We truly are mining indie music’s hidden gems on The Matinee May 30th edition. Every single one of the nine artists and bands featured below have fewer than 1200 Facebook followers. Some even have yet to hit triple digits and have a very minimal social media presence. That’s how “new” they are, but they deserve your complete attention for creating music that will blow you away.
A.D. Mana – “Take Hold” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Kraftwerk, mid-career Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails / Trent Reznor
Late in 2016, a young producer out of Berlin released an EP that flew under the radar. Maybe we all should have been paying closer attention because on his own A.D. Mana is recapturing the dark brilliance and energy of Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. A song that perfectly reflects his talents and imagination is “Take Hold”.
Like the great industrial and post-punk bands of the ’70s and ’80s, the soundscape Mana has created is harrowing and hypnotic. The production work is militaristic, hammering at our ear drums like a drill sergeant commanding a batch of new recruits. His vocals, however, are intentionally quiet, rising no higher than a whisper because this sonic arena is a place where secrets should never be revealed. Mana, though, is a hidden gem that must be discovered by all. He’s an incredible talent to watch for years to come.
Blackhill – “Stargazers I” (Pula, Croatia)
RIYL: A Place to Bury Strangers, Bloodhounds on My Trail, Ride
We cannot say that we know a whole lot about Blackhill. All we know is that they are a collection of musicians from the beautiful city of Pula, which resides along the Adriatic Sea. Whether this is a hobby or a full-time gig is unknown, but their new single, “Stargazers I”, suggests the group could make the music thing a career.
As the song title suggests, the song is a shoegaze delight. It echoes the underground NYC scene of the late ’90s and early ’00s when bands like A Place to Bury Strangers were keeping alive a genre popularized by My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. But as the genre had fallen off mainstream radio’s radar, shoegaze underwent a transformation. The edgy but swirling guitars, the power riffs, the plummeting rhythms, and the hazy rhythms heard on “Stargazers I” are all signatures of this period of reinvention. Boisterous, searing, and dazzling, this song exemplifies why so many people have gravitated back to shoegaze and why long-time fans like us continue to find it exhilarating.
The second part to this song, “Stargazers II”, will be out in autumn. It will be interesting to hear what the collective has in store.
The Bowdashes – “In Control” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: The Pack A.D., Blood Red Shoes, The Black Keys
A buzz is building around Linn Holm (vocals/guitar) and Nana Nørgaard (vocals/keys/autoharp) for garage-rock / post-punk project The Bowdashes in their home country of Denmark. From receiving significant radio play to opening for Garbage on their recent tour, the duo are on the fast track to national stardom. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to discover this sonic force.
Their new single, “In Control”, is a perfect introduction. Gritty, edgy, and blasting with relentless energy, this song is awesome. The searing guitars are mind-numbing, and the drumming mirrors the throbbing of an aching heart. The vocals – we’re not exactly sure who is singing leads on this one – are piercing, bellowing up with the haunting power akin to Jehnny Beth. After hearing this song (and others), these two women might wish to reconsider changing their name to The Badasses because their music is absolutely gnarly.
Guest Rooms – “Asleep at the Wheel” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Radical Face, Andy Shauf
Tucked away in a corner of Austin, Texas resides singer-songwriter Mason Parva. Along with a few of his friends, he has established Guest Rooms, a music project aims to stun with fantastic songwriting and a delicate, enchanting soundscape. Think Sufjan Stevens and Ben Cooper of Radical Face collaborating, and this is essentially what Parva has created.
One of his latest songs, “Asleep at the Wheel”, demonstrates the beauty and majesty of Guest Rooms. The instrumentation is breathtaking, transporting the listener to a world that if right out of a storybook. Lyrically, however, the song is anything but a fairy tale. Instead, the story is devastating, as Parva recounts the events of an accident and the unexpected passing of a person. The lyrics may be melancholic, but the music is splendid. “Asleep at the Wheel” is, as such, one of those songs that leaves one conflicted – amazed by the splendor of the notes but emotionally devastated by every word. There isn’t any question, however, that this song is brilliant.
Guest Rooms’ EP, Put Me Together, is available now, and it can be heard on SoundCloud. Like this song, the EP focuses on life and its losses, so have the tissues nearby.
Knightingale – “White Shadow” (Singapore)
RIYL: FIDLAR, Wavves, Twin Peaks
Thirteen months ago, we were introduced to Singapore outfit, Knightingale. At the time when we shared “Demons”, we said the trio ” sure know how to create an awesome hook and a mind-blowing song.” Well, they’re back, and they’re continuing to make some catchy punk-rock and garage-rock.
