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The Weight's On the Wheels

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Album Review

The Weight's on the Wheels trails its predecessor by well over five years, but impressively, little has changed about the music of the Russian Futurists — still, at least on record, the one-man indie pop operation of Torontonian Matthew Adam Hart — in all that time. Indeed, little has changed over the whole course of Hart's decade-long, four-album career, save for a slow, gradual increase in fidelity and sonic clarity, a trend which continues here — it's the first Russian Futurists album to feature an outside producer — perhaps (though probably not) to the point that he'll finally be able to shake the knee-jerk "bedroom pop" tag. Certainly, "Hoeing Weeds, Sowing Seeds," which bounds out of the gate as if to signal an especially eager and joyous return, is the shiniest, punchiest-sounding thing Hart's ever unleashed: a thumping, club-ready electro-pop ditty with an instantly hummable melody; a fitting successor to the last album's euphoric calling card, "Paul Simon." Sadly, though, it's not all that representative. Only "Tripping Horses" tries for danceability in a similarly electronic vein, with decidedly more middling success, and while Hart's penchant for hip-hop-inflected beats is well-indulged throughout — most blatantly with the new jack swing of "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas," an uneasy seasonal relationship dissection featuring some uncharacteristically hip bass playing — nothing strays far from his comfort zone of scrappy, wheezing synths and low-rent symphonics, oddly poised between chintziness and grandeur. Even with a bit of extra polish, there's no hiding the quirkiness of his highly detailed musical confections; indeed, it's all the more evident that the Futurists' distinctive insularity has always stemmed not just from lo-fi production, but also from Hart's general idiosyncrasy as an arranger and a songwriter. And the songs on Weight are just as knotty (and nerdy) as ever, full of tongue-twisting, dense wordplay, cleverly inverted cliches, internal rhymes, the occasional neologism ("MelanJolly"?) — so thick with words, actually, that Hart sometimes resorts to overlapping his own multi-tracked vocals to avoid cutting off phrases by pausing for breath (there's also an actual duet, with the Heavy Blinkers' Ruth Minnikin — the starry-eyed "One Night, One Kiss" — which serves the same function). Still, with a few exceptions — "Horseshoe Fortune" for one, a sweet, upbeat closer with a chiming, folk-ish vibe and an odd but laudable message (be thankful for surgery, basically) — most of these songs are not quite up to Hart's usual caliber. His inherent charms are hard to deny; they just feel slightly threadbare this time out. ~ K. Ross Hoffman, Rovi

Customer Reviews

Best yet from RF

Looks like he finally got some real studio time; this effort no longer seems recorded in his bedroom like earlier albums. The much improved production values don't take away any of the charm - he hasn't let textures take over the music. The songwriting is as strong as ever, and now, with a much richer soundscape, the result is just gorgeous in places - especially Horseshoe Fortune, Plates, Golden Years, and 100 Shopping Days to Xmas

Biography

Born: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Russian Futurists (aka one-man indie pop orchestra Matthew Adam Hart) make lo-fi bedroom recording into an art form. Hart, who hails from eastern Ontario, Canada, drew rave reviews, as well as comparisons to Magnetic Fields and the Flaming Lips, for his 2001 debut album, The Method of Modern Love, and won fans such as R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and former Blur guitarist Graham Coxon in the process. Hart's ability to make the cheapest production quality sound lush and expansive was put to the test on...
Full Bio
The Weight's On the Wheels, The Russian Futurists
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