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Album Review: Matt Maltese – Bad Contestant

 
By on Tuesday, 26th June 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Matt Maltese Bad Contestant album coverIn an era where Noughties landfill indie has been usurped by this decade’s overproduced shiny pop, it’s difficult to make a name for yourself if you don’t sound anything like that. The pages of TGTF are littered with artists we love who are anything but conventional. One of the things I most enjoy about South London-based singer/songwriter Matt Maltese is his choice of words. You’re unlikely to find someone else like him on the top 40. If you’re a Morrissey, Leonard Cohen or Divine Comedy fan and you’re used to hearing brutally honest, self-deprecating and often satirical lyrics sung by a crooner, this debut album will be right up your alley. Like those established artists, Maltese is marmite.

‘Bad Contestant’, Maltese’s debut, is a pop album, but one that will make you laugh and ache about that four-letter word called love in equal measures. It begins with the toe-tapping ‘Greatest Comedian’, which compares the woman he loves to “the highest quality hardwood door” and “Jesus” who he’s heard “was a very handsome girl”. The problem? He misses her because she’s so very far away. And so it begins: Love can be an addiction and it doesn’t lead to the best choices, does it? In previously released single ‘Nightclub Love’, he chronicles his blinded-by-love stumblings around the apple of his eye in his most hated of places, a loud and sleazy nightclub. On the jaunty ‘Guilty’, he admits he’s being used by a woman who is already spoken for. Somehow, he always winds up back with her, even at the expense of his own heart, leading to his eventual fate of loneliness.

If it’s all for love, Maltese will gripe about it, but he’ll suck it up in the name of want and desire, even if it’s only temporary. He covers heartbreak equally as well. On ‘Less and Less’, Maltese comfortably scoots into the role of the sad songwriter at the piano, showing himself to be the best 21st century peer to Burt Bacharach. He croons, “you should take yourself / see the daylight and the change that spins / though I ain’t sure I’ll ever feel nothing / I’ll feel settled in a simple sense”. It’s the quiet acceptance that their relationship is over, but he’ll never be the same having loved her.

On the self-deprecating side of things, he is also quick to point out his lowly status on oddly catchy title track ‘Bad Contestant’ – “I’m a dead end, a budget hotel / I’m pretty good at feeling sorry for myself / I’m a deck chair / Your cheap underwear / A bad Christian who never goes to prayer” – before wrapping things up with the immortal line “I ain’t much but baby I could impress you / They say the underdogs are always the best ones”. Like Stornoway’s ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’, Maltese is not the stereotypical macho man who wants to throw his weight around and show off. He might be hard on himself as he was on the aforementioned ‘Nightclub Love’, but he also accepts that he’s better off being the quiet man in the corner.

As if to prove he’s more than a lovesick hack who does everything wrong in his relationships, Maltese’s album ends with two doom and gloom numbers. Early single ‘As the World Caves In’ shows Maltese at his most Morrissey-esque, savouring the last days on earth with the woman he loves and with sweeping grandeur: “oh girl it’s you that I lie with / as the atom bomb locks in”. It’s a heavy-handed way to end the LP with ‘Mortals’, its weightiness about leaving Earth behind seeming out of place with the rest of the LP.

This is not to say that the rest of ‘Bad Contestant’ is light. It’s an album that can make you swoon and nod with agreement, that is if love is your poison and you can relate to the feeling of being swept up by it. If you can’t, this album will be a tough go. Should you open your mind to Matt Maltese’s world – a world with twinkly piano and his droll observations on love and life – don’t be scared, and embrace something different.

8.5/10

Matt Maltese’s debut album ‘Bad Contestant’ is out now on Atlantic Records.

 

Single Review: Matt Maltese – Nightclub Love

 
By on Wednesday, 2nd May 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Political, global uncertainty, unrest and suspicion: it’s everywhere. So is it any wonder there’s so much doom and gloom-type songwriting out there right now? Let’s have a listen to an artist specialising in doom and gloom but his method is much more cunning. I’m speaking of Matt Maltese, the South London songwriter whose wry sense of humour previously extended to his penning a tune romantically linking Theresa May with Donald Trump. As mentioned in my Live at Leeds 2017 preview of best bets where I tipped him, he sounds like a wonderful chip off the ol’ block of Stephen Patrick Morrissey.

Two Fridays ago, Maltese released new single ‘Nightclub Love’ taken from his upcoming debut album ‘Bad Contestant’. For those of you who need a break from the political overload, this one is, thankfully, about being in love. But not at all like most envision it. A twinkly piano melody plays under Maltese’s deadpan voice admitting, “I don’t care for nightclubs / but I’ll make an exception for you, dear”. The music is too loud, there’s too many people in the room and “while the creeps circle around you”, he’s hanging in there – dancing for 6 hours (!) – because he has one singular goal and he will not be dissuaded. He watches as the apple of his eye almost overdoses at the bar, and as he’s about to call 999, the person sobers up and they share a joke about how cranberry vodka is good for your bladder. Really. Later, he turns on the self-deprecating humour, wondering aloud if he gets kissed on his little shaved head tonight whether the kisser will regret it tomorrow. Yes. Let’s all say aww.

