The Matinee September 14th is in reverse alphabetical order so that a band we’ve featured often gets their chance to be at the top (granted, they’ve always had a special place in our hearts). The mini-playlist features a wide-range of genres, from old-school R&B and soul to smooth dream-pop, catchy indie-rock, and alt-country. There is also a fantastic track from one of indie’s “bad boys.”
Yumi Zouma – “Half Hour” (Christchurch, New Zealand)
RIYL: Toro y Moi, Wet, Pr0files
Even the most ardent non-dream-pop fan would admit that Yumi Zouma‘s music possesses super-natural powers. The Kiwi band have an uncanny ability to write songs that are sensual and relaxing, stimulate gentle dancing or swaying, and yet enrapture us with beautiful stories. Adding to their legend is “Half Hour”, which displays another side of the band.
This romantic number is more ambient in its execution than previous songs, but it is absolutely sublime. It feels like a dream coming to life as the delicate instrumentation gradually builds into a chest-swelling crescendo. Christine Simpson’s voice has never sounded as rich and stunning as she reveals her longing for someone from her past. The song is indeed a splendid dream come true and revealed in only a way Yumi Zouma can achieve.
“Half Hour” is taken from the quartet’s forthcoming new album, Willowbank. The LP is due October 6 from Cascine, with pre-orders on Bandcamp. The band heads out on a brief North American tour starting October 18th in Los Angeles. Details can be found here.
Yumi Zouma are Christie Simpson, Charlie Ryder, Josh Burgess, and Sam Perry.
Verandan – “Gold in the Hills” (Helsinki, Finland)
RIYL: Belle and Sebastian, Joe Jackson, Amason
Every country has their own version of a “super-group”, and Finland’s version is about to release their debut EP next month. That band is Verandan, which was started by Ville Hopponen of Cats on Fire and The New Tigers. He is joined by Aleksi Peltonen (Puunhalaaja), Aki Pohjankyrö (Black Twig, LOVE SPORT), Kaarlo Stauffer (Black Twig), and Sampo Seppänen (Sofa Pets, Kynnet). If you are unfamiliar with any of these groups, look them up. But first, check out Verandan’s first single, “Gold in the Hills.”
With the bubbling buoyancy of Belle and Sebastian and the classic ’80s synth sounds of Joe Jackson, “Gold in the Hills” is a delicious slice of art-pop. Modern yet retro, the song recalls a time when music was cinematic, dramatic, and inspiring. Hopponen’s vocals have a remarkable similarity to B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch, and the song’s quiet urgency echoes the Scottish greats’ music. And just like how Belle and Sebastian’s music tends to make us feel, you’ll either find yourself dancing to this catchy track, clapping in tune, or possibly even running to the hills to see the sun fade over the horizon.
The song is taken from Verandan’s self-titled debut EP, which arrives October 9th via Soliti.
Son Little – “O Me O My” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Michael Kiwanuka, Leon Bridges, Bill Withers
Aaron Earl Livingston, better known as Son Little, is one of the most criminally underrated artists of the modern era. The Philadelphia native’s talents are limitless. From rock and soul to R&B and blues, everything Livingston touches is gold. His latest single is a perfect reflection of his genius.
“O Me O My” recalls the powerful soul and R&B music of the ’60s, which arose during the height of the Civil Rights movement. The song’s dark but groovy melody is captivating, and the instrumentation – particularly the shallow guitars and the classic drum line – is fantastically executed. Livingston’s songwriting, however, steals the show. Like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye before him, Livingston unabashedly tackles how the world has become a scarier place for many and how it feels like we’ve gone back in time.
“Seems like everywhere you go around the globe another terror awaits
And no matter what you change all the pain and everything stays the same
O me O my”
Smut – “Video Cell” (Cincinnati, OH USA)
RIYL: Wolf Alice, Honeyblood, Dinosaur Jr.
America, you finally have a band that can stand toe-to-toe with Wolf Alice and deliver fiery, infectious rockers plus write songs that entertain and challenge our perceptions of reality. Get to know Smut quickly, because the Cincinnati quintet are on the fast track to indie stardom. Helping their cause is their latest single, “Video Cell”, which is an absolute firecracker of an indie-rock tune.
The song starts off innocently enough and the guitar work at times echoes Dinosaur, Jr. But listen to Tay Roebuck’s lyrics closely: she’s perfectly captured people’s addiction to their mobiles/cellphones and the incessant desire to be noticed. “She listens to the dial tone like a lullaby,” she says early on.
The second half of the track is a different story, as Smut unleash a maelstrom of noise. The guitars are viciously loud and anthemic, the rhythms burst like fireworks, and the wailing harmonies of Roebuck and Bell Cenower are angsty and urgent. They shout out in vain as if they are attempting to unshackle themselves from the virtual life:
“Trying to ignore it
Forget the way it sounded
Swallowed in the sunset”
Smut are Tay Roebuck, Andrew Min, Sam Ruschman, Chris Campbell, and Bell Cenower.
Ruler – “Keep Moving” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Willie J. Healey, Matt Kivel, Matt Nathanson
We’ve been sitting on this song from Matt Batey – a.k.a. Ruler – for some time. There is no excuse for waiting this long to finally share it. Better late than never, right? The Seattle-based singer-songwriter is an underrated talent whose indie pop-rock style is akin to Matt Kivel and Kyle Craft with touches of Kevin Morby and Trevor Sensor. One day very soon he’ll reach similar heights, especially if he continues to share songs as fantastic as “Keep Moving.”
