The Russian Futurists
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The Russian Futurists

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | MAJOR | AFM
Band Pop EDM




"The Russian Futurists "The Weight's On The Wheels""

The Weight's on the Wheels trails its predecessor by well over five years, but impressively, little has changed about the music of the Russian Futurists -- still, at least on record, the one-man indie pop operation of Torontonian Matthew Adam Hart -- in all that time. Indeed, little has changed over the whole course of Hart's decade-long, four-album career, save for a slow, gradual increase in fidelity and sonic clarity, a trend which continues here -- it's the first Russian Futurists album to feature an outside producer -- perhaps (though probably not) to the point that he'll finally be able to shake the knee-jerk "bedroom pop" tag. Certainly, "Hoeing Weeds, Sowing Seeds," which bounds out of the gate as if to signal an especially eager and joyous return, is the shiniest, punchiest-sounding thing Hart's ever unleashed: a thumping, club-ready electro-pop ditty with an instantly hummable melody; a fitting successor to the last album's euphoric calling card, "Paul Simon." Sadly, though, it's not all that representative. Only "Tripping Horses" tries for danceability in a similarly electronic vein, with decidedly more middling success, and while Hart's penchant for hip-hop-inflected beats is well-indulged throughout -- most blatantly with the new jack swing of "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas," an uneasy seasonal relationship dissection featuring some uncharacteristically hip bass playing -- nothing strays far from his comfort zone of scrappy, wheezing synths and low-rent symphonics, oddly poised between chintziness and grandeur. Even with a bit of extra polish, there's no hiding the quirkiness of his highly detailed musical confections; indeed, it's all the more evident that the Futurists' distinctive insularity has always stemmed not just from lo-fi production, but also from Hart's general idiosyncrasy as an arranger and a songwriter. And the songs on Weight are just as knotty (and nerdy) as ever, full of tongue-twisting, dense wordplay, cleverly inverted cliches, internal rhymes, the occasional neologism ("MelanJolly"?) -- so thick with words, actually, that Hart sometimes resorts to overlapping his own multi-tracked vocals to avoid cutting off phrases by pausing for breath (there's also an actual duet, with the Heavy Blinkers' Ruth Minnikin -- the starry-eyed "One Night, One Kiss" -- which serves the same function). Still, with a few exceptions -- "Horseshoe Fortune" for one, a sweet, upbeat closer with a chiming, folk-ish vibe and an odd but laudable message (be thankful for surgery, basically) -- most of these songs are not quite up to Hart's usual caliber. His inherent charms are hard to deny; they just feel slightly threadbare this time out.
- Allmusic

"Best of 2010"

For many, the appeal of Matthew Adam Hart‘s compositions was just how much he put into the bedroom recording style electro pop/hip hop, hand clap ready bangers that surfaced after months spent up in his lab assem-bl-in. The trademark image fans had was that of a reclusive Hart spending hour after hour tinkering with textures, paying tribute to Kent Hrbek with his grizzly beard and Twins cap, but with the release of “The Weight’s On The Wheels” we find Hart wearing cardigans and wing tips, and more importantly, willing to add polish and sheer mass to his songs. Even on the most casual listen, the results are huge and undeniable.

Before fans get concernicus, take solace in the simple fact that somehow nothing and everything has changed. His trademark witty, melancholic lyrics – how can you not get down to a line like, Stomping Tom without the stories – are still the star of the show and the compositions are still meticulous collages (just listen to the sound dart from ear to ear on “Golden Years”). He still manages to balance head nodding beats with fantastic samples, 80's inspired melodies and choruses that are tailor made for sing-alongs. Hell, he even brought Halifamous Ruth Minnikin back for the sugary sweet duet “One Night, One Kiss”, but this time around the songs explode out of your headphones, chock-o-block full of low-end and hidden textures. For most, the challenge of justifying the studio experience is daunting, but you get the feeling that Hart saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime and was determined not to let it slip through his fingers or compromise his vision.