If anyone else was singing these words, you’d groan. But there is something oddly disarming about Maltese’s voice, the matter-of-fact manner he shares a snapshot of an evening where all he can see and hear is wonderment because he’s in the company of the person he fancies. The steady, gentle rhythm throughout the song feels comforting, as if Maltese himself is his best when he’s around thid person. Most of the time, we’re hearing singers gasping for air or shouting about being in love. In sharp contrast, ‘Nightclub Love’ oozes along for an enjoyable 4 minutes and is a perfect slice of escapism.

8.5/10

‘Nightclub Love’, the current single from Matt Maltese, is out now on Atlantic Records. Stay tuned for Maltese’s debut album ‘Bad Contestant’, which is scheduled to drop on the 8th of June.

 

Live at Leeds 2017 Preview: editor Mary’s best band bets

 
By on Wednesday, 19th April 2017 at 11:00 am
 

Please note: as we always recommend in all of TGTF’s festival previews, the information we post here on Live at Leeds 2017 is current at the time of posting. We strongly encourage you to check in at the Live at Leeds 2017 official Web site closer to the start of the event to confirm venues and set times. Wristbands for the event in Leeds on Saturday the 29th of April are still available at the bargain price of £32.50 plus handling if purchased online; VIP tickets are sold out. More information on where you can purchase your tickets in person or online is available here.

SXSW 2017 alums: Here’s a list of artists we either saw last month in Austin who we enjoyed AND/OR we previewed ahead of the festival -AND- will also be appearing at Live at Leeds in 2 Saturdays’ time. For your convenience, I’ve listed them in order of appearance on the day so you can slot them into your growing schedule. The best of the best are marked with an asterisk. (*)

LIFE (2:00 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents]) *
Ten Tonnes (2:00 PM, Chapel) *
Airways (3:00 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents])
Jade Bird (4:30 PM, Faversham Patio)
Annabel Allum (5:00 PM, Social)
Be Charlotte (5:00 PM, Faversham)
IDLES (7:15 PM, Key Club [DORK Stage])
She Drew the Gun (8:00 PM, Wardrobe)
Temples (8:00 PM, Church)
Lewis Watson (8:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
The Academic (9:00 PM, Lending Room [WTGR Stage]) *
Dream Wife (9:00 PM, Brudenell Social Club [DIY Stage])
Slaves (9:00 PM, Academy)
Flamingods (9:45 PM, Leeds Beckett Union Stage 2 [Dr. Martens Presents])
Rag‘n’Bone Man (9:45 PM, Leeds University Union Refectory)
The Big Moon (10:00 PM, Brudenell Social Club [DIY Stage])
GURR (10:45 PM, Brudenell Social Club Games Room [DIY Neu Stage])
AJ Tracey (11:00 PM, Faversham)
Let’s Eat Grandma (11:00 PM, Chapel)

To add to the best 3 from above and round things out to a even 10 acts, here are an additional 7 I recommend from the fantastic Live at Leeds 2017 schedule:

The Gallery (Wakefield; 12:00 PM, Lending Room [WTGR Stage])
Wakefield is, of course, famous for being the birthplace The Cribs. But the Jarmans should probably get used to sharing the city with another band. The jangly guitars of The Gallery, reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys before they turned into Queens of the Stone Age, will take you back to the simpler times of British indie.

Wyvern Lingo (Wicklow, Ireland; 1:00 PM, Nation of Shopkeepers)
While already deemed national treasures in their country, most people outside Ireland have only heard of Wyvern Lingo from their association with Irish megastar Hozier, their members Karen and Caoimhe providing him backing vocals at live shows and the group supporting him on UK and Irish tours. Imagine the Staves if they’d gone pop and r&b.

Matt Maltese (London; 2:00 PM, Wardrobe)
It took Morrissey a while to be anointed the title ‘The Pope of Mope’. That said, given the current state of world affairs, it stands to reason that there should rightly be more artists coming out and telling it like it is without sugarcoating it. Piano playing Matt Maltese is one of them, coming out with the sweepingly beautiful ‘As the World Caves In’ to convey his despair. Seriously, close your eyes, and you could swear you’re hearing The Moz.

The Wandering Hearts (London; 3:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
A stark contrast to all the indie and pop acts at this year’s Live at Leeds are The Wandering Hearts, an Americana / alt-country group from the big smoke. Recent signees to Decca Records, the band will provide a welcome midday set different from nearly everyone else invited to this event, with their lush harmonies smartly picked guitar.

Paris Youth Foundation (Liverpool; 5:00 PM, Oporto)
The return of Ride to the record shops this year proves the washy guitar wall of sound era isn’t over. Liverpudlians Paris Youth Foundation takes this and does one better by adding synthpop to the mix, lending an anthemic feel to their tracks. Having released their debut album late last year, this is still early days for them, but I reckon now is time to get on the bandwagon.

Tender Central (Devon; 5:15 PM, Holy Trinity Church [Clash Stage])
India Bourne is a Devon-born, classically trained cellist who now goes by the stage name Tender Central. It’s a good description of her sound, which takes full advantage of her ethereal vocals and her careful crafting of an equally evocative, all-enveloping soundscape. Take a moment and consider the thought of seeing such music being performed in a church. Got it?

The Pale White (Newcastle; 5:30 PM, Church)
While Patrick Carney is busy remoulding his girlfriend Michelle Branch, now is an excellent time to discover the band who will dethrone the Black Keys when they aren’t paying attention. While we can’t be sure their successors will be Newcastle’s The Pale White, their brand of down and dirty blues rock is a suitable North East alternative to that of Southampton’s Band of Skulls.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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