By Devon Chodzin ’19
After a particularly illustrious few years on records and on tour with Elvis Depressedly, Mathew Lee Cothran has put out another tape under his self-titled solo project via Joy Void Recordings. Cothran dedicated this tape, Judas Hung Himself in America, to his recently departed grandfather and father figure. The tape itself is as beautiful as it is haunting. Several tracks ask unanswerable questions: Where does our shame go while we sleep? (“Judas in America”) How do I give in with grace? (“Liquor Store”) You could move a mountain, but where would it go? (“Who Did Pull the Pin of the People?”) Likewise, Cothran uses Judas as a platform to grapple with his recent sobriety, especially in the tracks “Cherry High” and “Liquor Store.” In all, I’d say Judas is concrete proof that some of the most prolific artists create some of their most resonant works in the midst of immense trials and tribulations.
Throughout, Cothran plays with a thought experiment he concocted in regards to his conception of America. “I had this idea in my head that America was sort of grown out of the shame of the world,” noted Cothran, in an interview with Tom Johnson from GoldFlakePaint. “America Forever” plays with this notion that America is the geographic embodiment of people lashing out after feeling shame. In “Let Me Know (Wild Life)” and “Not Mend,” Cothran adds extra artistry with some Lil Yachty-inspired vocal warping as he ruminates on mortality. That manipulation carried through in “Liquor Store” and is reminiscent of Lil Wayne’s short lived rap-rock career. That career was, admittedly, a little niche for Wayne, but honestly, it laid a foundation for artists between rap and rock to toy with each other. Cothran navigates the interstices of genre, I’d say, better than Wayne.
I think “Judas in America” might be my favorite track off this tape. In “Judas,” Cothran layers almost falsetto-level vocal manipulations with a more morose recording. Cothran almost sounds as if he is singing a lullaby. The lyrics are just as haunting, honestly, as most lullabies.
However, I especially have to give credit to “Who Did Pull the Pin of the People?” Fans and critics laud this track for echoing the existential inquiry, “You could move a mountain, but where would it go,” and answering only with more questions. This track is especially innovative in its layering. The individual layers wax and wane, crescendo and decrescendo, and ultimately end when Cothran finally utters, “no.”
This is not a tape to miss. Judas Hung Himself in America is an exclusive backstage pass into the mind of one of the most prolific artists in the DIY scene today. This tape puts his direct namesake right alongside the successes of Coma Cinema and Elvis Depressedly and does so beautifully.
You can listen to the whole tape right here: