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Jeff Goldblum



On The Run






Wheels Fall Off



Subterranean Shut-In Blues



Blood in the Yolk



Cultural Criminal



You Can Have It All



Other Plans






How It Ends


In the humid foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, a lover cracks an egg against a
china rim and searches its gloss for meaning. Clocks tick in reverse; phones ring out
unanswered; Trojan horses arrive at the gates of the human heart and debts are repaid
in gold dental fillings. Red-leather-clad and pitchfork-wielding in a playful nod to Grant
Wood's celebrated painting of 1930, Mattiel's Atina Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swilley
proffer songs which ponder the American everyday of the 2020s, teeth to the flesh of a
tender Georgia peach as they serve up an album tasting more like home than ever
Georgia Gothic, a magic third in Mattiel's run of full-length albums, was shaped in the
quiet seclusion of a woodland cabin in the north of the Atlanta duo's mother-state;
“Some faraway place that just Jonah and I could go where there would be no
distractions, nothing else going on, and we could turn everything off and only focus on
writing songs”, reflects Brown. Where 2017's self-titled debut and its 2019 follow-up
Satis Factory were written with what Swilley refers to as a “hands-off” approach — he
arranging the music and Brown the lyrics and vocals, the two working largely
separately — the making of Georgia Gothic was, for the first time, a truly collaborative
undertaking. “This was the first time we made a point to just be together and work out
ideas in the same room. That was the initial intention … it was about learning what
each other wanted to accomplish on a sonic level, and then just trying different things
out” Swilley continues. “Everything happened backwards. Normally, you'd have friends
that make a band … with us, we started making music from the jump, and then
became homies.”
Cultivated by time spent together on the road touring the first two albums, it is this
newfound sense of intimacy between Mattiel's members that enabled the writing of
Georgia Gothic not as two separate musicians, but rather as one creative entity. In the
cabin, with all the time in the world at their disposal — and entirely away from the usual
writing constraints of outside eyes, ears, and pursestrings — it took almost none at all
to lay down an album's worth of tracks. “I don't think we really knew going into it
whether or not we were going to walk away with a record, or however many songs
would materialise, but we ended up recording demos for about ten songs after a week I
think” says Brown. “It's kind of a testament to what we can do together as a duo.” The
album remained within the four walls of Brown and Swilley's private world for much of
its evolution — with recording taking place in a simple studio set up by the pair in the
borrowed room of a dialysis centre, Swilley in the producer's seat — until, nearing
completion, it was transferred into the trusted hands of the Grammy-award-winning
John Congleton (whose extensive list of credits includes artists as diverse as Angel
Olsen, Earl Sweatshirt, Erykah Badu and Sleater Kinney) for mixing.
Not only does the affinity between its creators translate into an electric synergy
between Georgia Gothic's words and music — the brine-shock of Brown's taut lyricism
cut against the bourbon-smoothness of Swilley's instrumentation — but here too are
the palpable spoils of experimentation, each party trustful enough of the other to trial
and error their practices into new geometries. Brown's vocals, for example, shapeshift
between tracks: the softly luminous harmonies of album opener ‘Jeff Goldblum' (borne
of a crush on the actor; “the only love song I've ever written”, jokes Brown) slinking into
the laid-back drawl of ‘Subterranean Shut In Blues' (a riff on Dylan's ‘Subterranean
Homesick Blues' for the stay-at-home generation) and the Jack White-spiked delivery
of ‘How It Ends' (a redwood casket sendoff in song form, wherein perhaps the casket
has been struck by lightning). Similarly, though the analogue rock-'n'-soul signature
sound of previous Mattiel iterations lingers (the opening twangs of ‘Blood in the Yolk'
— an eerie, stream-of-consciousness tale of doomed love and eggs — hold up a
fleeting, minor-key mirror to 2017's ‘Count Your Blessings', and the warm brass
interludes of ‘Lighthouse', an ode to navigating through sirens and soured fruit
together, hark back to early songs like ‘Baby Brother'), Swilley's input wears many
other guises. Mid-tempo numbers such as ‘Wheels Fall Off' (glassy chimes and a
laid-back beats a bed for Brown's cortisol-laced words) and ‘Cultural Criminal' (organs,
haze and cool detachment backing a snappy critique of echo-chamber politics) pay
heed to a life spent listening to hip-hop; ‘On the Run' honours the country-guitar styling
of the Southern States; ‘You Can Have it All' strolls briefly into, and then swiftly back
out of, psychedelia's domain, and ‘Other Plans' packs Gainsbourgian drama in
miniature. And there is no sense of hierarchy imposed on this beautiful soup of
influences: contemporary pop stars revered just as much as more traditional pin-ups.
“Party in the USA / Party on the Hudson Bay / Party in the fast lane”, Brown sings on
‘Boomerang', winking in the direction of the heavy machinery-straddling megastar
Miley Cyrus. “Jonah and I live in worlds where we don't judge each other for what we
like, even if it's ‘not cool' — that's not even part of our language. I think it's really cool
to work with someone else who can love like … Miley Cyrus as well as Leonard
Cohen.” Brown says.
Swilley puts this wide palate, in part, down to the place they call home. “I definitely feel
like being from Georgia allows us to have a certain way of approaching music”. Brown
chimes in: “We haven't really highlighted where we're from in the past two records,
even though those were also written in Georgia. There's so much great art and great
music that's come from Georgia, from all different types of genres and all over the state
— but take R. E. M. and OutKast: there's this weirdness that I can't really put my finger
on.” Swilley concurs: “It's the same with the B-52s, the Black Lips … it doesn't feel like
L.A., it doesn't feel like New York, it feels like another planet. We're not really in a
‘scene' here in the same way. You have to make your own sound, create your own
And it is precisely the forging of Mattiel's distinct musical identity that Georgia Gothic
signals; its members guiding each other ever-homewards not just in a geographical or
sonic sense, but spiritually, too.
Diva Harris, October 2021

  • Rock/Pop
  • New Releases

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