Record Label: Independent
Genre: Indie Rock
Release Date: January 17, 2014
With its mischievous chords and rhythmic horseplay, it’s almost too easy to call Greenville, SC’s Art Contest a math rock band. There’s something about Math Major, their first full-length, that resists this limiting label—something that’s difficult to pin-point.
Maybe it’s the album’s endearing lo-fi quality, which seems to muffle the Cole Monroe’s wiggling guitars on songs like “Banana Boat” and subdue drummer Garrett Burke’s more frenetic rhythms, including those on “Misty Flip” and “Riff Raff”. In effect, Math Major feels more like a jazz record than an emo one, though they’re more likely to be lumped into the latter.
First of all, I would like to thank the publicist, Colin Czerwinski for giving me a copy of this album to review. Thank you so much! Really appreciate it! All right, now for my review.
Maybe it’s that the band sometimes decides to slow down. Songs like “Jungle Book” thrum softly, blooming in soft bursts at the end of each phrase. Others, like “Bed Time”, sway slowly, but swell into looming landscapes; during its chorus, Aaron Burke’s bass rolls back and forth in the background, adding depth as Monroe’s bright guitar, sticky with reverb, shimmers beneath his soaring voice. Or maybe it’s that Math Major expresses energy without succumbing to aggression or arrogance. Whatever it is, Art Contest reaches well-beyond the boundaries of math rock—and emo, and jazz—to realms were few bands have the ability to tread.
Art Contest are an odd group. They mix together crash thimbles with fast tempos and somehow make it work for the most part. Their talents aren’t in creating memorable lyrics, it’s in creating memorable guitar riffs and drumming combinations that defy the term music in the twenty first century. Surprisingly, they do it well and with excitement that’s pretty contagious.
I’m a person that’s all about words, I mean, I do own a blog. Anyway, even though Art Contest’s strong points are their instrumentals, it would have been nice if they switched up the lyrics instead of it consistently being the same words repeated over and over again in every song. What makes this even worse is the fact that the vocalist has an amazing voice that’s really strong which is shown in Bedtime, Shish Kebab and Sugar Bay. Nonetheless, there are songs that I really didn’t enjoy like the last two on the record, Bassnectar and Sonic Level 4. The problem with Bassnectar is that it sounds like the band was out of ideas and decided to let a toddler go wild since the key banging is done on the high side in an annoying way. Sonic Level 4 is just as annoying with the vocals choppy and odd, like a caveman trying to speak. Word. After. Word. After. Word. Until somewhere in the middle where it’s smoother but at that point, I didn’t care.
You know when you’re a pretty shitty mood and you just want to scream, punch, or throw something? Math Major is that kind of album. Their sound is all quick tempos, and harsh banging that shows off their intimidating power. They seem to encourage these outbursts by having random outbursts of their own throughout their songs. The Intros are great, they really will reel listeners in with their unique sound like in Bedtime, Tripp Pants, and WAV. Washing Machine and Jungle Book are quite smooth in the beginning and then randomly start to bang and clash. Without even having seen a music video by Art Contest I could literally hear them, ‘jamming out’ to their songs. Sugar Baby is probably their most poetic song on this album, although it’s still with their fast pacing, the drums and guitar start and stop in sync with the vocals and give off that smooth feeling.
Math Major isn’t an album I would usually listen to. I like, for the most part, smooth bands that have smooth build-ups and a relaxed overall feel to them. However Art Contest is a band that’s unusual and have taken me by surprise. Their energy is contagious and even though my favourite songs off this album are Jungle Book, Bedtime, and Sugar Bay, this album as a whole is something that’ll force listeners to want to jam out and get loud and crazy.
Songs on the Album (Click on the title to listen to the song!)
1. Banana Boat-3:26
2. Washing Machine-3:55
3. Jungle Book-4:21
6. Misty Flip-0:49
7. Shish Kebab-3:54
8. Riff Raff-1:12
9. Tripp Pants-2:19
10. Sugar Bay-3:23
11. Mean Note-2:44
13. Sonic Level 4-3:43