderson finally addressed the crowd. Showing a remarkably dry sense of humor throughout the performance, Anderson welcomed us all to the show and made everyone chuckle before the lads brought down the energy with a sensitive cover of “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper.

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As the tune progressed, The Bad Plus continued to expand our understanding of the song by adding dissonant harmonies and convoluting the pulse more and more. Following up the cover came an Ornette Coleman tune entitled “Law Years”. The juxtaposition of these two songs one right after the other perfectly highlighted that, The Bad Plus, are not only musicians that know what the crowd likes to hear, but are also heavy jazz players that love to venture off into the realm of free improvisation as they abandoned tonal center and traditional rhythm. The Ornette Coleman tune found The Bad Plus experimenting with textures and harsh timbres that any free jazz fanatic would have been impressed by. What followed for the next hour came an inspiring mix of both pop and heavy jazz tunes that shifted along the spectrum from the most “out” to the most “in”, inciting cheers and immense applause from the audience countless times.

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Over all, The Bad Plus demonstrated an ability to combine the familiar with the unknown, all the while remaining tasteful. Not a single note or idea was played that the music didn’t call for, which showed that pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer David King poses an immense sense of maturity and trust in each other as musicians. I would recommend seeing The Bad Plus to anyone who is a fan of music and can appreciate witnessing the experience and comfortability of three killin’ musicians who have spent the last 17 years shedding and making music together.

– DJ sneak peaks (Gabe)

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Show Preview: The Bad Plus at The Neptune, January 19th

This Thursday, the 19th, The Bad Plus is performing at The Neptune Theater. I first heard about The Bad Plus from their collaboration with saxophonist Joshua Redman, which was equally exciting and experimental. Similarly, on their own, The Bad Plus refuses to be confined into any one genre or sound. Drawing most of their influence from jazz, The Bad Plus often venture off into genres of rock and pop, but do it in a way that feels comfortable and not gimmicky. Known for off-the-wall covers of various rock and pop tunes, seeing The Bad Plus perform live will be an adventure through the realms of free jazz and pop music alike. The trio consisting of bassist Reid Anderson, drummer David King, and pianist Ethan Iverson all met back in high school and have been making music together since 1990. Regardless of what set the band decides to bring to the audience on Thursday night, it will undoubtedly be one that reflects their forward-thinking mindset and 27 years of musical experience together.

-DJ sneak peaks

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Live Review: Car Seat Headrest

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Last weekend I had the chance to see indie rock band Car Seat Headrest, perform live at the Neptune Theatre in what was probably one of my favorite shows I have attended. I’ve been kind of obsessed with this band for most of the year, so finally getting to see them live was a pretty great experience. They were touring in support of their latest album Teens of Denial, definitely one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

The show kicked off after a strong performance by opening band The Domestics, a group I was not familiar with until this concert. Car Seat Headrest then opened with a short Leonard Cohen cover, before kicking the show off with the popular lead track “Fill in the Blank” from their newest album. This was when you could feel the audience really get excited; the level of audience engagement at this show was high, particularly in the front, where many of the people around me were singing along passionately.

The band played many other recent songs including “Vincent” and “Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” as well as older songs such as “Maud Gone” and “Sober to Death,” skillfully mixing different points in their discography. The Teens of Denial tracks stood out especially good live, although I was expecting them to be played, so the older songs were a nice surprise. “Maud Gone” was particularly nice to hear as I was not expecting that song to be played, and it also provided a brief respite of calm among the more high-tempo rock songs surrounding it on the setlist. The audience gave a particularly loud cheer when front-man Will Toledo announced they would be playing a song from Twin Fantasy, probably the most popular of their early albums. The band also experimented with a shortened version of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” which was reworked in preparation for an upcoming TV performance. Guitarist Ethan Ives’ guitar skills really shone through live, and Will Toledo’s vocal performance was excellent. 

The most enjoyable songs live, in my opinion, were “Strangers” from their 2015 album Teens of Style (a re-recording of an earlier release), and the encore in which the band was joined by Naked Days for covers of “Psycho Killer” and “This Must Be The Place” by Talking Heads, which they brought impressive energy to, and closed off the show on a high note. Overall, it was a great performance and a strong end to the tour.

Car Seat Headrest: Bandcamp / Twitter

Photo Credit: Kevin Tosh

-Noah Prince

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Show Preview: Car Seat Headrest at Neptune Theatre

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This Saturday, November 26th, indie rock band Car Seat Headrest will be performing at the Neptune Theatre, along with opening band The Domestics. Although originally from Leesburg, Virginia, the band has since relocated to Seattle and is playing their first show here in several months. They are touring in support of their recent album Teens of Denial, which was released earlier this year, and is also their first full-length release of new music since signing to Matador Records. In addition to their 2 traditionally released albums, Car Seat Headrest also has many fantastic albums available on Bandcamp (some of them for free!).

As a huge fan of the band, and someone who’s been following their tour closely, I expect it to be a great show, and I hope they play some songs from the older albums, which are (in my opinion) overlooked. The Domestics are a new band to me, so I’ll be curious to see their performance. 

Car Seat Headrest: Bandcamp / Twitter

The Domestics: Bandcamp

-Noah Prince

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