Even though the structures of tracks like “To Be Honest”, “Plates”, and “Walk With a Crutch” (it’s comforting he still wants to add in the sampler like gun/laser sound effects) could easily have been tucked into the cracks and crevasses of Me Myself and Rye, all ten songs are so full bodied that if you served them at a bar they’d be displayed proudly on the top shelf for high rollers. The term wall of sound is overused, but Hart certainly challenged himself to construct songs that need to be turned up loud and digested piece by piece, even though they sound fantastic as a whole. The bass line that that appears out of nowhere and controls your ear – even as Hart sings along with female vocals – on “Register My Firearms? No Way!” – or the thick synth fog of plates just seem so much bigger than anything we’ve heard from Hart in the past and when he lets it all hang out (“Tripping Horses”), you start to wish that this bedroom hero had access to the kind of cash that other producers waste.

I’d be remiss to not single out, “100 Shopping Days Til Christmas”. As stores start putting out holiday decorations, Hart might challenge Billy Mack for the Christmas song of the year. Starting with a beat that could have easily been found on an early Fresh Prince / Jazzy Jeff effort, he builds a melodic, head nodder that really lets Hart get a bit more nimble with his delivery. The chorus seems so romantic, but really Hart saves the album’s most infectious moments for one of the saddest songs. It’s early November and the song is already battling rum and eggnogs for my favorite holiday indulgence, but make no mistake, The Weight’s on the Wheels will be around long after the light are taken down. - Herohill

"The Russian Futurists "The Weight's On The Wheels""

On new single "Hoeing Weeds Sewing Seeds," Russian Futurists leader Matthew Hart swears "to repair things that are broke," and indeed, the song tunes his lo-fi to hi, stripping down the usual bedroom symphonics and cuing up the power synths. It's the sugary stuff that the Ontario popster has always aimed for, but it's not the only sound on his fourth album. There's Books-like cut-and-paste on "Walk With a Crutch" and a mix of AM radio glaze and new jack swing on "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas." Hart continues to experiment, ensuring that his wide smile never gets tiresome. - Spin

"2011 Shadow Polaris Goes To The Russian Futurists"


NxEW's readers almost always have profound disagreements with the Polaris jury. Of the 40 albums on our Shadow Polaris long list, 19 were not on the official Polaris list, and only 1 of the 10 Polaris short list albums made the Shadow Polaris list as well. Surprisingly that was Timber Timbre - "Creep On Creepin' On" and not the Arcade Fire. This year though our readers shocked me as well. The Russian Futurists - "The Weight's on the Wheels" climbed through 4 rounds of voting to take's 2011 Shadow Polaris Award.

The album, which got good reviews from Exclaim, PopMatters, The Line of Best Fit and Herohill among others, did not seem to make the Polaris Music Prize radar, and honestly wasn't on mine either. That though is the beauty of trusting our readers and having an open process.

Of course this is NxEW, not Polaris, we have no sponsors, we have no advertisers and so we have no large cash prizes, no gala event, no national media coverage. Only some bragging rights in that, when left up to the portion of the public that visits this site "The Weight's on the Wheels" is the best album of 2011. It joins last year's winner the Wooden Sky's "If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone" and 2009's "I Can Wonder What You Did With Your Day" by Julie Doiron on what is becoming an impressive list of picks by our readers.

You can find more from the Russian Futurists at or on Twitter @RFMattHart. - NXEW

"The Russian Futurists "Let's Get Ready To Crumble""

Russian Futurists:
Let's Get Ready to Crumble
[Upper Class; 2003]
Rating: 8.6

* Buy it from Insound
* Download it from eMusic

Matthew Adam Hart's songs-- The Russian Futurists' songs-- are designed to go from his bedroom to yours. Maybe even from his actual bed to yours: if it's easy to imagine him recording parts of Let's Get Ready to Crumble huddled cross-legged with the blankets over his shoulders, it's even easier to imagine a lot of people listening to them that way. This arrangement hasn't been a novelty for many years now, but in this case it's important, because Hart makes it important. Whether he made this music in a bathrobe or a three-piece suit, it's still one of indie's best bedroom pop records in years, and the illusion of that bathrobe is a big part of what gets it there.

