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

matcd055  /  June 2010
Math and Physics Club - I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do
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Math and Physics Club - I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do

matcd055  /  June 2010

Long-awaited second album from Seattle pop darlings Math and Physics Club!

The band first captured our hearts in 2005 with the charming ‘Weekends Away’ EP, which quickly sold out of its initial pressing. The band’s brand of literate acoustic-based guitar pop has garnered frequent comparisons to The Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, and labelmates The Lucksmiths, and their self-titled debut full length was named best indiepop album of 2006 by PopMatters. Picking up where their excellent 2007 ‘Baby I’m Yours’ EP left off, Math and Physics Club return with their first long player in nearly four years.

‘I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do’ is a smashing collection of ten new pop gems, chock full of the chiming guitars and sweet melodies we’ve come to expect, but it also packs a punch their earlier work shied away from. Seattle producer Martin Feveyear (Presidents of the USA, Mark Lanegan) helped the band dial in rich, clean tones reminiscent of their 80’s influences like The Housemartins, but with a decidedly modern luster. The ten tracks clock in at less than 25 minutes, showcasing the band’s knack for crisp arrangements and good sense to know when a song just doesn’t need that extra chorus.

Lyrically the album continues the themes of love and heartbreak that are signatures of the band’s earlier recordings, but songs like ‘Everybody Loves a Showtune,’ ‘The Internationale’ and ‘We’re So DIY!’ also catch them poking fun at theater culture, faux celebrities, and even at themselves.

First single ‘Jimmy Had a Polaroid’ starts out in familiar MAPC fashion, but as soon as the drums and bass rumble into the picture you realize this is no twee affair. As chiming guitars whirl through the choruses, the rhythm section keeps things driving at a fast clip that will surely get the kids dancing.

Among the other highlights, ‘Everybody Loves a Showtune’ is an unexpected slice of folk pop full of banjo, accordion, trombone, tuba, and timpani. The story follows a clueless chorus boy who brings a musical production to its knees when he breaks ranks. ‘Love or Loneliness’ is one of the album’s most surprising tracks as the band stretches into new musical territory with a straight ahead rock beat and sweeping mellotron reminiscent of ‘Out of Time’ era REM.

Meanwhile, ‘Will You Still Love Me’ is a fast-paced homage to bands like The Housemartins and Heavenly, with Charles’ vocals melding with guest vocalist Jen Garrett of Seattle band Stuporhero to deliver a sweet tale about insecure lovers. ‘We’re So DIY!’ closes the album with a tongue-in-cheek tribute that condenses the indiepop handbook into a tidy two minutes, complete with handclaps and Beach Boys-drenched harmonies. Oh yeah!

‘I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do’ is Math and Physics Club’s most confident and sharply written work to date. What sophomore jinx? We’re happy to have them back!

  1. Jimmy Had A Polaroid
  2. We Make A Pair
  3. Trying To Say I Love You
  4. Everybody Loves A Showtune
  5. Love or Loneliness
  6. Will You Still Love Me?
  7. I'll Tell You Anything
  8. The Internationale
  9. I've Been That Boy
  10. We're So DIY


Ethan, Charles, and James started playing together in Seattle in 2004, after the latter two had grown up in and inspired by the Olympia scene, tumbling about the spreading evergreen branches and primitivist punk pine cones from the shakin' Beat Happening family tree, and its simple, playful underground pop aesthetic. M&PC also shared love for bands like Seattle's power pop princes The Posies and UK positive energy-priests The Housemartins. This led to kinship with The Lucksmiths from Australia, and KEXP DJ John Richards getting excited about them, and a signing to the irrepressible Matinée label. Adding drummer Kevin and violinist Saundrah to their sound had helped them make a candy store of EPs filled with songs shimmering autumn sunshine, effervescent anthems with a hint of sadness. After four years, Math and Physics Club release its long-awaited latest album, I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do. The band has wondered if people are just polite in Seattle about bands, but a few listens of the short ten tracks on their second full length unveils a band that has absorbed their influences and come up with songs as huggable as anything Camera Obscura has ever recorded. If you doubt the strength of the rating with this review, bear in mind that I am far from an expert in "twee." That genre term means nothing to me here; these songs pulse and bounce and zip along as magically as if I hadn't grown up with The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death and Hatful of Hollow. I will be playing all ten tracks here over and over as much as I ever listened to Jonathan Sings! Check back with me in six months and my iPod "Most Played" list will prove it. "Jimmy Had A Polaroid" opens the album in a handclap-worthy song about cameras, parks, stacks of 45s, and a girl moving away, as compelling as a free afternoon with the person you adore most together "until we fell to the ground / and watched the clouds spin around." The excuse of their absence is just "something that we say." "We Make A Pair" is a lilting ode to sharing tea and coffee with a short haired partner and to getting "into trouble easily ... and stick together to the bitter end." On tracks like "Trying To Say I Love You" the pining could be as real as an early Beatles tune, as the gentle shimmy may be from any pure pop gem created in Scotland or Southern California or New Zealand at any time of fecund creative growth. These first three songs are all brilliant little singles about love and togetherness and love and loss. Then things start to get more lyrically detailed and urgent, as the Aussie C&W shaggy dog tale of "Everybody Loves A Showtune" comes along as wry as anything the Triffids, or a less grim book-end to "Frankly, Mr. Shankly." While "I'll Tell You Anything" is perfectly timeless and caffeine-inspired early evening come on, the extremely catchy "Love Or Loneliness" takes a darker approach about attraction. "Will You Still Love Me?" asks about the decay of body and relationship and having to "get our kicks from small blue pills." For me, the album ends on its two strongest anthems, the musically loping, and lyrically terse poseur-challenge "The Internationale" ("The parties where you go to see and be seen ... but what do they really think? I don't care who you just kissed and that you're always on the guest list"). Critical but concerned, and not too over the top nasty. The penultimate track "I've Been That Boy" may be the band's finest slow song, detailing a brittle, unrequited affair from a long time ago. It is so open and mature it could have been recorded by any great band, any time. "You never looked at me like that." Who hasn't been there? Math and Physics Party brings it all back for a conscious self-mockery, "We're So DIY," which might have been smarmy if the nine slices of the simple life hadn't been delivered so cleanly, crisply, without airs. It's almost utopian, making me want to "talk trash with Tullycraft," just like them. Where's my Casio again?   --Three Imaginary Girls
