Hands Down Eugene, the project of singer-songwriter Matt Moody, offers something new crafted out of decidedly old parts. Think of the psychedelic bits of the Beatles and you’re halfway there—“doo doo” choruses, layered vocal harmonies, and totally familiar classic rock chord progressions. But there are 27 musicians credited with playing on their album Madison—a collective attitude that manifests more in terms of breadth of sound than volume. The best of these mostly mid-tempo alt-country tunes inject moments of dissonance to their classic pop vocabulary to remind the listener there’s something more desperate going on. A string of three songs in the middle of the record are particularly on point: “If It’s Up to Me”, with its “ooh-la-la” backing vocals buried in the mix; “Ticket Girl”’s classic 1-5-1 construction overlaid with Beach Boys harmonies; and “Barry Short for Governor” with its more difficult, swirling electronic dissonances. The injection of small musical jokes and spoken word introductions (once in German) throughout give Madison a self-deprecating impression, but it’s the strung-out phrases, resolving just the way you expect but still somehow powerful, that make Hands Down Eugene’s music interesting.
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