That "best in years" is, of course, mostly if you go for this sort of thing. The reasons why are almost too obvious to get at-- Hart just does a bang-up job-- and the simplest descriptions tend to make it sound much worse than it is. A one-man home-recording act with probable Beach Boys and admitted Beatles fixations? ("I still get chills," one song goes, "when I hear Paul sing 'Golden Slumbers.'" This is not the best sales pitch.) A cheapo-synthesizer enthusiast whose songs sound more than a little like The Magnetic Fields used to? (Circa Holiday.) A record that will likely appeal to fans of The Shins' Oh, Inverted World and The Postal Service's Give Up? There's nothing necessarily wrong with either of those records or any of those things, but these sentences describe far too many anonymous, infuriatingly boring albums-- albums one suspects record stores stock directly into their bargain bins-- for anyone not to wonder why The Russian Futurists should be much better.

Well, but: Hart's just awfully good at this. He's the sort of songwriter whose tunes are instantly and comfortably his: it's not the individual tracks of Let's Get Ready to Crumble that wind up stuck in your head but his whole approach to melody and sound-- humming a few bars of "It's Not Really Cold When It Snows" turns into humming a few bars of "The Matador's Theme", and that turns into putting the record on again for another listen. So Hart comes bounding out with the terrific title track, drum machine popping, organ chords stabbing, and synthetic string plucks following the melody as his sings his opening manifesto: "I do pop cause that's what my heart goes."

And wow, it really does sound like heart-bursting enthusiasm, in that way The Flaming Lips are always reaching for but have never nailed so casually. I imagine they'd be as impressed as anyone to hear that a song can seem quite this peppy (and quite this heartbroken) without turning precious or cloying; there's even some weird level on which you can start to think Hart sounds sort of badass about it.

There's plenty more to be impressed by, too, even apart from the endlessly idiosyncratic hooks. There's the fact that, for a bedroom pop guy, Hart has a remarkable grasp on rhythm: the title track strides like crazy, "Precious Metals" has a shuffle-and-clap beat that wouldn't be so out of place on a 70s soul record, and "The Matador's Theme" sports the spare, stiff drumbeat of a marching anthem; the clip-clop cadences of his vocals manage to throw in twists and pile on words like nothing could be more natural. There's also the (wall of) sound, immersive to the point of drowsiness, which has reverb painting space around the synths' cold humming and icicle-pretty plucky or the occasional acoustic guitar: those early Magnetic Fields records never had quite this same cold room, fuzzy blanket effect.

And then there's the extra quilt on the sulky, doe-eye baths of synth-pop romanticism that dot this record. "It's Not Really Cold When It Snows" is the show-stopper, with a melody that sounds like it was piped in from some alternate version of 1984 where it rained all year; "It's Actually Going to Happen" is its close cousin, with the drums dropping back again to let Hart strain sweet and hopeful at the top of his range. Elsewhere, his heart just goes pitter-pop in all of its various ways, and the worst it gets-- maybe on "You Dot, Me Dot, T-Dot", a smiley ode to lovin' in Toronto-- is vaguely slight, a little too blank and well-meaning to engage.

Most people already know if that's the sort of thing that makes them melt and cuddle or storm off wondering if the guy wants a cookie for being so sweet. Hart's melt-and-cuddle just happens to be top-shelf, and to have enough backbone to occasionally get beyond itself. As for the bedroom pop fix, the starry-eyed melodic idealism, and the swoony toy-keyboard love songs, it's like I said: here it is, done really well.

- Nitsuh Abebe, June 13, 2003 - Pitchfork Media

"The Russian Futurists "Our Thickness""

Russian Futurists:
Our Thickness
[Upper Class; 2005]
Rating: 7.8

* Buy it from Insound
* Download it from eMusic

Trying to describe the Russian Futurists' singularity without resorting to hyperbole can drive a critic mad. The pertinent signifiers have already been spread thin: Ye olde faythful Beatles/Beach Boys axis of anonymity pertains in theory, but it's become synonymous with vacant pop blandstanding and doesn't do justice to Matthew Adam Hart's oversaturated sugar smacks. It seems improbable that two of the most innovative bands of the rock era have become the myopic critic's go-to comparison for every poppy, harmonizing mediocrity that's too redundant to say anything else about, but here we are. There is something Smile-y about the voluminous synth swirls and donkey-punch drums that buffer the cherub harmonies of "2 Dots on a Map", but you know what? Forget I mentioned the Beatles or the Beach Boys.