The return of Math and Physics Club fills my heart with glee, and on the cover of 'I Shouldn't Look as Good as I Do' Charles, James and Ethan look pretty pleased with themselves, too. And why not? This album of full of swirling, shimmering songs that kicks off the summer perfectly. It kicks off with the rushing, diving 'Jimmy Had a Polaroid', before the playful, coy 'We Make a Pair' makes a gentle dash for securing the place of first dance at every indiepop couple's wedding. These two wonderful pop songs set the tone for the rest of the album, which is a much more rounded set of songs than could be found on the eponymous debut album. 'Trying to Say I Love You' sees Charles desperately trying to save a relationship, but failing because of shyness. And that's a theme;'Love or Loneliness', sees Charles singing about sticking with a relationship out of habit, rather than love. The song ends, cheekily, rather suddenly. 'Will You Still Love Me' is a much better version 'When I'm 64' and sounds like those A Smile and Ribbon songs that wowed us three or so years ago. But the real gem is 'The Internationale', which rather than being a rallying cry for international working class solidarity, seems to be berating a braggard that Charles is tiring off. Also, when he sings "nothing in particular he does his best Morrissey impression. Add in some Marr-ish guitar shapes and you've got a beautiful homage to The Smiths. The album ends with a pop at the indie-than-thou ghetto dwellers called 'We're So DIY', which in parts reminds me of Shrag's 'Rabbit Kids', and namechecks Tullycraft. One for the trainspotters, ironically enough. It should be a single, anyway. An album about relationships, then. Nothing particularly new there, but it's the way Math and Physics Club do it that makes the difference. Sweet and tender in places, but with a pop bite that kills me every time. The summer starts here.   --A Layer of Chips
Math and Physics Club are back with their second album, I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do, and it’s non-stop indiepop til you drop. The Seattle trio have penned a record of ten breezy pop tunes about everyone’s favourite topic: love. Well, for the most part anyway. Even though Math and Physics Club hail from America’s west coast there’s more Scotland than Seattle that meets the ears here. Charles Bert’s soft and unassuming vocals bear no discernible accent and, along side the shimmering, jangly guitars, there’s more in common here with Glasgow’s Belle and Sebastian than any of Seattle’s more famous musical exports. The arrangements are kept simple between the three-piece with the the staple of acoustic, drums and chiming electric guitar joined on occasion by simple string arrangements and flourishes of banjo and brass. As with many an indiepop record the recurring theme here is love — and an awkward love at that. On Love Or Loneliness Bert questions a partner’s motivation, “You say there’s only me, then you say it’s sweet I still believe in monogamy.” I’ll Tell You Anything deals with the nervousness and excitement of new love, “This would be a good time for a clever line or a witty observation.” We even have a counterpoint to McCartney’s When I’m 64 in Will You Still Love Me?, “When we get our thrills from small blue pills will you still love me?” It’s this subtle humour which underpins the record and keeps it the right side of the dreaded “twee”. When not musing on love the band can be found poking fun at themselves on We’re So DIY! (“We’ll never carry up the charts but we’ll be the indie stars that everybody hearts”), telling the story of a chorus boy who breaks ranks on Everybody Loves A Show Tune (“I’ll be the one they all adore, just keep smiling, just keep laughing”), and the ever-growing world of faux celebrity on Internationale (“So shameless for a photograph, so famous for nothing in particular”). With ten tracks coming it at under 25 minutes (just two venturing into a third minute) I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do avoids any chance of becoming bland, trite or derivative — a trait which is often a fault of some of Math and Physics Club’s contemporaries. With light and delicate production, sparkling and bouncing arrangements, and lyrics with a hidden wit waiting to be discovered I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do is a short and simple joy.   --Culture Deluxe
Well, the second LP by Seattle minstrels Math and Physics Club, "I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do", is as strollingly charming and well-constructed as either its s/t predecessor or any of their fine EP releases, and has them refining even further their modestly understated masterclass in the genteel art of compact songwriting. It opens with the absolutely bombing 7" single "Jimmy Had A Polaroid" (YES! vVinyl is back on Matinée; God is in his heaven): two and half minutes of indie-pop righteousness that was born - luckily enough - to be a 7" A-side, a pacy and catchy number in which delectably jangling guitar elides with skidding, bouncing rhythms which both then collide head-on with slipsliding, lump-in-throat lyrical nostalgia. There's also rather more driving bass than usual, which helps tremendously. The real achievement of ISLAGAID, however, is that this lead-off single is followed by nine other songs which are pretty much just as well-honed and ripplingly toned: the record a sea of smart, shortish, melody-led numbers that show that you don't always need to slow proceedings down, or to drag them out, to extract occasionally gut-gnawing emotion (although even in this environment, the closing chords of "I've Been That Boy" are unexpectedly moving). There are no true *experiments* here, unless you count perhaps the slightly incongruous if lyrically deft banjo-led narrative of "Everybody Loves A Showtune": there