Matthew Danger Lippman Reunites the 60s with the 90s on New EP
In every howl and swoon on this record, there’s a yearning. For what exactly, I’m not sure. But, this is one of the most human collection of songs I have listened to in a while. Sometimes, artists can feel like they are on auto-pilot; sticking to the script of their genre. Lippman has thrown out the playbook, adding snippets of genres and influences into his work with ease.
I’m always amazed by musicians’ ability to synthesize a wide variety of influences into a coherent sound. Songwriters have this knack for taking bits and pieces of artists they love and incorporating seemingly incongruous influences into their work. On Matthew Danger Lippman’s newest EP, Touchdown USA, the artist pairs 60s glam with 90s indie rock to produce a strikingly theatrical and earnest sound.
Lippman has described himself as “the idiot son of Leonard Cohen and Tom Green.” And this EP feels like a perfect union of those two sides of himself. There’s a combination of distance and intimacy on these songs; polar opposites working together to make something truly stunning. The opener, “Loved,” moves from a harsh, dissonant verse into a smooth, almost doo-wop chorus. Immediately, Marc Bolan and Stephen Malkmus come to mind as vocal influences. On “Suburban Girlfriend,” Lippman shows us the true range of his vocal abilities. One moment he’s a crooner. The next, he warbles along to the pounding drums in a nasal, whiny falsetto. It’s a love song buried beneath a bratty, but laid back punk song.
At the beginning of the EP’s title track, Lippman mutters along to a simple chord progression a la Lou Reed. But then, the band kicks in and switches the vibe immediately to an almost neo-soul jaunt. In fact, “almost” is a word that nearly perfectly describes this EP. As soon as you think you’ve got Lippman figured out, he and his merry band take you to a place that feels familiar but just out of reach. The heartfelt, waltzing “U Did Me In” is the perfect example of this Lippman phenomenon. The song is based around a simple chord progression played on guitar, warped by a whammy bar and delay. It could almost be a riff from a 50s song if it weren’t twisted by modern effects. Lippman’s vocals croon for a moment. Then he whispers. Then he whines. And at the crescendo, a truly fuzzed out and fucked-up guitar solo threatens the structural integrity of the whole song. Lippman howls along with the guitar, then the whole thing returns to the whispering, nearly-waltzing pace from the beginning. I haven’t been taken on a rock and roll journey quite like that since I first heard Pavement’s “Silence Kit.”
And finally, “Things That Don’t Break My Heart Like They Used To” showcases Lippman’s ability to write dissonant melodies. For a song about the world not feeling right, the artist mirrors this in the vocal melody damn near perfectly. Even the harmonies help to make Lippman sound as if he is floating in a solipsistic ocean. The drum sound here is refreshingly light and dry, and the chords are gorgeous. The bassline walks in not quite a straight line, and there’s a delightful, messy solo about halfway through the song. This song is full of contradictions. It screams rock and roll, while still feeling breezy. It’s upbeat while still mournful. There’s something truly special here in Lippman’s writing.
In every howl and swoon on this record, there’s a yearning. For what exactly, I’m not sure. But, this is one of the most human collection of songs I have listened to in a while. Sometimes, artists can feel like they are on auto-pilot; sticking to the script of their genre. Lippman has thrown out the playbook, adding snippets of genres and influences into his work with ease. Lippman’s unhinged brand of songwriting has won me over entirely, and I think it’ll probably win you over too. Give Touchdown USA a listen today!
Listen to Touchdown USA here, and stick around for an exclusive interview with the artist!
I think I may have met you briefly at a show I was playing in March 2019 at Gold Sounds in Brooklyn. I played in a band called Jim Shorts.. do you remember me? (It is totally okay if not, but after hearing this album, wish we had played with you that night)
Oh man, of course! Jim Shorts! I loved your set. My friend from Tennessee had hyped you guys up. She liquored me up and brought me to the show. I remember enthusiastically ranting to you after your set, saying we should hang in Tennessee someday, so I’m glad you remember me too.
– There’s an emotional vulnerability behind the theatrics on Touchdown USA. How do you achieve that balance in your work?
It took a couple ego deaths, maybe…. I think I naturally offer some external projection with my writing — there’s always a little bit of “how would I perform this on a Tuesday at Gold Sounds” in my process, subconsciously — but these songs came from a breakthrough I experienced. I came out of a breakup exhausted with myself and my writing style, and I started simplifying songs to their basic elements. I tried elevating my more vulnerable half-songs — “U Did Me In” was a little blues number with a kinda-random rhyming pattern; “Loved” was my attempt at something like one of Leonard Cohen’s pithy sex poems set to noise music, and it came out fully formed in 10 minutes or so — and I fell in love with that process. I feel like it helped me advance my teen theatrics into something a little more avant-garde and unsettling. The EP is me trying to center those epiphanic moments rather than overwrite them.