Then there's "bedroom pop," which conjures faltering confessional lyrics, feeble electronic afterthoughts, maybe some detuned toy piano and tape-hissy ambiance. It's true that Hart records his songs on a shoestring budget, in his bedroom in Ontario. He might even swaddle himself in warm quilts and rock Garanimals footie-pajamas when he records, for all I know. And it's true these songs might lose some of the alien luster with a glossier studio treatment. But unlike bedroom pop's typically gauzy and fractured mien, Hart's tunes are confidently solid and percussion-heavy, rotundly popping, locking and soaring. On "Sentiments Vs. Syllables", a prickly metallic twinkle chases the vocal line around a mechanically precise bass drum, and "Why You Gotta Do That Thing?" is a woozy monkey-bar swing over halting, carefully rattling percussion and zippering synth trills. Nothing is self-consciously fractured or haphazard; the songs hang shaggily on rigid compositional armature. You know what? Forget I mentioned bedroom pop.

Having exhausted our options, save for the requisite Flaming Lips/Magnetic Fields comparisons, we're left with hyperbole and lunacy. Hart's third LP, Our Thickness, is an exuberantly echoing starburst of lo-fi twee-pop gone grand, an opulent boudoir popera for the Taj Mahal. A crashfest of cheapo synths, poppity drums, and spun-sugar vocals, almost clownishly oversized: Check the loopy brass pageantry of "Paul Simon" or the sopping wet synths of "Still Life". It's an IMAX epic shot on Super8 and projected onto a bed sheet, a sumptuous coronation parade in a snowglobe, a theme park made of Tinker Toys: "Our Pen's Out of Ink", all distorted ba-ba-bas and jittery piano, and "Incandescent Hearts", with its foggy bleats and shimmering upsweeps, are postage-stamp epics, majestic in miniature. Get the picture?

- Brian Howe, May 12, 2005 - Pitchfork Media

"The Russian Futurists "Me, Myself & Rye""

The Russian Futurists:
Me Myself and Rye
[Memphis Industries/V2; 2006]
Rating: 8.1

* Buy it from Insound
* Download it from eMusic

Matthew Adam Hart, pop or art? First off plural band name, singular (both senses) performer; then there's the early 20th century Eurasian avant-garde ref. But beneath that, the guy professes pop-- "I do pop 'cause that's what my heart goes/ I don't call it art, no sir"-- while blanketing his happy/sad lit-geek tunes with flittering Casio snowflakes and dense laptop frosting that's sweet enough to distract, which of course is the point.

Russian Futurists' latest pop/art nexus, Me Myself and Rye, distills 13 tracks from Hart's first three albums, otherwise unreleased outside North America. Nothing new here, but if it's all new to you this is an excellent starting point; longer-term listeners will point out unfortunate omissions, like "It's Actually Going to Happen" from 2003 sophomore album Let's Get Ready to Crumble, but that's kinda inherent in the whole compilation exercise.

Hart's closest sonic forebear is the synth-kissed poperetta of ca. 1993-1994 Magnetic Fields. The single is "Paul Simon", from last year's Our Thickness, and it's a deceptively bittersweet brass parade, raining squishy rhythms like ticker tape onto perfect, pert melodies. Clattering coming-of-age moment "Precious Metals" extends a metaphor or three, but you'll mostly notice the bleepy hook and all-too-familiar see-saw guitar sample. "C'mon" opens with the spacey Flaming Lips before another welcome drum break upstages the twinkles. Throughout the disc, Hart's high, slinky vocals swim in reverb, while his lo-fi production sets a mesmerizing patina of prettiness. His rhythmic sense admits both youthful turntablism and lonely nights with Simon's Graceland.