are, however, a number of fitting *embellishments* across the album, in the shape of slightly more ambitious arrangements, a sweeping mellotron, female backing vocals, a newfound studio confidence. At its heart, though, the record remains testament to a fair-timeless songcraft: the light-as-featherdown sweetness of "We Make A Pair", the bristling, bustling jangle of "Love Or Loneliness", the debonair, boy-laid-bare "I'll Tell You Anything", the heavenly sturm-und-twang of the marvellous "Trying To Say I Love You". Math & Physics have already carved out a niche for themselves, a trademark sunshine sound softly belied by self-aware, often delicate lyricism, but on the strength of this - as you've probably guessed - we would now also nominate them as "most likely" to inherit the mantle of the new (luck)'smiths (a few had them down as the, erm, new old Smiths, after the Morrissey-esque vocal tics on their earlier releases, but the no-doubt rickety suspension of their cover star VW Beetle now seems to have forcibly shaken those from singer Charles' system). More than that, though, the inspired and rousing closing track, "We're So DIY!" even manages to out-Tullycraft Tullycraft. And let's face it, if it were possible for any mortal band to be both the new Lucksmiths AND the new Tullycraft, we would *definitely* want to be part of that, to be their new best friends for ever and ever. Wouldn't you ?   --In Love With These Times In Spite Of These Times
The second LP from Seattle’s Math and Physics Club follows up on their excellent 2006 debut with a similar mix of pop punch and storytelling, delivered in a streamlined way that keeps the emphasis on those strengths, without any unnecessary fluff. Each song quickly gets to the point, whether it’s to have a laugh at the whole nature of show business or to ponder how love changes over time. The album also contains what I’m pretty sure is my absolute favorite song of the year, “Trying to Say I Love You”, which sketches out a shy confession of love in so few strokes that it takes my breath away.   --Pop Matters (Best of 2010)
Seattle group Math and Physics Club have one full-length and a few EPs under their belt, but after a short break it seems that they’re ready to continue their foray into the world of perfect pop tunes. I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do is not power-pop, nor is it twee, instead its just crafty pop rock of the best sort. It’s straightforward, and in being so, you find you’ve enjoyed the entire album without even being aware of why it sounds so good. There’s no hype, there’s just great songs. “Jimmy Had a Polaroid” opens with a swirling guitar line, but in a few short seconds the band bounces off on the backbone of great drumming. Guitar chords battle between sharpness and gentle strumming, all the while commenting on the good times shared in relationship. The idea of relationships is quite often a theme on this record, especially when you step into songs like “Trying to Say I Love You.” Singer Charles is doing his best to prove a point, trying to win back the one he loves. His efforts don’t seem to be effective, but the understated song just wins your heart time and time again, as often the simplest lyrics are often the ones that we connect with the most. From here, Math and Physics Club take a bit of a divergence from their clever pop, going in the direction of The Decemberists. In fact, its exactly what you wish The Decemberists sounded like, as banjo and horns are accompanied by well-crafted words, but of the overly verbose sort. The only other song that slightly shifts away from the group’s sound on I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do is “I’ve Been That Boy,” which is just vocals and quiet guitar strumming (a touch of tambourine). Oddly, such basic songs are often the hardest to write, and pull off successfully, yet I keep coming back to this tune time and time again. Including upbeat numbers on this record really has paid off for the band. ”Will You Still Love Me,” which features guest vocals from Jen Garrett, pushes the pace, while still retaining the infectious pop sound of the group. Adding a female vocal to balance the male counterpart pays off huge dividends, making the song one that lasts in your memory. Even the inside joke of “We’re so DIY” has a faster pace, all the while carefully mocking the present state of indie rock music. If it weren’t for an amazing melody, and the hint at putting fun (created by the “oh yea” chorus) into the song, people might take offense; it’s hard to dislike a song so enjoyable. In the end, I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do draws to a close before you even know it. Ten songs in under thirty minutes, and yet you’ll turn right back to your stereo and press play. While some may seek some sort of artistic virtuosity, it is often the bands like Math and Physics Club that make the most delicious records. They’re not trying to win any awards, they just want you to enjoy great pop tunes, and on that basis alone, this record is a huge success.   --Austin Town Hall
Seattle was once home to all things grunge; Nirvana, Pearl Jam & Soundgarden is an impressive list of citizens to be sure. The addition of Math And Physic Club to that heavy list would certainly be reprehensible, but here we have the latest band of promise emanating from the great Washington city. Nearly four years ago, the band’s self-titled debut album was gaining some attention in indie pop circles with comparisons to Belle & Sebastian being consistently levied. The follow up does indeed take on a tougher stance, but don’t fret they haven’t metalled themselves up like their forefathers, just tried to shake off the “twee” tag. Not too sure they’ve fully succeeded on that front though, but what we do have is a concise set of songs, full of joyous bounce and enough bliss to light up any dull summer’s day! There are tales of love lost and forlorn, yet with little interest in heartbreak or pain, just cups of coffee and dirty laundry. There’s also enough diversity in sound to maintain interest, from the subtle bluster of “Will You Still Love Me” to the nonchalance of “We’re so DIY”, via the slapstick of “Everybody Loves A Showtune”. When they do express a deeper level of sorrow on “I’ve Been That Boy”, the result is a beautifully crafted song that prompts the desire to offer up a hug and maybe even shed an empathetic tear or two. It is indeed the set’s best offering and neatly balances a theme of detached enchantment amongst grief. So, if that’s your bag, you could do worse than check out this speccy trio, who smell rather more like strawberry milk shake than teen spirit!
