With a band name more suited for an academic decathalon than romance, Math and Physics Club spend a surprising amount of time on heartbroken reminiscing. A departure from their ubiquitous summer synths, the three-member band’s second release, I Shouldn’t Look as Good As I Do is a breezy, pop-rock trip through every phase of love. The Belle & Sebastian-tinged record is the perfect setting for summer romances: sweet enough for first butterflies and lighthearted enough to get over poorly-negotiated flings.
Based out of Seattle, MAPC is led by the consistently-chipper vocals of Charles Bert and the guitar work of James Werle. Since its self-titled debut in 2006, the band has dropped violinist Saundrah Humphrey and drummer Kevin Emerson; the result is a tighter and more assured second album that could double as the soundtrack to Juno 2: Condoms Really Aren’t That Difficult.
Backed by handclaps and harmonies, Bert has his best turn in the mildly neurotic, “Will You Still Love Me?” where he worries whether a flawless relationship can survive old age and mundane muck. Worried about prospects of dirty laundry and “small blue pills,” Bert cuts out of the relationship preemptively. He’s that overly-anxious friend that breaks up with a girl for chewing on pens. But you can’t help liking him anyways.
While the album is a tribute to first and lost loves–if you somehow missed the theme, four of the 10 songs have the word “love” in the title–the band shines when Bert detours from his romance-heavy musings. Hipster-skewering “The Internationale” (because everything is truly more pretentious when you add an “e”) benefits from a snapping bass line as the lead singer makes fun of shameless attention-seekers “famous for nothing in particular.”
Personal favorite, “Everybody Loves A Showtune” narrates the unexpected success of a lowly chorus boy thrown into the lead role. With a folky mix of banjo, trombone, tuba and accordion, the song is thankfully more Decemberists than Glee: “I hit my marks and danced across the floor/Tonight I’ll be the one that they adore/Just keep smiling, keep laughing.” In the same vein as The Decemberists’ “The Sporting Life,” you just get swayed by the glasses-sporting underdog.
For those stuck in relationship mode, the cutesy “We Make A Pair” can only call to mind frolicking–yes, frolicking–down a boardwalk while holding hands, while “I’ll Tell You Anything” captures the nervousness of the beginning of a relationship. Plus it wins for most mellow delivery of the line, “I’m wired/I’ve had too much coffee.”
Math and Physics Club closes with the self-mocking “We’re So DIY!” about the romanticized image of indie bands, set to the requisite tambourine and “Oh yeahs.” Uncomplicated and purposely frivolous, the song typifies the whole album.
With the three guys above on the loose in their throwback slugbug, Michael Cera may have some competition in the dorky crush category this summer. Nerd alert.
Math and Physics Club – Everybody Loves A Showtune (download)
Math and Physics Club – Will You Still Love Me? (download)
Math and Physics Club – I’ll Tell You Anything (download)