From the staunchly DIY punk label Plan-It-X, Matty Pop Chart, the solo project of a guy named Matt Tobey, hits you hard with… coy acoustic pop?
Staying afloat in the Dischord tradition, Plan-It-X is probably most known by the masses for being the original label for one of Against Me!’s first releases (the Crime as Forgiven By… EP; since moved to the Sabot label to their dismay), and I believe that the label’s message boards were where the band received some of the harshest criticism when they moved onto bigger things. Formerly based in Bloomington, Indiana (then Olympia, WA, now Gainesville, FL), the label was the home of Tobey’s previous band Abe Froman (yes, the Sausage King of Chicago) and while I can’t find any music online from the defunct group, from what I can gather is that they were of the pop punk variety. But I shouldn’t pigeon-hole the label too much, they have released stuff like Kimya Dawson’s project Antsy Pants, with two of those songs featured in Juno.
Kimya Dawson is surely an influence for Matty Pop Chart, they are kindred spirits, even releasing a split 7” on K Records. Tobey’s still got his noisy bands; he drums for Mt. Gigantic, who are dynamic, long-winded and unpredictable yet often screamy and spazzy. Jesse reviewed their first album pretty favorably; they’ve since put out another. Apparently he also sings and plays guitar in a band called Good Luck. I will have to check out some of his projects live since he’s also currently calling Bloomington home. If I were down with the cool kids here I’d probably have known all about all of this and not have had to research it on the internet.
Ok, so I guess I should probably tell you about the album I’m actually reviewing, Tobey’s second (official) solo offering. I like it. Tobey’s voice really does it for me—it’s like a less polished John K. Samson, nasally and sweet. And while this disc’s foundation is acoustic guitar and vocals, he presents an array of feels within this poppy folk realm, and a wide range of instruments make appearances with Tobey covering most with a little help from friends. He uses dynamics effectively, building songs up then letting them down gently as in “Oh Mercy Sakes,” asking ”Do you look like your dad?” Answer: Yes, that’s what they tell me.
Rowdy standout “Child of the Sea” features accordion and later fiddle, and some lovably nerdy lyrics about RPG video games and lines like “It’s okay if you use Game Genie” after which his friends join him for a cheery sing-along chorus. “Thailand” features marimba (or xylophone) and more violin, and many like “Ghost Dream Redux” get full-band treatment and this one has a well-played harmonica lead.
Appropriately-titled instrumental tracks act as filler here and are sometimes fun, like the toe-tapping nearly-bluegrass “Piano and Guitar” but at other times are an unnecessary tangent like the Kinsella-ish finger-picked clean electric on “Guitar.” Luckily they’re short. Tobey tries a different lyrical angle on “The World Out There” which perhaps too bluntly and simply talks about personal and world troubles—referencing American History X along the way—but the tender goose-pimply vocal melody and soft guitar make it a good track nevertheless.
While I cannot seem to find any kind of webpage for Matty Pop Chart or any of this album online, you can download his first effort for free from Plan-It-X at the link over there. It’ll give you an idea of what this guy does, though it’s not as refined or put-together (or as good) as this release. You can however see live footage of him performing this album’s title track at his section of the Plan-It-X site, so that will have to do. Matty Pop Chart was a pleasant surprise for me, and he may be for you as well.