On Math and Physics Club's sophomore album, it's hard not to get the feeling that the Seattle band isn't taking the whole indie pop thing nearly as seriously as most of their contemporaries. There's a song that pokes fun at the ridiculous backstage politics of the theater crowd while copping bits of the theme from A Chorus Line ("Everybody Loves a Showtune"). There's a song that not-so-gently ribs B-list wannabe celebrities ("The Internationale"). There's even a song that skewers the independent-band mentality while name-checking Tullycraft with the same self-mocking edge as that band's semi-legendary "Twee" ("We're So DIY"). Of course, the Club scatters those pesky matters of love and sexual politics that are usually at the heart of pop tunes all over I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do, somehow managing to reference the sound and spirit of Trembling Blue Stars and the beloved Lucksmiths in the process. Those tracks are the majority on I Shouldn't, but it's the band's lighthearted approach that sets it apart: Pursuit of the Platonic ideal pop tune and exploring the human condition are important, the Club seems to say, but let's not forget the reason we're here. That reason is to enjoy ourselves. In that regard, I Shouldn't is a thoroughly enjoyable affair. Never a band to linger too long on an idea, Math and Physics Club gets its 10 songs in and out in less than 25 minutes. Fun's always best when delivered in small doses, you see. And there are lots of those tiny doses. "Trying to Say I Love You" skirts the edges of bedroom pop cliché as the band's bubbly melodies and sweet, chiming guitar support a brutally self-aware tune about geek love. "Love and Loneliness" soars on a magnificently understated guitar lead that drips Seattle indie soul from every note, while "Jimmy Had a Polaroid" could be this summer's choice pop tune. While each track heavily references a slew of vaguely twee forefathers -- TBS and Lucksmiths to Tullycraft and Belle and Sebastian -- Math and Physics Club aren't drowning in reverence for traditions. This is fresh stuff. Or as fresh as bedroom jangle can be in 2010. Most of all, it's fun. Even when the band's dipping into those self-revelatory moments and putting heartache on the line, I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do is upbeat, and not in that happy-to-be-sad sort of melancholy that's become cliché for indie slouches worldwide. Math and Physics Club obviously has a serious love for guitar pop, but not so much that it takes itself too seriously. If only every band was this light on the ears.
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.   --Erasing Clouds
This Seattle trio’s 2nd full-length is another first-rate set of acoustic-oriented jangle-pop reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian, featuring economical arrangements mostly devoid of excessive ornamentation, but packing an abundance of catchy melodic hooks.   --KEXP
Seattle based trio Charles Bert (vocals, rhythm guitar), Ethan Jones (bass, keyboards, vocals) and James Werle (guitar) started as a basement hobby. Luckily for us they are becoming a little better known these days, although of course PennyBlack was well aware of them as far back as 2007. Previous comparisons to Belle and Sebastian in particular prove well founded from the very first bars of 'Jimmy Had a Polaroid'. The tracks are dare I say jaunty, the guitars are jangly and the spoken singing style underpowered and relaxed. Math and Physics club seem to have subverted that classic 60's pop sound. The lyrics tell everyday stories, mostly relationship based with a wry smile and wink. The Beatles asked if you would still love them at the grand old age of 64. Bert, Jones and Werle are more pragmatic - "When this ageing body starts to wilt/And my dirty laundry makes you ill/When we get our kicks from a small blue pill/Will you still love me?" It might be about ending relationships but the accompanying music is so upbeat you might be lulled into thinking its a bubblegum track. There are shades of both the Housemartins and the Wannadies in this two minute track and elsewhere on the album. But let's be clear this Club has a style of its own and are not just a mish mash of borrowed hooks and handclaps. All in all a mellow, clever and undemanding album perfect for cruising in the warm sunshine with the top down so the breeze can ruffle your hair.   --Pennyblack Magazine
Oh, the Matinée label; like their Northern California cousins Slumberland, the Santa Barbara imprint are like drug pushers for those of us whose post-college years were filled with The Smiths leading the twee-jangle pop revolution of post-Postcard Records Britain, buying records on the early Creation and Rough Trade labels, the C-86 compilation bands, and a smattering of the Sarah label as well. And in the case of M&PC, it’s once again a fix we’re glad to keep devouring. In fact, on the Seattle trio’s second LP, they are trying to answer the question no one was asking, namely, “Does the world need an American Belle & Sebastian?”, as just about every two-minute tune on the group’s record could have been found on their Scottish forebears first four albums. (Note, Belle also shares the decided influence of the older references above). In fact, if we were told that I Should ’s opening single, “Jimmy Had A Polaroid” was an early sketch demo of Belle’s If You’re Feeling Sinister ’s standard “Judy and the Dream of Horses,” it would be easy to believe. And for folks whose adolescence was spent in Olympia, digging the K Records scene and their flagship band in particular, Beat Happening, Charles Bert and his fellow original Clubmember guitarist James Werle could easily substitute for Belle’s Stuart Murdoch and Stevie Jackson if either wanted to go on holiday while the rest of their Glasgow group kept a recording session. And does this robust resemblance in any way restrict the pleasure of listening to this upbeat, fresh-faced, friendly, and sometimes even bubbly (“Will You Still Love Me?”) music? Oddly, no. As ever, an album like this that breaks no new ground whatsoever sinks or floats on the quality of its tunes as much as the bushel of smiles that forms the band’s attitude—even when they lyrics dig so much deeper, or are self-depricating, as on the closing “We’re So DIY!” And frankly, however British in feel and conception (with a little Calvin Johnson for Pacific Northwest flavoring), on one song after another, Werle’s Johnny Marr-light-touch guitars and Ethan Jones peppy, involved basslines, and the songs’ romantic hooks just beat down any defenses you care to erect. When the addict gets the pure stuff, he surrenders.   --The Big Takeover
