I have to admit, it’s rare these days that a new band or artist thrusts their way into my consciousness so hard it knocks me off kilter. And believe me, it’s not for lack of searching! I invest a lot of time reading music blogs, listening to friend’s suggestions and throwing myself at the mercy of Spotify suggestions. Searching for that euphoric “fix” of new music that enriches the soul and helps pass the working week. And so it was that I came across the wonderful sound of Mattiel Brown. One mundane day last year was suddenly lit up by a gem in my release radar called “Keep The Change”. The vibraphone-spattered opening bars pricked up my ears, followed by an urgent drum battery that wouldn’t sound out of place behind Levi Stubbs and the lads. Before the vocals even hit I was already signed up, but as soon as Mattiel launched into a saturation drenched “..And just-a-what did I get into here, walking on this floor?”, I knew I’d found something special.
The lo-fi (almost DIY) production and overtones of various classic genres at first tricked me into thinking I’d discovered some obscure classic from the distant past. After all, Mattiel wouldn’t sound out of place sandwiched between The Rezillos and Fabienne DelSol. But there’s something unique going on here too. And so the journey began.
After some Googling I found that Mattiel, or Mattiel Brown to give her full name, hails from Atlanta Georgia, USA and until very recently worked as a graphic designer for spam cannon MailChimp. This was before teaming up with guitarist and co-songwriters Jonah Swilley and Randy Michael, and subsequently catching the ear and endorsement of Jack White. I was shocked and ashamed to discover that “Keep The Change” is actually from Mattiel’s second album “Satis Factory”, and that her eponymous debut some two years earlier had somehow passed me by.
Both albums share Mattiel’s knack for storytelling. There’s an intoxicating blend of humour, irony and vitriol that draws you into Mattiel’s slightly irregular orbit. Check out the bouncy tale of “Baby Brother” or the decline of “Cass Tech” from the first album. And a real stand out track from the second album is Millionaire; “Ever since I got myself this easy chair, might as well be a millionaire” – wordcraft to rival Robert Smith, Mark E Smith or Morrissey in their pomp. But there’s no fat on either record; every song is vital and essential listening, and believe me I’ve listened repeatedly. “Populonia’’, “Blisters”, “Berlin Weekend”, “Long Division” – earworms, the lot of them. And all wrapped in a delicious cloud of Sam Phillips slap-back, Phil Spector spring-reverb and Joe Meek saturation.
Sure, you can hear the eclectic influences that haunt Mattiel’s music, but it would be impossible to pigeonhole her into a genre; and that’s a wonderful thing. All I can say is there’s something different about Mattiel; different in the way that PJ Harvey, Bowie, Nick Cave, Grace Jones and Polly Styrene are all different. She’s just not the same… and that’s why we love her.