Savannah Soundtrack: Art Contest’s “Math Major”

Savannah’s own DIY music collective, Pale Blue Dot, has been steadily making noise around town (literally and figuratively) by bringing a bit of well deserved attention to the underground music scene. House shows are always a bit of a tricky situation since you have to strike the perfect balance of just enough people to get exposure for bands, but if too many people show up, you run the risk of drawing some unwanted attention from neighbors. Luckily, last night’s house show featuring Art Contest, Quick Wizard, and Whiskey Wednesday went down with only a few initial glitches. I’ve had the chance to sit down with Art Contest’s latest album, and here are some thoughts on the band and the album.

Formed by 3 South Carolina natives, Art Contest isn’t your average math rock band, if such a thing exists to begin with. They’ve taken the technicality and infused it with influences from across several genres from punk and indie rock to power pop and even a bit of surfer influence. The result is their debut album, Math Major.

Math Major hits you with its complexity early on in the album and doesn’t let up throughout. The opening track, Banana Boat, starts off innocently enough, fairly tame and subdued. As the track builds though, the timing and rhythm become more and more complex in regards to both the guitar and drums. The end result is an intriguing experience that draws you in with its catchiness as well as what seems to be an abandonment of conventional harmony. Even the vocals and lyrics add to this effect by being both slightly nonsensical but also surprisingly effective in their ability to get you to sing along. That’s not to say that every track follows the same formula though. One of the standout tracks on the album, Bedtime, presents the same short, poignant, lyrical bursts that are a common theme on the album, but display a deep sense of introspection with lines like: ”… we’ve all forgotten, why we came here for this drink and now I’m weak…”. Besides its lyrical deviance, Bedtime’s slower tempo and mellow atmosphere is also a welcome reprieve after that help to keep the more lively tracks like Shish Kabob and Washing Machine from becoming overbearing throughout the listening experience. It seems like Art Contest made a specific effort to keep balance in mind with many aspects of the as no particular aspect of any track ever seems to overpower another even with the most tumultuous combinations of shouted vocals, crashing drums, and intrepid guitar riffs as seen on tracks like Tripp Pants and Sonic Level 4.

For a debut album, Math Major is a surprisingly tight and well put together effort. I’m certain that fans of bands like The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die or Kinsella projects like Joan Of Arc or Cap’n Jazz will keep the album in rotation for a good bit. While Art Contest certainly focuses more on instrumentation than those previously mentioned bands, the fusion of just a bit of emo with math rock certainly seems to be a theme that they’re running with and I’m excited to see what’s next. Hit the jump to catch some shots from the show. Also, make sure to check out Art Contest’s Facebook page for upcoming shows and check out their BandCamp page as well for a free download of Math Major.

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