The Matinee February 21st edition is another full-course buffet of new music. The mini-playlist is littered with alumni who are making their second, third, and even fourth appearance in these parts. Of course, there are new artists to discover, too (heck, they all are still waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world).
Alex the Astronaut – “Rockstar City” (Sydney, Australia and New York City, USA)
RIYL: First Aid Kit, The Tallest Man on Earth, Courtney Barnett
To be a musician, one needs to be fearless. No matter how scared she may be walking up the stage, even at the famous The Bitter End in New York City, she has to be confident. This experience is the setting for Alex the Astronaut‘s brand new single, “Rockstar City.”
Already a “star” in her own right (she’s attending NYU on a soccer scholarship and last year started her own label), Alex Lynn explains that the song is “a postcard home to my Mum about my first gig in New York City.” In her trademark fashion, the song is humorous, unpretentious, and down-to-earth. Lynn’s quick delivery and witty lyricism add to the gung-ho, do-anything, youthful spirit that permeates the song. While Lynn admits she was nervous throughout the 15-minute performance, she came through it with flying colors. Would we expect anything less from this future rock star?
“Rockstar City” is from Alex the Astronaut’s forthcoming EP, To Whom It May Concern. It is out March 31st via her own label, Minkowski Records.
FalseHeads – “TwentyNothing” (East London, England)
RIYL: Nirvana, Estrons, Wolf Alice
“What happened to all the grunge bands?” my friend asked me the other day. It’s a good question, as pop music has infiltrated every genre. One band that still continues to make rock music is FalseHeads, the London-based trio who have been flowing our minds for a couple of years. For their new single, they channel a legendary band to our hearts’ content.
“TwentyNothing” is right out of Nirvana’s Nevermind. It is raw, grungy, and gritty, echoing the music that was being blasted out of the Pacific Northwest in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And like Nirvana’s “In Bloom” and “School,” FalseHeads call out against the establishment and everyone who has tried to suppress the ingenuity and individuality of today’s younger generations. Could Falseheads be the Nirvana for a new era? They certainly can be, but they’ll need to release an album to take the next step.
Also worth checking out is video for the song, which is below:
FalseHeads are Luke Griffiths, Jake Elliott, and Barney Nash.
Freedom Fry – “Junkie” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Peter Bjorn and John, MGMT, Foster the People
One of the bands who won us over in their early days is the wife-husband duo of Marie Seyrat and Bruce Driscoll – or simply Freedom Fry. In the two-plus years we’ve been covering them, they have dazzled us with their wide-ranging music. From anthemic indie pop to soaring Americana ballads to remarkable covers, they have wowed us. And they’re at it again with their new single, “Junkie.”
The song epitomizes how great indie-pop songs can be. “Junkie” is not only an infectious and soaring tune, but it is dramatic and urgent. It is the race against time for one to express his undying love to the person with whom he ought to spend the end of days. The song is the feeling that the world would be incomplete if one didn’t go after what his heart beckoned. “Junkie” is indeed a love song, but one that is like no other.
Lizzie No – “Crying Wolf” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Lucinda Williams, Ali Beletic, Tracy Chapman
If Quentin Tarantino were going to a make a sequel to Django Unchained (he apparently might do a mini-series) or Clint Eastwood wanted to resurrect The Outlaw Josey Wales, then they should look to Lizzie No to write the soundtrack. The Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter is just getting her musical career started, but her debut single is an eye-opener.
Just one listen to “Crying Wolf,” and a young Lucinda Williams calls out. It’s not just the haunting soundscape that No has crafted nor the chill in her voice. Her songwriting – or more accurately her storytelling – is remarkable as she sketches out a story of an unraveling heroine who has lost her way. In just three minutes and twenty-five seconds, No has created an alt-country song that is simply memorable and helping us remember how great this genre once was.
“Crying Wolf” is from No’s forthcoming debut album, Hard Won. It is expected some time this spring.
Mt. Wolf – “The Electric” (London, England)
RIYL: Foals, Archive, Frightened Rabbit
One thing that cannot be said about Mt. Wolf is that they are complacent. The London-based trio are constantly evolving, building upon their electronic and cinematic indietronica early days into a full-force, indie-rock / electronic group. This combination is electrifying, as evidenced by their incredible new single, “The Electric.”
There is not much more to say about this song than to call it a masterpiece. Mt. Wolf have brilliantly incorporated their soaring, ethereal qualities of their early works with the pounding, indie-rock foundations of their current work. The experience is delirious and mind-altering, and all one can do for six-and-a-half minutes is succumb to the breathtaking ecstasy that Mt. Wolf have created. Masterpiece indeed.
