Release date: 01/26/2018
3. Broadcasting Waves
4. The Pull Of The Tides
5. Like Cinnamon
6. Falling For It
7. Dear Madeline
8. Take A Number
9. Past And In Between
10. All The Mains Are Down
11. Drive To You
Math and Physics Club’s fourth studio album ‘Lived Here Before’ features all the carefully constructed pop handicraft we’ve come to expect from these Pacific Northwest lads, but also shows the band stretching confidently into new territory at a stage when many bands would simply be retreading the same paths.
Working from a makeshift studio in the wilds of Snohomish, Washington, with fabled grunge producer Chris Hanzsek (Soundgarden, Green River), the band recorded eleven songs over four days in the company of Douglas firs and Swainson’s thrushes. Longtime fans will still recognize the band’s upbeat sound set against often bittersweet storytelling, but there’s also a darker, more world-weary undercurrent that feels earned with the passage of time, or perhaps as a reflection of the times themselves.
Lead track ‘Threadbare’ sets the tone with its Shins-esque beat and close-up intimacy, followed by a powerful push-me-pull-you between the verses and choruses, sweet and sad. ‘Marblemouth’ is an unabashed Britpop rocker with chiming guitars and driving bass, while ‘Broadcasting Waves’ bursts in with an infectious groove that serves as a backdrop to searching for love across fields and open oceans.
‘The Pull of the Tides’ builds slowly to crescendo and back again, evoking bands like The Ocean Blue and The Softies along the way, and setting up one of the album’s more subtle tracks, ‘Like Cinnamon,’ which flips the dynamic between music and lyrics with its brooding backdrop. In a surprise, the band includes its first instrumental with a slinky tango titled ‘Falling for It’ providing a wink and a nod to early REM interludes like ‘Underneath the Bunker.’
‘Dear Madeline’ is vintage Math and Physics Club with intertwining guitars and soft brushes beautifully set against one of the band’s more poignant vignettes. The mood shifts to agitation with ‘Take a Number’ which paints a more insidious type of darkness, fueled by its dueling guitar riffs and percussive flourishes. The album’s title is also pulled from one of its lyrics.
‘Past and In Between’ whips things into a lather with its groovy bass and Motown beat that dodges in and out of piano, organ, and big, layered harmonies of oohs and ahhhs. But the final resolve is left to hang in the air, which smartly sets up perhaps the album’s high point, ‘All the Mains are Down,’ which rips along with chiming guitars, piano, and three-part harmonies that bring to mind early REM (one of the band’s lesser noted influences).
The album closes in characteristic economy with ‘Drive to You’ which features an arrangement stripped down to simply two guitars and a lilting melody, accented with subtle organ. It’s a fitting end note that reaches back to the band’s earlier days and leaves us feeling a bit more sweet than bitter, which seems just about right.
Housed in a handsome six-panel eco-wallet with sleeve design by the band’s own Ethan Jones, ‘Lived Here Before’ is a magnificent addition to the Math and Physics Club discography.
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