Max Gowan's Humble Mumble
"Max has transplanted himself in D.C., a megalith of a city, and his lyrics reflect this transient existence. Mass Transit is about attempting to make sense of the movement of college, it is about trying to set roots on ever-shifting topsoil, and it is about feasting upon shredded sharp cheddar."
Max Gowan is a 19 year old Raleigh native currently living in Washington D.C., attending college and producing music - good music - in his dorm room. I first met Max Gowan in the subterranean cafeteria of American University, a prestigious institution nestled in the urban sprawl of D.C. While visiting a friend, I shared a meal with Max and a few of his compatriots.
As memory serves, the food court was abuzz with student activity and somewhere in the middle of all the hustle, I noticed a strange occurrence. To my surprise, a few tables over from our own, a student sat alone and feasted on what appeared to be a plate of nothing but shredded cheese – cheddar, by the looks of it. No fork, no chop sticks, no regrets; bare-handing the off-yellow mound he was.
Whether or not this was a product of the brain drain brought upon by a laborious study session or perhaps just the nature of this young man, one thing was clear: amongst the stampede of rushing, depraved students confusedly slopping mush onto their plates, this young man knew exactly what he wanted, he wanted cheese and he got it. I may be stretching an analogy here, but it would seem that this search for meaning in the slip stream of college life is what Max Gowan tries to find in his recently released LP, Mass Transit.
Mass Transit is the second full length release from Mr. Gowan. Beginning in late 2015 Max went to work on Mass Transit, recording all vocals and instrumentation himself in various dorm rooms, trying hard to, I’m sure, filter out all extraneous noise emulating from the atypical college dorm facility. What Max is doing in terms of his method (self-recording) is not something new, it has been done before. However, what separates Max from the throngs of jizz-jazz jingle pop crooners so often associated with DIY projects is his excellent production.
Mass Transit is a crisp and sprawling LP sounding like a cross between late career Elliott Smith (see A Fond Farewell) and early era The Shins (see New Slang). As with the rest of his approach, Mass Transit is completely self-produced, again, in a dorm room with modest equipment.
Stand out tracks are not difficult to find with the album’s second track, Avent Ferry, offering a steady, pulsing beat interspersed by brilliant guitar work and Saturday Afternoon evoking a lackadaisical ride down the Potomac. Other highlights include Mr. Turnaround, Sorted Out, and the short but sweet gem, Hologram.
Max has transplanted himself in D.C., a megalith of a city, and his lyrics reflect this transient existence. Mass Transit is about attempting to make sense of the movement of college, it is about trying to set roots on ever-shifting topsoil, and it is about feasting upon shredded sharp cheddar. Much like the young man and his prize dairy dish, Max finds his niche on Mass Transit, embracing his kraft, he is comfortable here and his efforts show. Sadly due to a snafu with a shady record distributor there exist no physical copies of the album, but I implore you to listen to Mass Transit, which is available on Spotify or BandCamp. As his notoriety grows, Max Gowan tiptoes on the precipice of fame and I can’t imagine there’s any place he’d rather be. Do not miss out on this album.