A little melodicism and some harmonies are usually enough to conjure a few Beatles or Beach Boys comparisons. Russian Futurists, though, earn such notices for the way Hart successfully submerses his classicist-pop impulses-- his clever love songs, his sadsack symbolism-- while still chasing every last tendril of luminous sound even at the risk of obscuring his talents as a traditional tunesmith. Standout "It's Not Really Cold When It Snows" at first sounds like a blizzardy blur of early 80s synths, but artfully reveals itself as a catchy love song built on one snowflake-precious, tweety-twee observation: "It's not really cold when it snows/ Unless you're underdressed." Fortunately, art and pop long ago gave up mutual exclusivity.
- Marc Hogan, June 6, 2006 - Pitchfork Media

"The Russian Futurists "The Weight's On The Wheels""

Over the course of three albums, the Russian Futurists' Matthew Adam Hart established a specific and successful indie pop template. Virtually every song wedded woozy or bouncy maximalist synth lines to bashy, blown-out drumbeats. Within this bargain-store pomp, Hart would paradoxically bury his most painstaking and precise creations, his lyrics, which were filled with enough complex and internal rhymes to make Cole Porter proud.

You'd be forgiven for wishing that Hart would at least slightly broaden his scope, but then again his albums each take up little more than 30 minutes-- long enough to enjoy his distinctive approach without growing sick of its rigidity. Perhaps he also thought a nice long break between Russian Futurists full-lengths would engender goodwill as well, and so after five years without a proper studio effort, Hart returns with The Weight's on the Wheels. And... not a whole lot has changed. It's hard to fault Hart, as Wheels is another thoroughly pleasurable album that proves his skills as a popsmith haven't rusted.

Though it doesn't affect the quality of the songs, there is one major difference between this Russian Futurists record and preceding releases: Hart has deigned to push his vocals much further up in the mix this time around, so you don't need a lyric sheet to make out his cleverly knotty, densely alliterative rhymes. As always, the dominant subject is romantic struggle and dissatisfaction, and Hart maintains his tendency to prize sound over sense in a way that might be irritating if he weren't so damn good at it. "Let's serve this nervousness on a plate/ Let's curb our words for impervious debates," goes an entirely representative couplet. That's not to say Hart can't be relatably affecting-- "Golden Years" finds him musing, "Drank my way through my twenties... Slept my way through my thirties," while "To Be Honest" hinges on the slippery, shifting meanings of the refrain, "I don't even know what it's like/ To be honest."

Hart does manage to tweak his tried-and-true formula, albeit slightly, to help keep things interesting. "One Night, One Kiss", a duet with Heavy Blinkers vocalist Ruth Minnikin, treats sex with a frankness and joy that's always welcome in indie's less-than-lubricious environs. Meanwhile, the back-to-back pair "Register My Firearms? No Way!" and "100 Shopping Days 'Til Christmas" both subtly inject R&B touches, the former by way of a sample, the latter with a hook reminiscent of the Junior Boys. Wheels starts to lose a bit of steam toward its end, but as with previous Russian Futurists albums, it's over well before Hart's shtick turns monotonous. - Pitchfork


2010 - The Weight's On The Wheels (Upper Class)
2007 - Me, Myself & Rye (Upper Class/Memphis Industries)
2005 - Our Thickness (Upper Class)
2003 - Let's Get Ready To Crumble (Upper Class)
2001 - The Method Of Modern Love (Upper Class)

Sally Shapiro "I'll Be By Your Side"
The Shout Out Louds "Tonight I Have To Leave It"
Lo-Fi Fnk "Steppin' Out"
Stars "The First Five Times"
Cadence Weapon "Sharks"
Sloan "Are You Giving Me Back My Love?"



Upper Class Recordings

Brief, exhilarating songs about love… of course; Pop is founded upon such foundations, but in Matthew Adam Hart’s gifted hands our wonder and gleeful idiocy is laid out in rare, brilliant detail. Critics and the public alike have recognized in Hart one of the most impressive compositional minds to emerge in years. He is a talent simultaneously modest but mighty, plainspoken but rigorously intelligent, creating miniature electronic epics that sound as if they were spun from gold.

