Monday, January 02, 2023

Matt Speedway - December & I

In addition to releasing one of the year's best albums with his band The Speedways, Matthew Julian had quite the prolific 2022 as he managed to release eight free demo EPs on his solo Bandcamp page. The latest of these EPs, December & I, features, in Julian's own words, "two real good 'uns, a couple of promising ones, and a filler." He's been turning out these demos at such a speedy rate that I've struggled to keep up with reviews. But I have to say this: one of the coolest things about being a music fan in the digital age is the ability to sometimes hear your favorite artists share works in progress in real time. My god, I would have freaked if I'd been able to hear all of Billy Joel's demos when I was 10 years old! Half the fun with these Matt Speedway demos is trying to figure which songs are supposed to be the hits and which ones are supposed to be the filler. It's totally a guessing game since songwriters are almost always their own worst critics. For me, the high points of December & I are the first two songs, "Enjoy Yourself With An Ordinary Fool" and "Camera Shy." That certainly makes sense, doesn't it? The latter is what you might call a "vintage" Matthew Julian song and seems a likely candidate for inclusion when all these demo tracks are cherry-picked to make a proper album. But there's something about the former that really grabs my attention. It's more elegant and intimate — the kind of song that comes pouring out of you when you're recording bedroom demos and ends up being a stroke of genius. I love how these lyrics could be construed as either romantic or dire depending on your interpretation:

Enjoy yourself, this could be the start of something else/
with someone who's just an ordinary fool like you/
an ordinary fool who'll take you back to a time/
when the private lives of humankind had a chance to breathe/
ordinary fools in love, the one that you were dreaming of will take you there

Nice Joe Jackson allusion too! 

Elsewhere, "Kim Wilde & Lemonade" is a promising number in a new wave/synth pop style. "In The Cold Light Of Christmas Day" is not so much a Christmas song as it is a quite superb love song that references Christmas. I'm hearing echoes of Elvis Costello on this one. Who knows? Maybe this will become Julian's own "Last Christmas" and send him skyrocketing to further fame and perennial royalties. 

Matthew Julian's final tally for his 2022 demos is 39 original songs and a KISS cover. That's an amazingly productive year not even considering the brilliance of The Speedways' Talk of the Town. For a recording artist, that kind of constant activity can be a great way to maintain one's sanity. Even if Julian ultimately decides that there are only 1.5 keepers per demo, that still means that he already has a great 12-song album written and demoed! He told me last year that he's undertaken this project for himself but will be happy if it brings pleasure to 5 or 6 people. That sounds a whole lot like my own approach to this blog all these years! It takes guts to share unfinished songs with the entire world, but fans like me consider it a real treat to be able to hear all this stuff. If you're a Speedways fan and haven't yet given these demos a listen, I highly recommend digging into all of them. How can you beat free pop music?

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