I’m always ready to be disarmed by a breezy pop combo. Over breakfast, shoveling snow, riding the bus, whenever. Just lay down some acoustic strums, overlay them with crystalline guitars, then sing and harmonize about old lovers wistfully and you’re about 3/4ths of the way there. But that doesn’t mean covering that last quarter distance is a no-brainer. It takes the right mix of innocence and wisdom, effortless tunes (“effortless” is good thing in any genre, of course, but less crucial in the more artsy-fartsy ones), and warmth – but without weakness. The heartache has to be real, but the music should hint toward the redemption from misery made possible by those aforementioned guitars and harmonies. Seattle’s Math and Physics Club earned some nice critical high-fives for their self-titled 2006 debut of sweet, no-surprises sensitive pop. For comparisons, it’s enough to mention earlier Belle & Sebastian and leave it at that, though M&PC are definitely more conventional overall. But where B&S have other kinds of ambition – lyrically, thematically and compositionally – M&PC are admirably pure in their intent. Their hearts are on their sleeves, lovers with trusting natures, but they sound resilient in their own humble way, too, not just a bunch of sad-sack doormats. Their tunes are soft and bright but propulsive, too. A couple of well-received EPs and a lengthy downtime later and now the trio is back with I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do, a record that offers basically the same charms – this isn’t a sound that begs for constant tweaking – at roughly the same return on your geek-pop dollar. “Trying to Say I Love You,” is a standout, a shuffling ditty about – well, the title pretty much sums up the theme, but it’s important that the bashful difficulty in vocalist Charles Bert’s staring-at-my-shoes delivery is balanced by the playful drumming. Similarly, the assertive little two-beat bassline on “Love or Loneliness” gives the song it’s own rhythmic solidity that works to bolster the gentleness of the song overall. Nice textural touches here, too, like the barely-there vocal harmony and the strings that swell quietly underneath the chiming guitars late in the song. Clever though it is, I could do without the too-cute “Everybody Loves a Showtune,” but thankfully, that’s the only song on I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do that fails the twee test. And I really did want to avoid using that word, because it sounds too pejorative for a record that has as much swing as this one does. “Will You Still Love Me?” for example, is too effective in its jumped-up beat and sliding minor-seven chords to be consigned to mere cuteness. The rest of the record too employs rhythm to varying degrees of subtlety to make the point that sensitivity does not preclude tapping one’s foot, at the very least. Math and Physics Club has the same kind of bottomlessly effective simplicity that a band like New Zealand’s the Bats has (and, yes, I mention the Bats every chance I get). In the face of constantly mutating genres looking for an unexploited trick or sparkling new production techniques grafted on to the same chord progressions, it’s uplifting to hear the old anxieties and pleasures set to music that seems impervious to change.   --Delusions of Adequacy
Math and Physics Club have a new LP, I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do out on Matinée. Which, when you see them geekily crammed into an old Beetle on the cover, is as ironic as you like. It’s also virtually the perfect pop album. Ten tracks in length, sumptuous melodies abound, an effervescent atmosphere and a general cheery vibe. Those indie fans downbeat after the Lucksmiths split last year, and looking for a replacement could do much worse than Math and Physics Club.   --Russell’s Reviews
It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from Seattle’s Math and Physics Club (well, technically not for me since I first heard them just as I was getting involved in this blogging racket about 15 months ago). But it’s been three years since the release of the band’s last EP, Baby I’m Yours. So, for the collective “we”, I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do is another bright spot in a year that is producing no shortage of indie pop magic. Then again, what else do you expect from Matinée Recordings? From the opening bars of “Jimmy had a Polaroid” (also the first single off the album), the boys staked their claim to a permanent spot in my amorphous summer road-trip rotation, further cementing their position with the singable shuffle of “We Make a Pair”. Frequently, I Shouldn’t Look as Good as I Do finds Charles Bert’s vocals reminiscent of the tonal clarity of Sondre Lerche, especially on tracks like the sparkling “Will You Still Love Me” (alongside Jen Garrett [Stuporville]) and the traipsing theatrics of “Everybody Loves a Showtune” (which could easily be mistaken for a lost New Vaudeville Band B-side). And of course I have to mention the closer “We’re So DIY”, which I am unofficially adopting as our official theme song. Check us out selling records in the back. / Hand-designed custom jacket with a badge. / We’ll never carry up the charts / but we’ll be the indie stars / that everybody hearts. / We’re so DIY! I couldn’t have said it better myself (in fact, I am half tempted to replace the “About Us” page with the lyrics to this song). It is clear from this album that Math and Physics Club know the way to an indie kid’s heart and, for the rest of the general public who don’t already, they’ve provided a road map. The whole trip will take about 25 minutes.   --The Indie Handbook
With a band name more suited for an academic decathalon than romance, Math and Physics Club spend a surprising amount of time on heartbroken reminiscing. A departure from their ubiquitous summer synths, the three-member band’s second release, I Shouldn’t Look as Good As I Do is a breezy, pop-rock trip through every phase of love. The Belle & Sebastian-tinged record is the perfect setting for summer romances: sweet enough for first butterflies and lighthearted enough to get over poorly-negotiated flings. Based out of Seattle, MAPC is led by the consistently-chipper vocals of Charles Bert and the guitar work of James Werle. Since its self-titled debut in 2006, the band has dropped violinist Saundrah Humphrey and drummer Kevin Emerson; the result is a tighter and more assured second album that could double as the soundtrack to Juno 2: Condoms Really Aren’t That Difficult. Backed by handclaps and harmonies, Bert has his best turn in the mildly neurotic, “Will You Still Love Me?” where he worries whether a flawless relationship can survive old age and mundane muck. Worried about prospects of dirty laundry and “small blue pills,” Bert cuts out of the relationship preemptively. He’s