I’ve been listening to different subsets of “math” music for several years now. You’d think it would get boring, but progressive rock (even mildly progressive rock) is good about keeping things fresh. Before I force myself to talk about something else for a while, we’re going to do one last sweep over some of the best bands in the genre that I’ve run into.
Hot Club De Paris is an upbeat, light-hearted group. The majority of their songs are like Clockwork Toy — charmingly melodic, decent pace, positive tonality. To put it another way, they’re a fun band. Their songs fall solidly within the pop paradigm, but they don’t get boring because despite the common theme in terms of tone, they still have variety across an album. Shipwreck is an example of that: it doesn’t sound like Clockwork Toy, but it shares the same qualities. And when it comes to songs including the word “Stitches” in the title, you can’t beat Snitches Get Stitches. All in all, Hot Club De Paris is a good band to listen to if you’re feeling down, and even better if you’re feeling up.
Enemies is another group with a positive tone, but they’re of a more subdued or chill flavor. I won’t say they’re a big risk-taking group, or that they’re paving new pathways for the genre. They make pleasant, melodic, somewhat slow (for the genre) tracks that I’d consider a good entry-level for people wanting to listen to math rock. Nag Champa is a good example. I don’t think there’s a note of dissonance in the whole song, but it’s sweet and has a decent sense of motion. Fierce Pit Bosses is the same way, and indeed most songs I’ve heard from them will follow this motif. The most unusual song I’ve heard by them is Nighthawks, which has a somewhat haunting choral section toward the end. The takeaway is this: Enemies are a nice band to relax to, and you can’t say that about just any math-rock band.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about The Tupolev Ghost. They’ve got a short eponymous album on Spotify that I really enjoyed, and although I discovered while writing this that they have the rest of their material posted for free on dropbox, I haven’t listened to it yet. Let me just run through what I liked about the album. It has a truly quintessential post-hardcore sound to it, but with just a hint of that emo penchant for driving choruses. I get flashbacks of At The Drive-In, and Thrice especially, while listening to them. I think you’ll definitely hear what I mean by that in Diagrams. The one-two punch of The Night and Our Greatest Destroyer provides one of the strongest album closers I’ve heard in a while. The last minute of The Night is why I haven’t stopped listening to this genre. It’s the kind of thing I criticize when a band makes it their “thing” for an entire album, but in small doses it really makes a good song into something special.
This band is hard to nail down to one genre without resorting to the timeless “indie rock” label. I’ve mentioned it once in the past, but With Who, Who and What I’ve Got is the song that really caught my attention. I love how dynamic the song is. It is a high-energy song, but it has rises and falls in volume. It nominally follows a standard pop structure, but it varies things throughout the song substantially enough that it feels like it doesn’t follow a structure at all. This creativity in composition sticks with them not just in a single album, but across their whole discography. That makes it difficult to name favorite songs, so instead I’ll highlight another excellent closing pair of tracks from the tremendous album Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light: Yr All Just Jealous and Absolute Balance. They are a consummate “listen at high volume” band.
The last of five straight recommendations from the British Isles, Meet Me In St. Louis is also the strongest band of the bunch. They are among the most dynamic, most technical, most compelling, and I daresay the most inspired math rock bands that I have ever heard. The Torso Was Severed In Mid Thorax is the jaw-dropping opener off their only album, Variations on Swing. It evokes the unpredictable and wild feeling of groups like cLOUDDEAD, where you can’t guarantee that what you’re hearing a minute in the future is the same song you’re listening to right now — whether it’s literally the same track or not. Eins Zwei Drei Hasslehoff! is another great one off the album. This level of complexity in song composition takes us to a level that is not commonly reached in the kind of music I listen to most often: the line between “pop” music and “art” music.