“Keep the Change” is a high-energy stomper that has the air of an instant classic about it, straddling with flair and sly humor that often fine line between where we’ve been and where we’re going.
Featured here previously last April, Mattiel is back with another irresistible slice of retro-current indie rock. “Keep the Change” is a high-energy stomper that has the air of an instant classic about it, straddling with flair and sly humor that often fine line between where we’ve been and where we’re going.
The recurring, six-note motif that launches the song through the intro is an apt aural symbol of the slightly off-kilter fun to come: on the one hand it’s got a Springsteen-esque grandeur, on the other hand it’s being plinked out on what sounds like a xylophone. When the drums join in at 0:14, the momentum is literally unstoppable, the drummer hitting every beat equally through the entire song except for a brief deviation in the pre-chorus, as lead singer Mattiel Brown sings, “When I throw my weight/I never throw it crooked/I always throw it straight” (itself an obliquely amusing thing to say). Another curveball arrives via the decision to call the song “Keep the Change,” in defiance of standard practice, which would derive the title from the song’s most often heard phrase (in this case that would be “Wasted all my time”). “Keep the change,” on the other hand, is a lyric we hear just twice (starting at 2:53) in the song’s late-arriving bridge.
And don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing laugh-out-loud funny going on here; the humor is more of that special, smile-inducing kind that music alone can create. If anything, Mattiel herself appears to favor humor of a particularly dry kind. The video for “Keep the Change” is a good example, featuring her setting about, blank-faced, on a series of inscrutable tasks, by herself, in an industrial site that has no recognizable purpose. The biggest clue that she’s having fun comes from the title she’s given the album where you’ll find “Keep the Change”—that title being Satis Factory. It took me a moment to register that. You can listen to the whole thing, and buy it in a variety of formats, via Bandcamp.
The album, her second, was released in June. She still seems to be employing Mattiel as a band name, even as her Facebook site doesn’t list band members. She/they is/are based in Atlanta. MP3 via The Current.
(Note that MP3s from The Current are available in files that are 128kbps, which is below the iTunes standard of 192kbps, not to mention the higher-def standard of 320kbps. I personally don’t hear much difference on standard-quality equipment but if you are into high-end sound you’ll probably notice something. In any case I always encourage you to download the MP3 for the purposes of getting to know a song via a few listens; if you like it I still urge you to buy the music. It’s the right thing to do.)
Propelled by a fuzzy, fluent guitar lick, the song evokes something lonesome and long ago in a package that feels nevertheless very up to date.
I guess it turns out to be guitar month here on Fingertips. A smart and stylish lo-fi rocker, “Not Today” oozes confidence and wonderfulness through the course of its perfect 3:38 pop song length. Propelled by a fuzzy, fluent guitar lick, the song evokes something lonesome and long ago in a package that feels nevertheless very up to date. And I’m not sure exactly how that works, as fuzzy guitar rock isn’t exactly the most up-to-date sub-genre on today’s scene. But that’s the beauty of plumbing rock history for inspiration here in the year 2018—you can find sounds and attitudes from past decades and still, because you’re a 20- or 30-something person in the digital age, write and record a song that feels like now.
Beyond the foundational guitar lick, “Not Today” is dominated by Mattiel Brown’s arresting vocals, which are also fuzzed up a bit, and infused with a tone at once sharp and blasé that recalls Amy Winehouse, at least a little. Meanwhile, don’t overlook the unusually in-sync rhythm section, in which the smashy drums tumble around and about a bass line so deep and concise it too feels like percussion.
Mattiel is a trio based in Atlanta. “Not Today” is from their self-titled debut album, released back in October on Burger Records. It’s a KEXP trifecta this week; this MP3 found its way there in January, and here it is, some months later, as I could no longer ignore it. This one is definitely a grower.
Despite its skittering bass line, centrally employed syncopation, and a smattering of funky guitar riffs, “Not Ghosts Yet” has a pleasing fluidity about it.
Part disciplined indie rocker, part psychedelic freakout, “Not Ghosts Yet” is an accomplished amalgam; despite its skittering bass line, centrally employed syncopation, and a smattering of funky guitar riffs, the song has a pleasing fluidity about it. I’m thinking this has a lot to do with the decisiveness of its two-part verse and two-part chorus, which shift us through the song’s sung sections with energetic finesse. To my ears, the central moment here is the second part of the verse, with the falsetto voice and the delightfully syncopated melody line (first heard at 0:46). There’s something in this that sounds so smart and apt that it reminds me why I personally love leaving music to the professionals.
“Not Ghosts Yet” features two extended instrumental breaks, which might seem either aimless or hypnotic, depending on your mood. The first features spacey synthesizers and prerecorded voices, the second, which closes out the song, leaves off the voices and manages to evoke any number of ’70s bands in a rather pleasant and surprising way.
Indianapolis Jones is an Atlanta-based trio rather over-ambitiously being billed as a “supergroup” based on the various bands with which its members have been previously associated. I’ve only heard of two of the 10 “name” bands mentioned myself; your mileage may vary but I vote for gently withdrawing them from supergroup consideration and just enjoying the music they are now making together.
“Not Ghosts Yet” is from the debut Indianapolis Jones EP, self-titled, which was released at the end of April.
From its chirpy, distorted intro to its abbreviated yet definitive coda, “Find a Love” packs a lot of off-kilter goodness into its archetypal pop song length of 2:45.