that overly-anxious friend that breaks up with a girl for chewing on pens. But you can’t help liking him anyways. While the album is a tribute to first and lost loves–if you somehow missed the theme, four of the 10 songs have the word “love” in the title–the band shines when Bert detours from his romance-heavy musings. Hipster-skewering “The Internationale” (because everything is truly more pretentious when you add an “e”) benefits from a snapping bass line as the lead singer makes fun of shameless attention-seekers “famous for nothing in particular.” Personal favorite, “Everybody Loves A Showtune” narrates the unexpected success of a lowly chorus boy thrown into the lead role. With a folky mix of banjo, trombone, tuba and accordion, the song is thankfully more Decemberists than Glee: “I hit my marks and danced across the floor/Tonight I’ll be the one that they adore/Just keep smiling, keep laughing.” In the same vein as The Decemberists’ “The Sporting Life,” you just get swayed by the glasses-sporting underdog. For those stuck in relationship mode, the cutesy “We Make A Pair” can only call to mind frolicking–yes, frolicking–down a boardwalk while holding hands, while “I’ll Tell You Anything” captures the nervousness of the beginning of a relationship. Plus it wins for most mellow delivery of the line, “I’m wired/I’ve had too much coffee.” Math and Physics Club closes with the self-mocking “We’re So DIY!” about the romanticized image of indie bands, set to the requisite tambourine and “Oh yeahs.” Uncomplicated and purposely frivolous, the song typifies the whole album. With the three guys above on the loose in their throwback slugbug, Michael Cera may have some competition in the dorky crush category this summer. Nerd alert.   --Treeswingers
Back with a second LP, I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do, Math and Physics Club aren't poised to be the biggest band around, in fact, they are intentionally not that. They make close music, a branch of acoustic twee, meant for mixtapes and hushed moments between good acquaintances. The hooks are undeniable, the pop crystalline. This is music that takes a modest personal investment, the return on which is obvious and valuable. "Jimmy Had A Polaroid" is the most spacious sound the band has ever pursued but even then the portrait is intimate, the guitars warm and spinning, like a Camera Obscura cut played by The Lucksmiths. Even for an intentionally small band, MAPC aspire to be only your favorite. It's certainly the least you can do.   --32 ft. per Second
It was the summer of 2004 when Ethan Jones, Sundrah Humphrey and Kevin Emerson joined Charles Bert and James Werle to continue what had started as a basement project. Math and Physics Club formed in Seattle and quickly gained recognition due to its twee and 80′s indie-pop revival sound that reminded many listeners of The Smiths, Stone Roses and R.E.M. Matinée Recordings soon picked up the band, put out their first release (and each one afterwards), and put them on a mini-tour with their new similar sounding labelmates The Lucksmiths. In Seattle, Math and Physics Club also attracted attention from KEXP’s DJs, who were spinning their songs frequently, and their fanbase grew with successful appearances at Sasquatch! Music Festival and Bumbershoot, also in 2005. The next year, their debut self-titled album was released to favorable reviews from Pitchfork Media and was awarded Best Indie Pop Album by PopMatters. After a short break, since the release of their 2007 EP, Baby I’m Yours, Math and Physics Club is back with a second album, I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do, which comes loaded with more of their particular brand of delicious twee pop and shimmering melodies that go perfectly with the summer weather. Today’s featured song, “Love or Loneliness,” keeps an infectious beat underneath lively strumming and jangling guitars, yet vocalist Charles Bert’s lyrics convey a sadder scene of the singer confused about the intentions of his lover.   --KEXP blog
Complexity hides defects. A four year wait for a full-length that features only 10 songs seems like an awful lot. Suppose though, those four years were spent crafting a batch of the perfect indie pop songs. Every day was spent trimming, refining, and re-arranging every guitar strum, every drum hit, and every lyric. Suppose the end the result sounded so effortless, so simple, so perfect, you could only ask "what where they doing those four years?" I'd like to think that's what's happening here. This is, by all means, not a complex record. It's three guys, ten songs, and a few chords. The lyrics are of the romantic variety (with a bit of tongue-in-cheek tom-foolery) and the choruses big. I think it takes more work for this to sound effortless than they probably get credit for. Where the band really hits the mark is its uncanny ability to take the little things and build upon it. Take opener “Jimmy had a Polaroid”. The song is a simple ode to the pleasures of taking pictures in the park or spinning your favorite record. In a world that seems like it has gone made, songs like this remind you of the simple moments of life that make it worth it. When the band tackles traditional topics like love and loss, they do so without ever sounding generic or trite. As someone who is happily married I can relate to songs like “Will You Still Love Me” because I recognize my own shortcomings. “I’ll Tell You Anything” speaks to the person who just wants to make the partner happy. And who hasn’t felt the universal question of “is this love or is it just loneliness”. That they whip it all together in a great big sing-along only heightens how accessible it all is. This is why music is universal. The best of the bunch write stuff that we all understand and make our own.   --Life, Faith and Theology (Best of 2010)
Ten brilliant singles about love and togetherness and love and loss -- then things get more lyrically detailed and urgent.   --Three Imaginary Girls (Best of 2010)
I don't think any math and physics student I've ever met was in an indie-pop band. That said, one word: twee. Seattle's Math and Physics Club are the prime of the indie-pop revivalists that blossomed in the mid-00s, idolizing Sarah Records, singing like the Pastels and writing lyrics all about love, pictures from a weekend afternoon at the park and the notion of life as a fragile flower's journey. Their debut in 2006 was hailed as great music, but it took them 4 years to get to the sophomore. The brilliantly named "I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do" is on the same page, twee to the bone, with some clever lyrics and sound straight from the 90s. I don't consider this a forward move, but I don't think that this is even the point with purist bands like Math And Physics Club. The album is out now on the tasty Matinée Records.   --Stop That Sound
