In 1930 Grant Wood painted the iconic American Gothic when he became inspired by the kind of people he believed should live in a house in Eldon, Iowa. It is a fascination converted to a medium by paint.
791 miles from the Gothic house is Atlanta, Georgia, home of Mattiel, the indie rock duo of Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swilley. Mattiel, in the time since their 2019 sophomore release Satis Factory, have taken the time to look around them and realize their fascination with their influences and their home state of Georgia. Noticeably, Georgia Gothic (March 18, 2022 ATO Records) deviates from their previous two releases. Call it re-introduction, call it what you will, but there’s a good chance you’ll call it a great album.
The eleven-song record from Mattiel finds a warmth in dark, layered melodies while playfully mixing familiar feeling inspirations and dipping a toe into various genres as the record progresses. Whether it’s the glorious Goldblum-crush-inspired (face it, we all have a crush on him) “Jeff Goldblum,” mixing in an AWOLNATION-meets-Dylan “Subterranean Shut-In Blues,” or the blended sixties-psych sounds of “You Can Have It All,” Georgia Gothic develops itself as much an ode to inspiration conveyed in the medium of music, a pushing of boundaries for the duo that pays off dividends. The temptation to recreate various sounds when undertaking an album like Mattiel has is a great one, yet the musicianship of Brown and Swilley have obviously insulated a substantial resistance to falling down some vague hole of covers or wanna-be styles. Georgia Gothic systematically selects from a wide range of musical horizons, but not in the blatant way The Offspring did with Americana or the way Cage The Elephant has been doing since 2016. The record blends elements to craft a Where’s Waldo of sounds which cast themselves into the illuminating, often subtly haunting vocals of Brown, which come out the other side with all the requisite hooks and draws that will have you coming back for more each go.
Mattiel’s Georgia Gothic, like the iconic painting, draws inspiration and fascination from the imagination, painted with a brush of those who laid down sounds of rock, hip-hop, country, and more before them, intertwined in a veil of indie alt rock. Masterfully, Mattiel skirts the blackhole of being drawn too far to one side, keeping with their sound, and delivering a kaleidoscope of a record you won’t want to miss.