Trying to pick the songs for The Matinee March 9th edition was excruciatingly difficult. The quality of music so far this year has been astounding. In the end, these nine singles stood out.
Adna – “Closure” (Berlin, Germany via Sweden)
RIYL: Daughter, London Grammar, The xx
At just 21 years old, Adna is preparing for the release of her third album next week. Think about this for a moment. Most artists would struggle to write enough songs to release a single album by the time they’re 25 let alone three albums in their early twenties. This accomplishment reflects the immense talent of the Swedish-born, Berlin-based singer-songwriter, who has been compared to Bon Iver and Daughter. Her new single, “Closure”, further validates why many believe she’s a star in the making.
The song is a devastatingly stark yet stunning dark-folk number. Adna’s vocals are delicate yet spellbinding, as she guides us through the mind of a woman trying to overcome a tragic loss. “Are you somewhere else now?”, she desperately asks, hoping for an answer. The only reply is that of the heart-pounding rhythms, the dabbles of the piano, and the crystalline notes of a distant guitar. The song is pure magic. It is the essence of beauty captured in sound.
Adna’s third album, Closure, will be released on March 17th via Swedish indie label Despotz Records.
Alex Napping – “You’ve Got Me” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Car Seat Headrest, Alvvays, Frankie Cosmos
SXSW is around the corner, and one band people must see is Alex Napping. The Brooklyn-based quartet are riding a wave of positive reviews for their dynamic sound and awesome live shows. When their sophomore album, Mise En Place, arrives May 5 via Father/Daughter Records, we anticipate their star to explode. The second single from the LP, “You’ve Got Me”, is all the evidence needed.
The song is a fantastic marriage of the lush, jangle-pop of Alvvays and the gnarly indie rock of Car Seat Headrest. Frontwoman Alex Cohen’s vocals are sweet as honey throughout while the song spirals from a tender number to raging, reverb-filled rocker. The song is, as Cohen describes, sexual tension. Whatever it may be, this is one of those songs that gives you a false sense of relaxation before blowing your mind at the end. Just simply awesome.
The album can be pre-ordered via the label’s website. Alex Napping are Alex Cohen (lead vocals/guitar), Adrian Sebastian Haynes (guitar), Tomas Garcia-Olano (bass), and Andrew Stevens (drums).
Dream Wife – “Somebody” (Bristol/London, England & Rejkjavik, Iceland)
RIYL: Blondie, Kim Gordon, Siouxsie & The Banshees
On International Women’s Day, Dream Wife made their long-awaited return with a new single that personifies their greatness. Like Blondie in their early days, Kim Gordon, Liz Phair, and Ani Difranco, the English-Icelandic trio have never shied away from tackling tough social issues. On “Somebody”, they take on the misogynistic attitudes that permeate in the music industry.
The post-punk vibes are right out of the ’70s, and the lyrics could have been taken out of Kim Gordon’s song book. Frontwoman Rakel Mjöll’s opening lines are hard-hitting:
You were a cute girl standing back stage. It was bound to happen.
You had a smile across your face. It was bound to happen.
She later than says, I am not my body. I am somebody. In these eight words, she brilliantly captures how women are objectified, how sexual violence is often treated with a shrug of the shoulders, and how far we have to go as a society when it comes to gender and human rights. This is an anthem that should be played every day.
Dream Wife are Rakel Mjöll (lead vocals), Alice Go (guitar/vocals), and Bella Podpadec (bass/vocals).
Michael Nau – “Good Thing” (Cumberland, MD, USA)
RIYL: Leonard Cohen, Phosphorescent, Whitney
When it comes underrated singer-songwriters, Michael Nau is right up there. Whether it is with his main project Cotton Jones or as a solo artist, he has a talent of taking the most simplest of times into something spectacular. His new single, “Good Thing”, is a work of art.
The song echoes the majestic storytelling of Leonard Cohen, as Nau takes us through a day in the life of an ordinary Joe. “Got a good thing going on”, Nau reminds us in these difficult times. Like Cohen, Nau adds wonderful tidbits of poetry, such as “the hills are undressing” and “you can’t fit an ocean where it doesn’t belong”. The old-school folk-rock vibes that echo throughout, meanwhile, are smile-inducing, giving the feel of a bright, sunny, spring day. “Good Thing” is just another example of Nau taking a specific moment and turning it into an immaculate painting.
The Maryland native’s new album, Some Twist, is out June 16th via Suicide Squeeze.
My Expansive Awareness – “Going Nowhere” (Zaragoza, Spain)
RIYL: The Black Angels, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Moon Duo
In December of last year, we were first introduced to the cosmic and gritty neo-psychedelia of My Expansive Awareness. How we missed Spain’s answer to The Black Angels for so long remains a mystery to us. But as the old adage goes, better late than never. And speaking about being late to the party, we’re a little tardy in sharing their latest outputs.
