City Paper is not for tourists
Standout Track: No. 10, “Silver,” an achingly beautiful song about aging lovers that’s very much in a Radiohead vein. Matthew Hemerlein, 25, sings plaintive melodies and dissonant harmonies like Thom York minus the whine, and he accompanies himself on violin, cello, upright bass, and guitar. A static-filled breakbeat keeps the sonorous strings from becoming too pretty.
Musical Motivation: One morning, before teaching a full day of guitar lessons, Hemerlein descended into the soundproofed basement of his Bloomingdale group house and recorded “Silver” in just a few takes. “It wasn’t a premeditated song at all; everything was done exceptionally fast,” he says. Lazy, jazzy triplets on the bass formed the foundation of the song, and the bittersweet lyrics quickly followed: “Don’t let me be the one to hold you back/I’ll be the one who’s blind with cataracts,” Hemerlein sings.
Creative Theft: What nearly did hold Hemerlein back, however, was the fact that his laptop was stolen just as he was getting ready to put together his first album. He left it on the subway at L’Enfant Plaza; the hard drive contained all of Hemerlein’s songs in various states of completion. Though the computer never turned up, Hemerlein was able to recover many MP3s of rough cuts he’d emailed to friends or saved to his iPhone. But because they were not WAV files, Hemerlein couldn’t rework or revise them, leaving him with an album that he’s not fully satisfied with. However, “Silver” is the one song Hemerlein says he would not have touched. “It emerged from my head pretty much already done,” he says.
Matthew Hemerlein plays Friday, Nov. 20, at Sova