Matt Martians, seemingly, never stops making music. A founding member of The Internet and The Jet Age of Tomorrow (as well an OG member of Odd Future), solo endeavors and side projects are nothing new to the Atlanta native. His latest record, The Last Party, is his second solo album in as many years and arrives less than a year on from Hive Mind, the latest full-length from The Internet.
Told through snippets of conversation, surreal jazz interludes, and held together by Martians’ trademark lo-fi funk aesthetic, The Last Party tells the story of a (just beyond) quarter-life crisis, with the keyboard player and producer promising to bow out of the wild life after one last party.
Things open with “Out the Game,” a lovestruck preamble that sees Martians sheepishly admit “I said I was out the game right, but then I met this girl, and, of course…” before launching into the most reluctant love song you’ll hear all year. Alternating between admissions that this new girl “has changed my whole view of love” and assertions that “this is the last party, I’m out the game forever,” it sets the stage for an album full of internal conflicts that will be unsettlingly familiar to anyone who’s sworn that they’ve partied their last, but knows deep down, they probably haven’t.
Narrative-wise, The Last Party evokes the looping, fragmented nature of Netflix’s Russian Doll, with moments of conversation guiding the record’s story along as songs switch pace and style with momentary notice. Take “Knock Knock” for example, which finds Martians firmly head over heels and dealing with the uncertainty of a relationship’s early days. What begins as a plea for his boo to “knock if you’re there” midway through transforms into a ballad about how wonderful it is that they “don’t ‘even care about my shoes” as the instrumental switches from hazy R&B to bebop-tinged keys.
Things dip a little until the album’s mid-point “Pony Fly.” Thanks to Martians’ lo-fi tendencies, it’s the topline vocal melodies that make or break the songs on The Last Party, and four songs in there’s a worry that he may have run out of them. However, fans of The Internet and Martians’ solo work will still be delighted by the production across the album. Hints of The Neptunes’ staccato stylings litter the record, with plenty of well-placed keyboard stabs and jerky drum lines that form the album’s spine. Meanwhile, his more ‘indie’ influences are subtler, revealing themselves in jangly guitars, Beach Boys-esque layered vocals and in the case of “Out the Game,” a chorus that wouldn’t sound amiss on a Hot Chip record.
When “Pony Fly” does arrive, Steve Lacy’s presence is felt immediately. As a fellow member of The Internet, Lacy’s musical stylings are an obvious compliment to Martians but no less effective; his distinctive guitar work and vocals hint at the roots they share without falling into the trap of sounding like The Internet minus Syd. Instead, the two play off each other nicely, with Lacy’s guitar taking the lead as Martians croons like Justin Timberlake at his peak. Bar the missing three-count intro, this could pass for a Pharrell beat with ease.
From there the jazz influence takes over, with the flashy hooks of the first half of the record replaced by short repeating refrains and woozy almost doo-wop melodies on tracks like “Southern Isolation 2” and “Look Like.” Hints of samba and Latin American jazz find their way into the fold as well, bringing the listener ever closer to the fabled final event.
Then, before you know it “The Last Party” arrives. The album’s title track and closer launches the listener into a funked-out whirlwind where the grooves of the album’s first half come rolling back in spades. Martians croons about getting married, and everything seems determined to end on the upbeat; a short but sweet outro wrapping up the album not with a vast blow-out but with a warm suggestion that he might have made it out the game after all.
At its best, Martians’ second album is the ideal party soundtrack, subtly imbued with enough groove to keep everyone on the floor, but not so much that it threatens to overwhelm the vibe. In places, it lurches between lo-fi simplicity and jazzy complexity in clumsy, disruptive ways, but Martians’ layering of conversation, vocal samples, and a broad spectrum of musical styles keep the album flowing along nicely enough. If this really is Martians’ last party – and depending on how far into the album’s whole ‘party as a metaphor for a relationship’ thing you get, it could well be – it sounds like a pretty ideal way to bow out.