Last month, the Zaragoza-based outfit released their new album, Going Nowhere, and it is straight out of the destitute deserts of Texas. Opening the album is the epic title track. “Going Nowhere” is just a great psychedelic-rock song. The blazing guitars, delirious organ, and the whirling harmonies are reminiscent of the ’70s. All you want to do is lie down, close your eyes, and breathe in the wonderful haze that My Expansive Awareness have concocted. If you’ll be at SXSW, you’ll get a chance to do just that, as the band will be in Austin next week.
Going Nowhere is out via Analog Love Records, and it can be ordered on Bandcamp. My Expansive Awareness are José Briceño (guitar/vocals), Jota García (bass), Lucía Escudero (vocals/percussions), Juan Gracia (drums), and Diego Grau (synth/organ).
North Downs – “Plastic Clouds” (England)
RIYL: Maribou State, Young Fathers, Kele
By now, most people who follow electronica know who North Downs are. If not, do a quick Google search as there are plenty of hints on who they are. This new super-group blew away the internet community with their debut single, “Nothin'”, including us. Now they are about to take 2017 by storm, and their first song of the new year is “Plastic Clouds”.
The song is a multi-layer masterpiece. It is gripping and cinematic. It is stark yet vibrant. The shallow guitar lines and heavy rhythms give the song a mysterious atmosphere, like a gunslinger entering an unknown town for the first time. Yet a hypnotic, tropical undercurrent radiates throughout the track, leaving one’s gaze completely fixated on this stranger as he cross town. Adding to the hallucination is the smooth and tantalizing vocals, who take us across the bridge to lose our minds. To where we are taken is unknown, but we cannot wait to find out what the next destination is.
Saskwatch – “December Nights” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Pond meets The Seratones
Australia is home to the wildest and most innovative psychedelia on the planet, and it’s not even close. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Tame Impala, and Pond are just the tip of the iceberg. Another group of Aussie innovators to know is Saskwatch, the Melbourne-based sextet who have been tantalizing audiences Down Under with their dreamy approach to the genre.
Their new single, “December Nights”, is off-the-charts. The track brilliantly merges funk and soul into a neo-psychedelic delirium. Words like groovy, enchantment, breathtaking, scintillating, and epic come to mind. The best descriptor, though, is that the song is a kaleidoscope, where it encompasses so many textures and elements to masterful effect. Heck, how many psychedelic songs seamlessly integrate the flute, which is the standout instrument on the track? We’ll be adding Saskwatch to our “must-see bands” list.
Saskwatch are Nkechi Anele, Liam McGorry, Rob Muinos, Tom Pettit, Sam Raines, and Olaf Scott. Unfortunately they won’t be at SXSW, but maybe next year.
Sharkmuffin – “Space Glow” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: The Runaways, Ex-Hex, The Coathangers
If you’re old enough to remember The Runaways or watched the Kristen Stewart-starring film, then you’ll recall their ability to create anthemic rock ‘n roll that people could either dance to or just lose their minds. While many bands have attempted to capture their spirit, not many have done so with the success and head-spinning effect as Sharkmuffin (which is just an awesome band name).
For five years, the duo-turned-quartet have blazed a trail across the US, leaving wakes of people in sweaty messes following their frenetic live shows. Even if you cannot catch them live, their music will leave your heart racing and your ears thirsting for more, like “Space Glow”. The lead single from their forthcoming new album, “Space Glow” is a riot and a garage-rock / punk-rock anthem of cataclysmic proportion. It is an absolute adrenaline rush that might have you racing out the door and sprinting down the street. OK, maybe not, but it’ll be the highlight of your day.
Sharkmuffin’s new album, Tsuki, is out May 5 via Little Dickman Records. The band is comprised of Tarra Thiessen (guitar/vox), Natalie Kirch (bass/vox) Drew Adler (drums), and Chris Nunez (guitar). They’ll be at SXSW, so catch them there and then buy them a beverage or a taco afterwards.
WOMPS – “Darling” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: New Order, Joy Division, Psychedelic Furs
A year ago, Scottish duo WOMPS were on track to being the next Japandroids with their combination of searing garage-rock and hair-raising live shows. They were a band that had music listeners across the world extremely excited about, and their popularity, as such, spiked. But instead of staying the course, they have decided to evolve a bit – or at least extend themselves musically. Their new single, “Darling”, is something unexpected but truly dazzling.
Instead of edgy guitars and cataclysmic drums, WOMPS have opted to put the synth at the center of “Darling”. The result is a synth-pop tune that belongs in the ’80s and would fit perfectly in New Order’s Movement. It is a song that isn’t necessary to experience but rather it takes us on one. It takes us back into time where we had our first kiss or to a moment when we met our first true love. Or if you are a younger person just falling in love, spin this tune and you’ll have your mate melting in your arms.
WOMPS will be at SXSW. It will be interesting to see what their live shows will be like now that they have expanded their musical palette.
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