Best known as the core two-fifths of The Burning Hell, Ariel and Mathias released their debut album as a duo through Headless Owl Records. It’s called Don’t believe the Hyperreal.
The couple have gone daringly soft and charming for an album of lyrically endearing love songs, that few others could have pulled off so well. To quote a line from the album’s hit single, “Love songs are dumb, [but] wait ‘til you hear these ones.”
They pull it off by being too sincere and clever to be cheesy, and by setting the words to music more moody and broody than the candied-up pop songs, or the twangy country singalongs we’re accustomed to when we hear the D word.
In doing so, they’ve taken the classic duet tradition into their loving arms and transformed it to meet their own musical stylings, featuring Burning Hell signatures like Sharratt’s clarinet, and Kom’s lyrical prowess. The lyrics are too perfect to be anything but authentic and fetching, which is no surprise: if there’s one Canadian songwriter out there rivalling John K. Samson for Canada’s best lyricist, it’s Mathias Kom.
Given the bareboned acoustic nature of the album, the lyrics really did need to matter on this album, and they do. They’re like fabulous short stories set to music that knows not to get in the way of the words. In short, the album achieves its goal of exploring the transformative power of love, for better and for worse, and will leave listeners longing for an epic +1 in their lives, or appreciating the person currently co-piloting their lives.
The album cover is full of famous couples – Ross & Rachel, Lennon & Yoko, Homer & Marge — and speaking of covers, one of the album standouts is a cover song, Blimp Rock’s “The Love that Treats You Right.”
“I love all of Blimp Rock’s songs,” says Kom, “but I think that one is actually my favourite breakup song ever written, and as someone who used to write a whole lot of breakup songs (with Kim Barlow, for our band, Spring Breakup) I suppose I couldn’t resist.”
Another standout is “Eugene and Maurice,” based on the “true lives and even truer love of illustrator/author Maurice Sendak and his lifelong partner, the psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn.” Maurice is the author of Where the Wild Things Are.
“I’ve always found the story of Eugene & Maurice’s romance very moving,” says Kom. “First, they lived through some especially momentous and difficult times in the history of LGBT rights in North America; Maurice never even told his own parents of their 50+ year relationship.
“Second, in their respective fields of psychoanalysis and children’s literature, they were both deeply concerned with the impacts that human beings can have on one another, for good and bad.”
Also on the album is “Fuck the Government, I Love You,”: the semi-autobiographical story of how Mathias and Ariel met at a party. It’s one of the best songs of the fall of 2015. Check out the video for it below. A band version of this track will appear on The Burning Hell’s forthcoming album, Public Library (2016).