The Weight’s On The Wheels is a mighty accomplishment long-coming for Matthew Hart: The Russian Futurists have left the “bedroom-pop/lo-fi sound” genre they helped define and made an ambitious studio-produced monster pop record loaded with low end, depth, volume, and Hart’s heart-breaking voice atop the mountain of sounds. Produced by Hart with the aid of Michael Musmanno (Outkast, Lilys, Arrested Development), the fourth studio album exposes a polished pop finish that Russian Futurists fans have been begging for. The Weight’s On The Wheels will cast a wider net on fans to be captured by the Futurists pop regalia. Tracks like “Horseshoe Fortune” and “Register My Firearms? No Way!” reveal Hart’s trademark ability to turn a phrase with often heart-wrenching lyrics that evoke cinematic imagery, and “One Night, One Kiss”, a sugary duet with Heavy Blinkers crooner Ruth Minnikin now peels away the reverb and synths that used to envelop him revealing a soulful Hart across crystal clear soundscapes. The bad-ass slammer “100 Shopping Days ‘Til Christmas” both begs an advertising bidding war with it’s chorus “100 Shopping Days ‘Til Christmas and you’re the one thing on my wish list” and shows off Hart’s love for hip hop coming through in the skill and complexity of his lyrical flow, while “Hoeing Weeds Sowing Seeds”, mixed by Grammy Award Winner Michael Brauer (Coldplay, John Mayer, The Bravery) and the lead single, is a celebration explosion, a thumping and glorious beat with classic Matthew Hart triumphant vocals rising atop the electronic paradise. The album, ten tracks in total, is front to end the best songs we’ve yet heard by Matthew Adam Hart and a new exciting day has dawned for one of the greatest song writers Canada has produced.

The Russian Futurists have three internationally acclaimed releases under their belt, and in 2007 Me, Myself and Rye was released; the amalgam of The Futurists’ hottest songs assembled from their three previous albums, digitally re-mastered. The Russian Futurists international profile saw them become UK-label mates with The Go! Team and The Pipettes, spawn a whirlwind experience that put them on a UK tour with Peter, Bjorn & John, North American dates with long time friends Caribou and Junior Boys and playing to 10000 fans at the Mada Festival in Brazil, while receiving acclaim and praise from the likes of NME, Clash, Spin, Time Out London, BBC, and X-FM. All the while producer-songwriter singer Matt Hart was remixing the likes of Stars, Sloan, Sally Shapiro, Dykehouse, Shout Out Louds, and Cadence Weapon.

Born and bred in the cold and lonely Ontario, border-town of Cornwall, and raised on hockey [“loving the Leafs is like being in love with a terrible woman”] Matt found comfort in the simplicity of AM Radio. “There are (The Russian Futurists) songs that were produced to sound like they belonged there. I used to sit up at night and drink a bottle of red wine and listen to AM to get inspired. My roommates used to think I was kind of a weirdo when they would walk into my room at 2 am and find me drunk listening to ‘Buttons & Bows’. I would like to end up on AM when I’m old and grey.”

Surprisingly, Hart’s roots as a producer and arranger lie not in Pop. “I was a compulsive Hip Hop producer from age 13 to 19,” he admits, “and would finish a completed Hip Hop track, from start to finish, every day after school” This interest is still evident in the Russian Futurists’ electronic rhythms, but a passion for the Pop music of his childhood (Abbey Road was a prominent obsession) is the heart of The Russian Futurists. “When I eventually began to try to make music other than beats it wasn’t my intention to make Pop. It just came out. I felt I was being stifled by Hip Hop and wanted to experiment with melody.”

Hart constructs his songs under the ongoing influence of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson “He showed me that Pop was able to be listenable and experimental at the same time”, Fleetwood Mac “They taught me how to be dramatic, plus I just love their music” Honesty shines through in all of The Russian Futurists’ songs – all the more remarkable for them having been conceived in Matthew Hart’s bedroom. Hart cheekily describes his sound as a result of “trying to make all of my songs huge, ambitious productions on very limiting and awful equipment.”