The start of satisfaction
To understand a record, to truly comprehend the voice behind its creator and the weight of its creation, is to understand its beginnings. To understand the consequences, intentions and feelings that it was born out of. In the case of Mattiel’s second studio album, Satis Factory, these origins aren’t so clear. With only one previous album to trace her progression, and a day job revealing little about her career in music, Satis Factory is free from the confinements of expectation, and that’s a good thing. Mattiel has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and it is only right that we grant an emerging artist like her, the innocence to get things wrong every once in a while.
The dominating success on Satis Factory is the effortlessness with which Mattiel manages to fuse garage-rock with a kind of ‘Motown-esque’ attitude. It’s beautifully endearing, and almost as though the music was plucked off a ’60s vintage gramophone. There is no doubt that the record belongs with the music of today, but there are certainly aspects of it that lend itself to a time and sound forgotten. It’s not often that an artist as young as her is already able to avoid the pull of pop culture but instead, go back in time to find inspiration, and this is something which she should be applauded for.
After hearing the first release off the album, “Keep The Change,” one can’t help but be reminded of Alabama Shakes and their relentless guitar scratching, as well as the comparable bite and rawness in Mattiel’s voice as that of lead singer, Brittany Howard. Maybe the biggest difference is that Mattiel puts her own lo-fi spin on the music, an interesting partner to the prowess of her vocals. Her unapologetic words are truly the centerpiece of the entire record. “Look at me and finish your food/ with an appetite/ and some gratitude,” spits Mattiel on “Food For Thought,” in a bold display of female empowerment. “Now that you’re grown you can build a table all on your own/ with whomever you decide to be make sure she makes you up a family.” Mattiel makes no space for comfort in her music and speaks with an irreverence that perfectly underpins her authority and reality. “Heck Fire” and “Je Ne Me Connais Pas” bring similar filthiness, and furthermore celebrate the overriding success of Mattiel and her voice.
On the other hand, some downfalls of the album are the lack of variation between tracks. As one approaches the end of the record there’s an obvious need for relief from the otherwise hard-hitting insistence of her music. The album is crying out for a touch of sensitivity, a display of tenderness and while this may not have been what Mattiel had set out to achieve, any sense of diversity would have brought a necessary balance to the record.
Also, it seems that little thought was put into the sequencing of the album. It often felt as if fans were listening between ideas rather than moving seamlessly between tracks that make sense with each other. The closest we get to a sense of subtlety is on “Millionaire,” but it is still not enough of a change to bring respite. The album closer, “Long Division,” also displays a more complex, in-depth composition of sound and would have been the perfect starting point to create an ending of vast proportion, but instead, the song ends with a measly fade out.
Surely there’s more for the finale than a mediocre fade? It comes as quite the anti-climax and begs for greater commitment from the artist. This really does come down to Mattiel’s intentions—where the album comes from. Maybe her persistence is justified, maybe there is method in her arrangement, but if there is, it’s not felt or understood.
In closing, Satis Factory is a confident demonstration of Mattiel’s vocal power and has lyrical relevance in an industry and society still heavily dominated by men. This album will undoubtedly be a huge inspiration to young artists who are aspiring for the same things as her, and with a bit more care, Mattiel can certainly find a unique voice within modern day rock music. This is Mattiel’s origin, her circumstance and her beginning, and most importantly, a hopeful place to learn and grow from.