Their new single, “White Shadow”, is a barn-burning, unrelenting mind-bender. It blazes with the intensity of FIDLAR while having the “je-ne-sais-quoi” attitude of Twin Peaks. Even the harmonies on the song are quite outstanding, revealing that this young trio have really matured and grown in just over a year. If they were based out of New York or Chicago, these guys would be on nearly every festival lineup. In the meantime, they’ll be our hidden gem, although we think they’ll be invited to play SXSW and other similar festivals in the not-so-distant future.
Knightingale are Ashwin Rao (guitar/vocals), Ben Ho (guitar/vocals), and Rajiv Singh (drums).
Lemony Kravitz – “Hypnic Jerk” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Morgan Delt, Temples, a subdued Thee Oh Sees
Another band that we know very little about is Lemony Kravitz. Heck, this might be the bedroom project of a dude or dudette living in Melbourne. There are two things that we can say. First, Lemony Kravitz has a sense of humor. The byline on their social media is, “administering citrus oxide”. Awesome. The first post on their Facebook page includes the following phrase, “enter the lemon”. Brilliant! Second, the band’s debut single, “Hypnic Jerk”, is some fine psychedelic pop, which is more sweet than sour.
The song is a little spacey, a little hazy, and completely delirious. It’s basically a three-minute and twenty-two second trip, where no acid nor mushrooms are require. Really, no other substance is necessary because the kaleidoscope of sound and textures is hallucinating by itself. Combine that with vocals that feel like one’s subconscious, and one will be seeing pastel colors and flying animals in her dreams. The song is fun, whimsical, and just a blast. Enter the lemon, indeed! And we never want to leave.
Linn Koch-Emmery – “Forever Sounds” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Warpaint, Black Honey, Lucia
Who will be the next great music export from Sweden? There are no shortage of candidates, and we’ve featured many of them (Cajsa Siik, Wy, and many others). If you’re the betting type, you might wish to put money down on Linn Koch-Emmery.
While she has been described as a blend between Courtney Barnett and The Strokes, she reminds us of Warpaint when they first started and current UK darlings Black Honey. Her song, “Forever Sounds”, for instance, is an indie pop-rock gem. Like the aforementioned bands’ music, this song is immensely catchy, as the wails of the guitars and Koch-Emmery’s lush vocals explode out of the speakers. An assertiveness, however, percolates beneath the surface, giving the track a bit of fire and edge. This is the sound of a young woman’s confidence oozing out from the song, as if she is telling everyone, “I am here!” And as Koch-Emmery repeatedly says in the final minute, this number will be “always on my mind”. Now this is an introduction to a rising talent.
“Forever Sounds” is out now via Welfare Sounds & Records.
Nathan Xander – “Over You, Over Me” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: José González, Kevin Morby, Justin Townes Earle
There is always time to set aside a few minutes and just be swept away by a song. It is even better when you can cozy up right next to a loved one while an open fire burns a few feet away. If you’re in that kind of mood, then we have just the song for you. Correction, singer-songwriter Nathan Xander has just the song for you.
Based out of New York, Xander’s new single, “Over You, Over Me”, feels like it was written on a ranch in the Texas hinterland. It is a warm, intimate, and beautiful folk / Americana tune, and you’ll either fall in love all over again or long for the one that got away. With the combination of Xander’s gravelly vocals, the smooth instrumentation, and personal songwriting, the words “instant classic” will be written on this fabulous song. We might be saying the same thing when his new album, Blue House, arrives July 17th. Trailer Fire Records will release it.
Twin Oaks – “Collapse” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Pr0files, Cathedrals, Zola Blood
Sometimes we luck out with a song that is the perfect closer to our mini-playlist. A song so lush and beautiful that you want to spin it and every preceding track again and again. This song is “Collapse”, which is the latest single by duo Twin Oaks.
Comprised of Lauren Brown (vocals/guitar) and Aaron Domingo (guitar/programming/keys), Twin Oaks are following in the footsteps of fellow Los Angeles-based bands Pr0files and GEMS in creating music that is breathtakingly cinematic. The spatial darkness that occupies “Collapse” is mesmerizing, as the tinges of the electric guitar and the cosmic production fill the air. Brown’s supple vocals, meanwhile, take the track beyond the heavens and into new galaxies, casting a spell with each word she utters. She is the Pied Piper, and Domingo is the instrument. Together, they hypnotize and take us to unforeseen places. If you can hear a collective sigh, that is the exhilaration being expressed by everyone who has come across to this gorgeous single.
If you would like to experience more of Twin Oaks’ breathtaking majesty, their new EP arrives this Friday, June 2nd.
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