Math Major – Art Contest
By: Matt Dunne
Art Contest is a relatively new band from South Carolina whose debut album, Math Major, brings together a slew of sonically intriguing elements that allows the band to already have the workings of a unique style all their own.
Piecing parts from bands like Tera Melos, A Great Big Pile of Leaves and The Guru, Art Contest’s overall sound could be described as a hybrid of math and surf rock. The band uses this combination to their advantage by crafting songs that are technically proficient, extremely tight, and great fun to listen to. A great example of this is the track “Shish Kebab”. The instrumentation is fluid, allowing the song to go from one piece to another perfectly, the guitar lines are also catchy as ever, another common theme on the record.
Art Contest’s songwriting possesses a great level of skill in the way they can take full advantage of every possible idea they come up with for the confines of each track. Tempos shift constantly, guitar and bass lines are exciting of each track, and the almost screamed vocals combined with the softly sung “woo-woo” harmonies fit the nature of their songs quite well too. (An example of the latter can be heard in the “la la la” lyrics of the song “Mean Note”.)
The mixing and specific tones on the release are top notch as well, allowing each member of the band not only to be heard properly on their own, but showcasing the way every part of the band works together to create a brilliant mesh of sound. Instrumental jam tracks that primarily serve as interludes from one song to another all throughout the album are another treat on the release that should not be ignored. The math rock influences for the band come in full force here, giving the band full range to experiment with a variety of songwriting techniques and rhythms. Hopefully this is a component that Art Contest will continue in their future releases.
Lyrically, Math Major sits at an interesting crossroads. At many times it is quite difficult to understand what any song is actually about, with parts like “cut the teeth and watch it fade to grey / guess we’ll have it your way” or “Sunburnt / Frostbit / Suddenly a flash / My bad” leaving a lot of questions. This may in fact be exactly what Art Contest wants however, and that is where it gets a bit hard to judge. The use of lyrical repetition throughout the album is something that works for the band though. The short lines in each song make them easy to sing along with and imagining a room full of people dancing and screaming along is not hard to see as well.
Closing out the album is possibly the band’s best work on Math Major, “Sonic Level 4”. While the track features much of the elements already discussed, this is where the band really comes into their own. Chord progressions shift into quick tapped notes on a moments notice while the impressive drumming doesn’t miss a beat at all as the drummer uses every piece of his kit in the various grooves that take place. Along with “Bedtime” this is one of the better songs lyrically as well. “All these feelings, like all these scribbles / they don’t really mean anything” is a very powerful line and the fact that it closes out the album is surely no coincidence.
Art Contest has a great thing going for them. They already are pretty ahead of the game for the most part in terms of their songwriting ability and overall skill, so seeing how they experiment in the future should result in even more fantastically fun music. The year is still pretty early too, so if they come by your town in the coming months, be sure to check em out.
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