Mt. Wolf are Sebastian Fox, Stevie Red McMinn, and Al Mitchell.
Our Man In Berlin – “A Lightbulb Mind” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: Grizzly Bear, The Phoenix Foundation, City Calm Down
It’s been over a year since we’ve heard from Perth-based quintet Our Man In Berlin, who took 2016 off in order to regroup not to mention to live life. The time away, however, has reinvigorated the band, and they are set to deliver a smorgasbord of new music over the next 12 to 18 months. The first song out of the gate is – as they like to say in these parts – a cracker of a number.
Whereas their previous songs were drenched in synth-pop and lush electronic aethestics, their newest single, “A Lightbulb Mind”, sees them aim for the cinematic summit and conquer it. This song is brilliant, and it represents a bold new direction for the band. “A Lightbulb Mind” has all the elements of a memorable tune. It is euphoric yet startling, energetic but suspenseful, and immersive and spell-binding. In other words, it’s just perfect.
Our Man in Berlin are Haydn Mansell, Trevor Shotam, Justin Martins, Cain Munns, and Dan Hawtin.
Pale Waves – “There’s a Honey” (Manchester, England)
RIYL: Warpaint, HAIM, Priest (from Florida)
“Sometimes you just need to hear a great pop tune”, said the same friend who asked about where did all the great grunge bands go. Fortunately yesterday, one of our Artists to Watch in 2017 released their first single of the year, and it is an indie-pop gem.
“There’s a Honey” is a smile-inducing, sun-drenched number right out of a coming-of-age movie from the ’90s. It is warm and stunning, like the perfect kiss goodnight after a memorable first date. But despite the uplifting, shimmering melodies, frontwoman Heather Baron-Gracie tells the tale of heartbreak, desperation, and rejection. In a few words – “I’ll give you my body, but I’m not sure that you want me” – she tells us everything. She makes us feel all of her pain. With more songs like “There’s A Honey”, Manchester will have its next big star.
Pale Waves are Heather Baron-Gracie (vocals/guitar), Ciara Doran (drums), Hugo Silvani (guitar) and Charlie Wood (bass).
PWR BTTM – “Big Beautiful Day” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, The Men
Not many bands have had as trying of a few days as PWR BTTM had in early- to mid-November 2016. On November 8th, they, like so many of us, watched in shock as a “billionaire” won the U.S. presidential election. The next night, their tour van (and much of their gear) was stolen. Then a week later, a handful of anti-gay, asshole protesters picketed outside their gig in Jackson, Mississippi, which interrupted their performance. But instead of feeling defeated and beaten, the duo took matters into their own hands. Well, not physically, but through their artistry.
It started with their brilliant contribution to the 30 Days, 30 Songs compilation, “Vacation.” It continues with the release of their sophomore album later this year. The lead single from the record is “Big Beautiful Day,” which is an outrageous punk-rock tune that is a big middle finger to anyone who has picked on those weaker than them and cursed at those for being different. The song, however, is also a call to arms of the like-minded and for anyone who has been put down, suppressed, and ridiculed for celebrating who they are, or who celebrate our individuality and diversity. Everyone else can, as Ben Hopkins (guitar, vocals) and Liv Bruce (drums, vocals) tell us, fuck themselves.
In case you don’t have a SoundCloud Go account, watch the video to the song below.
“Big Beautiful Day” is taken from PWR BTTM’s forthcoming new album, Pageant, which is out May 12th via Polyvinyl Records (North America) and Big Scary Monsters (Europe). This a band that we need more than ever.
Sarah Klang – “Strangers” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Nadia Reid, Allison Krauss, Tift Merritt
In May of 2016, Sarah Klang left a permanent imprint in our collective psyches with her debut single, “Sleep.” There is her incredible voice, which has a Patsy Cline twang with the power of Adele. Yet her songwriting is akin to LP, as she was able to turn a song into a moving, soul-searching journey. Her second single is equally as memorable as the first.
“Strangers” is a stunning accomplishment from an artist who is just starting to make her mark within the industry. Klang’s vocals remain the standout on the song, but it is much more controlled to give the song a bedroom intimacy. The musicianship is outstanding, turning this alt-country tune into a cinematic and dramatic escapade. It provides the perfect palette to Klang’s story of a couple going in separate directions. “Please don’t tell my secrets to anyone,” Klang begs near the end, offering a taste of the crippling and emotive power of Klang’s songwriting. She’s a star in the making.
The single is out now via Pangur Records.
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