Math and Physics Club son un trío de indiepop de Seattle, Washington, integrado por Charles (voz, guitarra), Ethan (bajo, teclados) y James (guitarras). En directo se les unen Saundrah (violín) y Kevin (batería). Estos chicos tienen una sensibilidad asombrosa para escribir preciosas gemas de indiepop luminoso. Sencillos y con un evidente gusto por los sonidos de los mejores grupos británicos de los ochenta, se encuentran a medio camino entre los más dulces Belle and Sebastian, los más pulcros The Smiths y los más delicados Magnetic Fields.   --El Planeta Amarillo
De tous les groupes signés actuellement sur le label Matinée, Math & Physics Club est sans doute le plus attachant. Car contrairement à la plupart des nouveaux popeux, les trois membres du groupe, véritables "guys next door", n'ont jamais cherché à obtenir le succès à tout prix. Loin des poses et des modes, ils poursuivent depuis 2005 leur quête de la parfaite chansonnette, tout en sachant que des groupes comme le leur, l'Amérique en regorge à l'envi. L'intérêt de "I Shouldn't Look as Good as I Do", second album du Club des binoclards, vient alors de la remarquable évolution du groupe depuis leur premier EP en 2005, acquérant aujourd'hui une maitrise et un talent d'orfèvre, sans pour autant jamais rien perdre de son minimalisme et de son humilité. Il faut être sacrément doué pour écrire une chanson comme "Everybody Loves a Showtune" sans tomber dans la meringue, sans être tenté d'en rajouter des tonnes. Il faut l'être tout autant pour encore aujourd'hui savoir faire danser avec des cliquetis de guitare pourtant usés jusqu'à la corde ("Trying to Say I Love You", et surtout le formidable single "Jimmy Had A Polaroïd"). Chaque mélodie coule ici de source, chaque accord devient une évidence, faisant de ces dix chansons des petits tubes immédiatement familiers. Les références accumulées sur les précédents EPs s'effacent enfin d'elles-mêmes, tels ces tics piqués à Morrissey, et Charles Bert parvient du coup à rendre enfin au leader des Smiths l'hommage dont on le sentait capable depuis le début : "The internationale" sonne à la fois comme une reprise du "Paint A Vulgar Picture" de 1987 mais surtout comme un classique, avec sa basse hypnotisante et son refrain tout en "a" et en "o". "Will You Still Love Me?" mériterait sans doute à lui seul de voir le trio en concert (on peut toujours rêver), tant la chanson semble construite pour la scène. "We're So DIY!", ironise le groupe en clôture du disque, conscient que les limites de son dilettantisme constituent paradoxalement son plus grand charme. Mais "Do It Yourself" ou pas, peu importe : Math and Physics Club signe avec "I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do" le disque Matinée le plus indispensable de l'année. Album de la semaine.   --Pop News
Derrière ce pseudonyme de geeks, et bien qu'ils nous proviennent de Seattle, les p'tits gars de Math And Physics Club s'apparentent à de vrais petits confiseurs pop. Sucrées à souhait, les mélodies d'I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do demeurent dans l'exacte lignée de celles de leur premier et très bon album éponyme, paru quatre ans plus tôt chez le même label: Matinée Recordings. Quelque part entre Tullycraft et The Pastels, le trio continue de distiller ces pop-songs si efficaces et pleines de fraîcheurs dont il a le secret. Lancé sur les chapeaux de roue par l'imparable Jimmy Had A Polaroid, l'album ne faiblit pourtant pas une seconde. Pour preuve, l'enchaînement immédiat avec We Make A Pair et ses jolis solos de guitare, est tout bonnement parfait. Ce dernier morceau, qui relate de la faculté d'un couple à se disputer facilement, permet également de mettre en exergue la qualité des textes chantés par Charles Bert. Jamais prétentieuse car sans fioriture, l'écriture du groupe est toujours juste et pleine de subtilité. Ainsi, même si Math And Physics Club compose des tubes dont la longueur ne dépasse que très rarement les trois minutes - ceci n'est pas un reproche -, tous les ingrédients de la réussite y sont. L'excellent Love Or Loneliness en est l'illustration idéale. Enfin, à ceux qui pourraient reprocher à notre trio de se cantonner au seul et même registre, ce dernier leur répondra par le final I Keep To Myself dont les synthés et la rythmique planantes prouvent que le groupe à bien plus d'une corde à son arc. A la fois dense par sa courte durée et souple par l'agréable légèreté de ses mélodies, I Shouldn't Look As Good As I Do séduit justement par cette symbiose parfaite entre consistance et délicatesse. Ainsi, en bons élèves qu'ils sont, les trois esprits affûtés de Math And Physics Club prouvent à leur manière qu'ils ont fait de l'indie-pop leur science exacte.   --Tweendie
Como ya hemos dejado de manifiesto en más de una ocasión, estamos encantados de equivocarnos, al menos cuando subsanar nuestros errores supone conocer y disfrutar de nuevos grupos. No es la primera ocasión que el tiempo nos hace cambiar de opinión respecto a un grupo o disco que en su día pasamos por alto, antes éste era el único mecanismo que conocíamos para desandar el camino y optar por una ruta que nos llevase ver las cosas de otro modo. Sin embargo todos crecemos y tarde o temprano, por fortuna para algunos, por desgracia para otros, ahí no entramos, empezamos a compartir nuestra vida con otra persona, algo que indudablemente afecta a muchas de las decisiones que tomamos, que ya no son absolutamente personales al tener que pensar por dos. Esta afición nuestra de la música en principio debiera de parecer uno de esos entretenimientos que sólo atañe a uno mismo, todos poseemos un gusto propio, dudamos mucho de que existan dos personas en el universo a las que les gusten exactamente las mismas cosas. Sin embargo no es así, compartir una afición con la pareja, por mucho que ella vaya a remolque nuestro, escuchando nuestros discos, muchas veces cambia por completo la percepción que tenemos de la música que albergan nuestras estanterías. Con esto no afirmamos que cualquier disco (ni uno, vamos) deje de gustarnos por la otra opinión de casa, somos muy nuestros con los discos y no admitimos este tipo de injerencias pero….