The first two minutes and fifteen seconds are terrific as Batey hooks the listener with a catchy, percussion-driven melody that echos The Dodos. His soft vocals further keep us further invested, as he sings about never giving up and the power of resilience. He tells us:
“You shouldn’t have sold your soul / You shouldn’t have given up“
The song then intensifies, and its final thirty seconds are stupendous. He victoriously hollers, “It came at you like nothing at all”, indicating that despite all the mistakes, redemption has been achieved. Let “Keep Moving” be your song for the rest of 2017, a reminder of what was and what is to come.
The single is available on Bandcamp.
Keep Shelly in Athens – “Dark Light” (Athens, Greece)
RIYL: Alice Glass, HEALTH, Nite Jewel
In an era where copying others and sticking with a proven formula is considered art, Keep Shelly in Athens are bucking the trend. Let us correct ourselves – the duo have completely thrown out that philosophy with the trash and created their own. They are constantly reinventing themselves, and their new single is a continuation of their evolution.
Fasten your seat belts, put on the sunglasses, and take a deep breath, because “Dark Light” will batter your mind while possibly causing convulsions. This tune is a trip into the absolute darkest regions of your mind. Founding member and producer RPR sets the tone with his heavy, brooding soundscape. It is like the arrival of a fierce storm, and the song’s sky is occasionally brightened by flashes of saxophone. Australian singer and poet Jessica Bell’s vocals, meanwhile, are edgy but lush and hypnotic. Her tale is exactly how the song feels – about feeling powerless, controlled by someone else, and with no escape to be found. Broodingly awesome is the best way to describe this song.
Keep Shelly in Athens’ new album, Philokalia, is out September 29th via their Athenian Aura label. Pre-orders are available on their website.
Holiday Ghosts – “Can’t Bear To Be Boring” (Falmouth, England)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, Dick Diver, Kurt Vile
It’s safe to say by now that Holiday Ghost are one of our favorite discoveries of 2017. They wowed us with their debut single, “In My Head”, and then had us in a rocking good mood with “Quiet Carriage”. Their new single once again has us in a jubilant mood.
“Can’t Bear To Be Boring” is a fun, feisty, and absurdly outrageous song. It is part garage-rock and part folk-rock. Drummer Katja Rackin takes the lead on vocals this time, and her voice and style are akin to Courtney Barnett and her quick sing-speak style. And like the Aussie indie giant, Rackin’s storytelling is amusing and creative, but immensely real. Whereas she tackled anxiety and depression on “In My Head”, her focus this time is on a person’s frustration with their situation and how they feel powerless and hopeless.
Musically, this song is a riot. Samuel Stacpoole’s guitar work is terrific, particularly in the second half of the song where the jangly notes take center stage. Charlie Murphy is the classic bass player, staying in the background and allowing the old-school rhythms do their part in creating an infectious groove.
The band is comprised of Samuel Stacpoole, Katja Rackin, and Charlie Murphy. More people need to follow them, as they’re on the verge of a major breakout.
Destroyer – “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood” (Vancouver, Canada)
RIYL: New Order, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen
There’s no question that Dan Bejar – or better known under his pseudonym Destroyer – is a recluse who will unexpectedly show up but prefers to stay in the shadows and out of the spotlight. The problem with this is that Bejar is one of the most brilliant songwriters of the past 20 years. The man is a genius who has few (if any) peers, and this opinion is further validated on “Tinseltown Swimming In Blood”.
Sit back, relax, and appreciate the creative brilliance of the song. Bejar has merged the sonic grooviness of New Order with the jazz-pop of Leonard Cohen into one spectacular number. The synth-work is out of the ’80s while the infusion of the horns gives the song the vibe of an underground SoHo club. His storytelling is also akin to the late Montreal legend, where he takes us inside the mind of a man who loses himself in the bright lights of Hollywood. This could be the story of anyone seeking to be a star but who only finds disappointment.
We doubt we will be disappointed by Bejar’s new album, ken, when it arrives October 20th via Merge Records / Dead Oceans. Pre-order and streaming links are here. Destroyer’s upcoming European tour begins in mid-November while his North American run (of only five dates so far) starts January 10.
Caroline Reese – “Ease My Mind” (Townsend, MT via Reading, PA, USA)
RIYL: Brandi Carlile, Kathleen Edwards, Kacey Musgraves
A decade ago a young woman named Kathleen Edwards was the talk of the alt-country scene. Ryan Adams was a big supporter of her music, and her stories about ordinary, Canadian life resonated with people around the world. She was on the quick path to super-stardom. However, she set aside the music career to open a cafe in Stittsville, a suburb of Ottawa. Although there have been some great alt-country singers to pass through (e.g., Margo Price, Kacey Musgraves), we finally have a worthy successor to Edwards’ crown. Her name is Caroline Reese.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, but now calling the small municipality of Townsend, Montana, home, Reese is a throwback artist. There aren’t any special bells and whistles to her music. It’s just good, honest alt-country songs that are carried by spectacular songwriting. Her latest single, “Ease My Mind”, is a perfect illustration of her talents and approach.
The melody is familiar as it dates way back to when Lucinda Williams was starting out, but familiarity means comfort. The twangy steel and acoustic guitars are cool and warm, and the rhythms have the trademark country-folk, head-nodding vibrancy. Reese’s voice is soft yet assured, and her intimate storytelling is a mix of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Jane Austen. Essentially, this is a story of a young girl growing up to explore the world and find herself. Fortunately for us, Reese has landed just in time to renew our faith in the alt-country scene.
Her new EP, Two Horses, is out tomorrow (September 8th). Get it on Bandcamp.
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