The Last Party – Matt Martians Review
Review by Nate Kovar
Muddy hip-hop and trippy funk swirl and mix in the latest solo offering from The Internets’ Matt Martians, The Last Party. The album builds on the low-key R&B of his previous work, The Drum/Chord Theory, but it thickens the hazy vibe by phasing out identifiable hooks and his poppier impulses in search of ever-murkier soundscapes and off-kilter production choices. Martians himself continues to shy from the spotlight, choosing to bury his falsetto vocals behind thick layers of reverb and instrumentals, and it’s a good choice – the album carries a sort of unifying theme about break-ups and heartbreak, but Martians is not a strong enough lyricist to develop the central story of the album. It’s difficult to not compare his voice to Thundercat, another neo-funk master, but in the latter’s case, his self-deprecating, goofy nerd persona supplies the extra spark his songs need to distinguish themselves. Martians lacks that level of charisma on this album, and the result renders the lyrics mostly forgettable. In fact, until you give the album several spins, it’s difficult to tell any of the tracks apart at all. This is an album whose strength lies in teamwork: the interplay between the murky instrumentals and the strong rhythm section (the live drums, as always, are a standout in every track) are meant to blend together, and no particular section of the album ever deigns to take center stage, instead sinking from all corners into an acid-tinged swamp of sound. The myopic mix is another key feature, collapsing the album into a unified front, only really giving particular care to the drums. It’s another good choice for the album, as a drier, neater mix would have drained the album of its vibe.
The album’s beat-switches, carrying on from the previous album, serve to effectively hold the listener’s interest. Many of the tracks swerve into another song at least twice, and many include extra bits of beat at the tail end of their running times. A common drawback of this approach, however, is apparent: many of the bonus beats end too soon, and would have made excellent full tracks on their own (“Look Like”’s last thirty or so seconds are magical). The album is also unafraid to take risks with its sound. “Southern Isolation 2” moves from a quirky tunnel-of-love tune to a slick bossa groove, before settling down as a sluggish, hunched-over, introspective slice of funk touched up with 8-bit keys and creeping saxophone. The album’s wariness of conventional song structure and sound and quick construction (Martians says the album was completed in two weeks) frees it up to take any risk it wants, and The Last Party’s devoted commitment to its tone helps keep every mid-song switch sound seamless. For instance, he ends one of the heaviest tracks on the album, “Off My Feet/Westside Rider Anthem”, by simply speeding the tape up: turning a plodding mood piece into a trippy sprint to the finish. This is an album that should be listened to more than once: a single play is not enough to fully appreciate the intricacies of the songwork, nor to fully sink into Martians’ murky grooves. If you only have time to sample, try “Pony Fly”: with a Mac DeMarco producing credit and a Steve Lacy feature, it’s the obvious single candidate. But the album truly shines when it’s given enough time to get through your guard and melt into your subconscious. (Bonus thoughts: Matt Martians’ cover art choices are always excellent. The cover perfectly captures the druggy, offbeat feel of the album).
Edited by Spencer Smith