¿qué sucede cuando podemos sacar beneficio de la crítica? Cuando has pasado por alto un trabajo y la otra voz de la casa no para de repetir su escucha las cosas cambian, primero no le das importancia, porque tú eres el que lleva más de veinte años comprando discos, más tarde te sorprendes tarareando una canción, y finalmente te rindes para entregarte por completo a ese grupo que no significaba tanto para ti. Math And Physics Club son de esos grupos con los que fallamos, esto no significa que no adquiriésemos sus discos desde su primera referencia, porque graban para Matinée Recordings y cualquier disco de su catálogo merece estar en nuestra discoteca sin pasar por ningún filtro previo. Quizás Matinée no sea el sello más de moda, desde luego tampoco el encargado de atender las últimas tendencias, pero sí es el sello independiente que más cariño guarda para el Pop, con la atemporalidad que esa palabra debiera de llevar irremediablemente asociada. Math And Physics Club son un buen ejemplo de esto que hablamos, sus canciones, siempre dentro de ese Pop quizás carente de garra pero sí dotado de encanto, son mayúsculas aún cuando su mundo sea el de las cosas pequeñas; pequeños amores, desencantos, breves días mágicos…su vocación por la más clásica melodía bebe de lo más prístino del Pop británico. Sí, los Smiths estuvieron ahí desde el principio, precisamente por eso desestimamos tan rápidamente a los estadounidenses, un error lo comente cualquiera y ya lo hemos subsanado cumpliendo una dulce penitencia de escucha reiterada de sus discos. I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do nos los trae de vuelta, cierto es que no hace mucho teníamos el primer 7” de Math And Physics Club con ese Jimmy Had A Polaroid que pintaba un futuro de color de rosa, pero nuestra espera era por todo un segundo Lp que confirmase esa rendición que tiempo atrás otorgamos. Una victoria por parte del grupo que tiene su mérito, ya que lograr a un nutrido grupo de seguidores con una brevedad como la suya no es sencillo, como muestra este I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do que no pasa de los veinticinco minutos de duración, un suspiro, no más. Claro que de suspiros como Jimmy Had A Polaroid muchos podríamos vivir, el primer single de este segundo trabajo probablemente sea la canción más resultona compuesta hasta la fecha por la banda. Bien construida y algo más contundente de lo habitual (sin estridencias, entiéndase) Jimmy Had A Polaroid se lanza a poco más de dos minutos y medio que son una continua sucesión de melodía guiada por unas guitarras puro jangle que terminan de firmar una de las canciones Pop más inmediatas y bailables de este año. We Make A Pair cambia por completo el paso, recordando poderosamente el estilo de los australianos Lucksmiths, por desgracia ya desaparecidos. Trying To Say I Love You nos muestra la esencia misma de la música de Math And Psysics Club, su título lo dice todo; dulce, pausada, con una estupenda batería en permanente sincope (como sus corazones, probablemente)…sin duda bonita a rabiar. Everybody Loves A Showtune introduce nuevos elementos no escuchados hasta este punto del disco, un banjo que debiera ser más utilizado en el Pop, acordeón, vientos a cargo de un trombón, una tuba…y de resultas nos encontramos con una acercamiento al Folk Pop del que el grupo sale muy bien parado. En el ecuador del Lp volvemos a encontrarnos con dos títulos que nos suenan ya conocidos, Love Or Loneliness y Will You Still Love Me? repiten la jugada de Trying To Say I Love You, lo cual no es malo, puesto que simplemente es prolongar todo lo bueno del pasado del grupo, quedándonos con el ritmo trotón de la segunda. I’ll Tell You Anything prolonga el disfrute, dando paso a The Internationale, deudor de esa influencia descarada del grupo británico más grande de los 80’s. I’ve Been That Boy bien podría ser una tonadilla escocesa, no hacen falta más comentarios. Quedándole a We’re So DIY! (gran título) la labor de despedirnos de I Shouldn’t Look As Good As I Do cuando ya hemos entrado en calor y estamos necesitados de cuatro o cinco canciones más, pero es lo que hay, toca cerrar el disco y a fe que We’re So DIY! lo hace de la mejor de las maneras, situándose como nuestra segunda pieza favorita del conjunto, en forma de crescendo, con unos preciosos coros y una guitarra que se te graba a fuego en la memoria. Cualquier disco de Math And Physics Club puede ser adquirido a través de la tienda de Matinée Recordings, ya tardas en correr a comprarlos porque estamos ante una de las mejores bandas actuales de Indie Pop, qué grandes pueden llevar a ser las pequeñas cosas…   --360º de Separación
Math and physics club son una banda de indie pop de Seattle. Su disco de debut salió en 2006 y se convirtió rápidamente en uno de mis discos favoritos. Luego en 2007 sacaron un ep y en 2008 y 2009 la banda estuvo inactiva. De los cinco miembros que formaban el grupo en 2006 sólo quedan 3, los miembros fundadores, por lo que no han perdido el encanto de sus canciones. Son canciones de puro Indie pop, sencillo y directo al corazón. 10 canciones en menos de 30 minutos. Siempre me han recordado mucho a the Lucksmiths y eso sólo puede ser bueno. Canciones cortas sobre amor, sobre musicales o sobre recuerdos del pasado que demuestran que no es necesario cargar las canciones con arreglos y partes instrumentales de relleno para conseguir un buen disco. El disco se cierra con “We are so DIY”, todo un manifiesto sobre la filosofía del grupo, hacer canciones y pasarlo bien, “We are never gonna carry up the charts, but we’ll be the Indie starts that everybody hearts” o “I’ve got my casiotone we can do it own our on, everybody knows we are so DIY”. Mis favoritas son: “Jimmy had a polaroid”, “Everybody loves a showtune” y “We are so DIY”.   --Ayer Nevo en Silsoe
Avec un nom pareil, les membres de Math & Physics Club devaient probablement être installés au premier rang à l’école. S'ils passaient sans doute leur temps libre dans les clubs de sciences, ils ont surtout dû pour notre plus grand plaisir occuper les salles de répétition. Ces garçons originaires de Seattle ont choisi de jouer une musique politiquement correcte à l’opposé du courant emblématique de cette ville du nord-ouest des Etats-Unis, le grunge. Ces trois têtes de premiers de la classe reviennent avec ce deuxième album de pop esthétiquement lisse. Ce disque contient des textes légers qui parlent d’amour sur des mélodies fraîches sans jamais tomber dans la niaiserie. Cela rappelle The Smiths ou Belle and Sebastian. Musicalement, cela sonne à la fois eighties avec une ligne de basse répétitive (Jimmy Had a Polaroid, Love or Loneliness) mais aussi twee pop avec la guitare sautillante (Everybody Loves a Showtune, Will You Still Love Me ?). En écoutant ces dix chansons on pense aussi à leurs voisins de label, The Electric Pop Group ou bien aux plus connus The Lucksmtihs. Un label qui s’appelle Matinée Recordings et qui ne cesse de nous faire découvrir son catalogue regorgeant de douceur. Vous l’aurez compris, la musique de Math & Physics Club n’est pas le genre à vous prendre la tête comme une équation à deux inconnues mais est plutôt du genre à vous aider à aborder une journée avec bonne humeur.   --Indie Pop Rock