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Cam the Artisan

Atlanta Soundtrack: Mattiel, Cam The Artisan and vintage Neutral Milk Hotel

Mattiel: “Jeff Goldblum”

Every generation has had their own Jeff Goldblum awakening (a Goldkaboom? a Goldblooming?). For those who came of age in the ‘80s, perhaps it was the image of the lithe, bronzed Blumster emerging shirtless from the neon glow of the alien makeover pod for Geena Davis in Earth Girls Are Easy. For ‘90s kids, it was the image of Dr. Ian Malcolm resplendently recovering from his wounds or flirtatiously purr-growling at Laura Dern’s paleontologist in Jurassic Park. (Never has chaos theory been sexier!) Heck, he was in his mid-60s in 2017’s Thor: Ragnorok and, as the peppery blue-soul-patched Grandmaster, he still exudes all-encompassing chemistry with anything with a pulse.

At any rate, the phenomenon of swooning over the actor, jazz bandleader and ageless tall drink of water has been a revered pastime for a swath of the movie-going public for more than four decades. Thus, it was high time that a band came along to write the proper ode. That arrives by way of Mattiel, the dynamic duo of Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swilley. Their new single pays homage to the bewitching Blumster while also previewing their forthcoming third album Georgia Gothic, set for release in March 2022.

It’s the band’s first new release since April’s “Freedom Feels” and “Those Words,” the latter of which was featured right here in an earlier Atlanta Soundtrack. The video features clips from Earth Girls and The Fly — though, thankfully, not the body horror bonanza in which body parts are literally falling off in chunks. Though, you know what? Even then . . .

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Cam the Artisan: “How High”

Still in his early 20s, rising hip-hop star Cam The Artisan has emcee skills matched only by his ambition and range. Like the icons he draws inspiration from — Childish Gambino; Kendrick Lamar; Tyler, The Creator; and Vince Staples — he has expressed a keen interest in not limiting himself. This includes designs on eventually branching out and recording jazz, R&B and soul albums. But for now, ever since he dropped his first single, 2017’s “Swim,” he has continued to hone his storytelling technique lyrically and visually as well, showcased in his affinity for fashion and the scope of this cinematic video.

Cam grew up listening to artists like El DeBarge and Prince and jazz and gospel music — the latter two were favorites of his parents. Growing up, he moved between Texas and Atlanta. Going between those two very different areas of the country, he stated in one interview, instilled a “mind frame of hey, when you make music try not to put a boundary on what you make. Because most people, they listen to everything. So if you just make rap, rap, rap all the time, at a certain point, it gets old, but if you switch it up here and there, it keeps the listener guessing.”

The artist’s penchant for rapid-fire wordplay doesn’t just extend to his songs but seeps into much of what he puts out into the world. Even on Instagram, where he goes by “Arty McFly,” you’ll find him punning it up aplenty. For instance, a photo from the City of Angels features the tongue-in-cheek caption: “Been Locked In LAtely, I’ll Catch Y’all LAter.”

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Neutral Milk Hotel: “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”

When Athens rockers Neutral Milk Hotel released their second album, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, in 1998, it hit during one of the great latter 20th-century zeniths of indie rock (Radiohead’s OK Computer and Elliott Smith’s Either/Or came out the year before). And it’s pretty clear that no one expected it to generate the cult status and mythos that it wound up accruing over time — least of all, probably, the band, led by the brilliant and introverted Jeff Mangum. 

Initially assigned middling reviews by most music critics, the record became a slow burn, gaining momentum in the early part of the new millennium that eventually prompted a complete about-face by those same publications. Long after Neutral Milk Hotel had ceased touring, this week’s Vintage Track(s) of the Week  earned a place on one of Pitchfork’s top albums list. Other breathless articles anointed Mangum with titles like the “(J.D.) Salinger of indie rock” — though that may also have had to do with how he receded from the spotlight after striking it big.

Inspired by Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, and molded by bands like The Beach Boys and Sonic Youth, Mangum’s strange little collection of songs can be haunting and lovely all at once. This is set off by a cornucopia of musical instruments, from horns to accordions to a saw, plus innovative sound design and what Mangam termed acontinuous stream of words.

Both a time capsule and something eternal, the album has also spawned tributes and variations galore. Some of these have been entertaining, like the random shoutout to hit sitcom Parks and Recreation where the ever-deadpan April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) declares that they’re her favorite band. And then, of course, there have been jaunts into absurdity, like one misguided attempt to cover the songs, which spawned this delightful headline: “Ska Version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea Is an Unacceptable Use of Bandcamp.”

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