From its chirpy, distorted intro to its abbreviated yet definitive coda, “Find a Love” packs a lot of off-kilter goodness into its archetypal pop song length of 2:45. This is achieved in part through uncommon succinctness—less than 30 seconds total, for instance, are spent delivering the song’s verses, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or heard that before. At the same time, the song’s woozy, melodic neo-psychedelia gives off a feeling of warmth and expansion; the song lopes along, backbeat converted into a clattery shuffle, and we appear to have plenty of time for lagniappe like a hidden-in-plain-sight “Penny Lane” riff smack in the middle of things (first heard at 1:36), or that science-fiction-y end to the instrumental break at 1:56, or, for that matter, a chorus so laid-back it almost doesn’t bother with lyrics.
Gringo Star is a band from Atlanta led by brothers Peter and Nicholas Furgiuele. Founded as a foursome in 2001, with the name A Fir-Ju Well, they took the name Gringo Star in 2006; after two full-length albums, they became a trio. “Find a Love” is from the band’s third release, Floating Out to See, which was recorded at home and self-produced, unlike the first two albums. Gringo Star was previously featured on Fingertips in August 2011. MP3 via the good folks at KEXP.
“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other.
“Shadow” is like a killer find in the vintage clothing shop—comfy and familiar on the one hand, a damned good statement in the here and now on the other. As suggested by the name, this Atlanta quartet traffics in a certain amount of Beatlesque-iness, and the best kind, in my mind: a nod to the Fab Four that brings the sound further along, rather than remaining stuck in rigid homage.
So the nostalgia here suffuses the sound without actually being pinpoint-able. The scratchy guitar that rasps out the introductory line has a vaguely retrospective sound, but the specific riff doesn’t conjure any particular place or time. I like the immediate juxtaposition of the rapidly hammered guitar and the laid-back tempo, which takes the classic rock’n’roll backbeat (emphasis on the second and fourth beats of the measure) and offers it up in half-time. The occasional background nuttiness is partially psychedelic, partially just nutty. And the chorus is plain wonderful—a heart-warming descending melody, covering six full whole steps, that resolves through a chord progression so sturdy and steady that your ear barely registers some of the shifts, although it will thoroughly enjoy the glide through the relative minor around 0:53.
Gringo Star is made up of brothers Peter and Nick Furgiuele, along with Pete DeLorenzo and Chris Kaufmann. All four can play guitar and sing, both Petes can drum, and all but Pete F. will play bass. “With the swapping around of the lineup, we end up being actually 10 different bands,” Nick has been quoted as saying. A pretty cool concept, it seems to me.”Shadow” is the lead track on the band’s second album Count Yer Lucky Stars, which is due out in October on Gigantic Records. The album was produced by Ben Allen, who has worked with Gnarls Barkley and Animal Collective, among others. MP3 via Magnet Magazine.
Surefooted, totally convincing 21st-century take on that late-’60s Stones sound. It’s a pleasure and more than a little of a relief to hear a band with the talent and aptitude to handle this particular twangy, rough-edged side of the rock idiom with clean production technique and honest to goodness songwriting chops.
Surefooted, totally convincing 21st-century take on that late-’60s Stones sound. It’s a pleasure and more than a little of a relief to hear a band with the talent and aptitude to handle this particular twangy, rough-edged side of the rock idiom with clean production technique and honest to goodness songwriting chops. Weary I get of muddy, fatigued by excessive reverb. From the crisp acoustic strumming to the resonant bend of that countrified guitar to the spot-on backing singers, “Kick Me Where It Hurts” oozes both authenticity and proficiency. This is a highly recommended combination for anyone seeking a future in this brave new digital music world of ours.
And this thing isn’t just about a retro vibe. Vocalist Chaz Tolliver brings his own slightly vulnerable oomph to the Jaggeresque performance, greatly assisted by the song’s lyrical and melodic fluidity. Note how the chorus is very close in melody and spirit to the verse and yet completely separates itself. This makes the song feel really really solid, even as Tolliver sings like someone not quite recovered from his previous night’s binge. I think the pivotal moment is when we modulate from major to minor (first heard at 0:38), grounding us in a moment of poignancy (listen to Tolliver’s plaintive “Mama…”) before rolling onward. The lyrics, meanwhile, shine with an offhanded, Let It Bleed-like dexterity. “Stumbled on the D train in my military coat,” the second verse begins, just perfectly.
“Kick Me Where It Hurts” will be found on the the album At Maximum Volume, to be released next month on Underrated Records. It’s the hard-working band’s fifth in four years. MP3 via Underrated. Thanks to Consequence of Sound for the lead.
You can just about hear the pints being raised during this rag-tag, barroom stomper.
You can just about hear the pints being raised during this rag-tag, barroom stomper. And yet it’s an easy-going barroom stomper, if there can be such a thing—no full-out, Replacements-style aggressive sloppiness for this relatively new Atlanta quintet. You can tell right away from the banjo and harmonica which make their presence known early on. These are not kick-ass instruments; they’re serious ones. So, yeah, there are gang-style sing-alongs and shout-alongs, a chugging, Stones-like rhythm guitar line, and a general feeling of lazy looseness, but something tells me these guys don’t just stumble into their songs. They work for them, and polish them, and in this case what they want to polish was something rough-hewn and loose-limbed. This is not as easy as it sounds.
Take the rousing chorus, for example, which, starting the second time we hear it, offers up not one but two separate sing-along sections—two hooks for the price of one, basically. And yet singer/songwriter Drew Beskin was crafty enough to make us wait for it, to give us one run-through without the second part. There’s a related moment at 2:12, when the end of the first verse is repeated but this time with a couple of extra lyrical lines. It’s a small thing, doesn’t necessarily register to most listeners consciously, but it speaks to the care with which the song was created, even as it flaunts its ramshackle vibe.
“Splitsville” is from the band’s debut seven-song album, Orders From…, which was self-released digitally in June 2010 but is being given a full-fledged national release next month. The whole thing remains free at the band’s Bandcamp page.