Every Tuesday, Torontoist scours record store shelves in search of the city’s most notable new releases and brings you the best—or sometimes just the biggest—of what we’ve heard in Sound Advice.
The homemade nature of Matthew Adam Hart’s music might make one assume that he could or should be cranking albums out a lot faster than the five years between his last album and the newly released The Weight’s on the Wheels. Known better, of course, as the Russian Futurists, Hart’s lo-fi indie-electric project has been polished and buffed this time around, and though there aren’t a lot of fancy new tricks, the killer pop sensibilities are as intact as ever.
Hart by no means invented home recordings, but over the past decade he’s been successfully doing the ambitious indie-bedroom album before it was recycled back into du jour style. For Weight’s on the Wheels, he went into a studio proper, and the results aren’t revelatory, but they are impressive: even the slightest bit of cleaned-up production gives the Smile-infected mini-symphonies a grandeur that was only ever hinted at before. Opening track “Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds” chases euphoria before settling into a soft, familiar landing spot, and “One Night, One Kiss,” a duet with East Coast scene veteran Ruth Minnikin (The Heavy Blinkers, The Guthries), embodies the irrepressible, effortless optimism that has always shone from Hart’s music—if not always his lyrics, themselves standard glimpses into the introspective, thirty-ish pop-song penning dude’s brains (fleeting youth, love, responsibility, etc.). The evolution of The Russian Futurists may seem a bit stunted after such a long break, but on songs like “Tripping Horse,” the influence the project has had on a new ilk of synth-wielding warriors such as Halifax’s rightfully rising Rich Aucoin is obvious and ample.
The Weight’s on the Wheels ends strong with the richly layered pop gem “Horseshoe Fortune” (streaming above). Its subtle strings and guitars fill the space left open by the effectively (and uncharacteristically) sparse percussion, and Hart’s vocals—perhaps showing the most advancement here, pushed into the forefront and plied with harmonies and digital augmentation—careen for the finish line to end the record much the way it starts, hinting at hugeness but never really fully leaving the comfort of his bedroom, the restraint adding a depth that volume couldn’t.