– I really like the phrase “touchdown usa.” Could you describe why or how that became the title for this EP?
Thank you! That song is by far the oldest on the EP. I had no idea where the chord progression or the lyrics were taking me, and I was building to some inevitable musical climax, a place of real loathsome earnestness, and then I blurted out “Touchdown U.S.A.” And it felt perfect for the sentiment of the song: “touchdown” as romantic “scoring,” natch, and the phrase as this unattainable standard of all-Americanism. An ironic, ridiculous height of modern masculinity. But it also has this sweet nostalgic ring to it, something of a 2002 CBS TV movie type of vibe, cuz everyone knows that patriotism is very uncool these days. So anyone cooing “touchdown U.S.A.” in earnest over some sweet chords would have to be kinda clueless. Sorta like someone in love.
The title for the EP took me forever, for some reason — it was originally “Soft…Sounds for the Hard-Luck Generation,” and I had a cover made and some advance press sent out and everything. I thought that the title had to have some generational grandeur. And then my bassist Arden helpfully pointed me to a Japanese Breakfast album with a similar title. So weeks from submitting the EP I had no title and no cover art. And then the simplicity of that phrase hit me again. The dawning of the Biden era, the end(?) of a long-drawn out pandemic plunge into darkness, my coming-of-age…. I realized that it had the significance I was looking for, while being tongue-in-cheek and hammy. Then I had my brilliant friend Natalia draw me with Mickey and Minnie Mouse to hone in on the naive hopefulness. Shouts out to Mickey and Minnie for posing so wonderfully for the cover! And shouts out to Disney for blocking it from release!
What was the recording process like? Were these songs recorded during the pandemic?
The EP, aside from “Things Don’t Break My Heart Like They Used To,” was all tracked with my backing band the Molson Twins after a tour we had in late 2019. We went straight from the tour to Oliver “Molson” Beardsley’s house in Jersey City and played 12 tracks live sans vocals. Arden, my bassist, set up the mics and recorded it with an 8-track recorder. Then I came back to Brooklyn, sat on em a couple months, and slowly cherry-picked the songs for this EP; the rest will be re-recorded sometime in the future for my planned LP “Gimme Love, Gimme Star Strength!”
Once I knew what the tracklisting would be I tweaked with the songs a bunch, then took mushrooms for a few days in a row and recorded the vocals and played keys and generally found the haunted house shoegaze vibe I was looking for. Lots of weird irreplicable Logic tinkerings — like the swirly vocal effects on “Suburban Girlfriend,” which I did by playing the vocal track back and randomly twisting the knobs on the pitch shifter effect.
“Things Don’t Break My Heart” was the last one done for the record, and it hit me in peak quarantine. I played everything on it, recorded it on 4-track, and then had my amazing roommate Scout Gillett sing the backing vocals.
What’s it like being a musician in New York these days? Has it changed at all in the past couple years?
It’s alright! More talented freaks than you can shake a stick at, which is cool. I got to play a roof show that was shut down by the cops last summer and I’m praying for a lot more of that this year. Rent is going down in this weird groovy way, and a lot of the normies are jumping ship for Beacon. Everyone is slave to the streaming and social media game, which I have yet to really succeed at in any way, but all-in-all I’ve met so many great artists that I’m happy to do my thing and get inspired and hang out.
What’s next for you?
We’ll see…. I was in a movie that shot in Hood River, Oregon last summer, which was an incredibly fun and surreal experience. I essentially play myself, and a few of my songs are featured in it, so that should be funny once it’s out. My drummer Oliver broke his arm in December, so I decided to record an interim folk LP (which I think I’m gonna call “And I Walked Around Glowing”) with my bassist Arden and Dan Keegan from Wild Pink. We recorded it in a Manhattan studio in February with Katy Rea and Andrew Forman. I think it sounds like Elliott Smith on a lot of cocaine or something. It’s pretty lavish stuff — some of the songs stretch into the 6-9 minute range. I’m hoping to finish it this next month and arrange some distribution plans for it.
And then I wanna do the next proper Molson Twins record, “Gimme Love, Gimme Star Strength!,” which will be kind of a greatest-hits of all the dumbass cock-rock I’ve played on tour the last few years. So 2 records and a movie, it’s looking like. I’m taking names, baby!