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 band’s 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.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/mapc07.mp3]
Download: Math and Physics Club – Jimmy Had a Poloaroid [MP3]