The Matinee November 10th edition is another trip around the world and across music genres. There are some intimate and personal numbers, cathartic political statements, and just some fun tunes. Crack open your favorite beverage and start the weekend with these nine songs.
The Boxer Rebellion – “Love Yourself” (London, England)
RIYL: Frightened Rabbit, Editors, Phosphorescent
When The Boxer Rebellion arrived on the scene some 15 years ago, they were part of the second renaissance of UK indie music, joining the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Editors, Franz Ferdinand, and Wild Beasts in offering an alternative to Brit-pop. Like their peers, Nathan Nicholson, Adam Harrison, Piers Hewitt, and Andrew Smith’s appeal transcended borders as they established strong followings across Europe and North America. For us older music listeners, we’ve grown up with these bands whose songs have been essential parts of our lives. This week, The Boxer Rebellion released a new single that will appeal not just to us thirty- and forty-somethings but hopefully others as well.
“Love Yourself” is another defining moment for the London-based quartet, and it proceeds their political statement, “What the Fuck?” This latest track is much more introspective, yet it will resonate with anyone who has struggled to deal with personal loss. Frontman Nathan Nicholson opens up about his own experiences of the past two decades. He lost his mother when he was a teenager. Six years ago, he and his wife lost their unborn child at twenty weeks. Recently, his father unexpectedly passed away. Like so many people (particularly men), he internalized his emotions and slowly withdrew from others. His struggles consumed him, but he found a way to once again love life and love himself. This is his message, his story in this wonderfully moving number.
Watch the fantastic video as well, which hopefully will inspire people seek help and, as Nathan says, “to love yourself.”
The Boxer Rebellion are proud supporters of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) – a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.
Bryde – “Desire” (London, England via Milford Haven, Wales)
RIYL: Fiona Apple, Jesse Jo Stark, Emma Ruth-Rundle
It has been nearly two years to the day when we were first introduced to Welsh singer-songwriter Sarah Howells’ new project Bryde. Together with Jay Chakravorty, John Harris, and David Delbridge, she aside her folk leanings for a more indie-rock approach. Her original songs were PJ Harvey and Fiona Apple-like in their approach – dark, gritty, and fabulously written. Her latest song, “Desire”, still channels the latter, but there’s a bit more twang.
“Desire” is an anthem for anyone trying to free themselves from the addiction called lust and the need for instant gratification. The throbbing riffs and rhythms give the track a sinister and delirious vibe, as if one is seeking release from self-imposed imprisonment. We’ve all been there before, where love and desire govern our every action and thought – and Howells perfectly describes what happens to us.
“We tie ourselves up
And we tear ourselves down
We paint our faces
And we tear our hair out
For desire. “
Let this song be a warning to us all, and let it be the first step in people recognizing the talent of Bryde. The band’s debut album is coming in the spring of 2018, which we expect will be filled with Howells’ brilliant, observant songwriting.
Dream Lake – “Runaway” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Samaris, Mammút, Beach House
In the mid-1990s to early 2000s, Iceland owned the world of glacial music. Whether it was pop or post-rock or ambient, the small island nation monopolized the genre. This decade, however, has seen Sweden become the place to find enchanting, dreamy music that makes your skin tingle and your mind go blank. One of those bands adding to the Tre Kronor’s reputation is Dream Lake.
The project of vocalist and songwriter Isabella Svärdstam and multi-instrumentalist Niklas Willar Lidholm isn’t new. They’ve been performing together since the start of the decade, but it is only this year where the world has started to discover them (that includes us). The momentum began to build in July when Line of Best Fit premiered their sensual single, “Midnight Sun”. Now like a snowball hurtling down the slopes of Kebnekaise (Swedish tallest mountain), Dream Lake’s impact grows with an even more dazzling number in “Runaway”.
This song is the sound of a moonlit evening in the dead of winter. It is icy and crisp like the air in January, yet it sparkles like the moonlight dancing off the glacial sheen of the snow-covered tundra. Lidholm’s production and instrumentation are masterfully executed, creating the soundscape that makes us believe we are traversing across Lappland alone. Svärdstam’s ethereal voice, though, is our motivation to continue, for she is the one with whom we wish to runaway. Where will go does not matter. It could be Valhalla or further into the Arctic, but all that matters is that we find our final resting place.
The sing is from Dream Lake’s forthcoming new album, Lux, which is out November 24th on NIWI Records.
Mavis Staples – “Build A Bridge” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Mavis Staples (she has no equals!)
While some people prefer to build walls or widen divisions; others, such as the legendary Mavis Staples, prefer to bring people together. Specifically, she prefers to “Build A Bridge”, which is the focus of her fantastic new single.
The song is the second from her forthcoming fifteenth studio album, If All I Was Was Black, which arrives November 17th via ANTI Records (pre-order it here). It continues her return to being a voice for positive change. As the smooth R&B and soul vibe percolates in the background, Staples and her choir turn a political anthem into a hymn for all to sing. There is no finger-pointing nor criticizing in the song, but just a message of hope and optimism.
“When I say my life matters
You can say yours does, too
But I bet you never have to remind anyone
To look at it from your point of view.
Going to build a bridge right over the mountain
Got to build it right over the sea
Going to build a bridge right over the ocean
So you can walk right over to me.”
Here’s hoping the coming months will see everyone take a step forward towards one another instead of furthering the distance.
The Medicine Dolls – “Take The Bitter With The Better” (Cape Town, South Africa)
RIYL: Ty Segall (‘Emotional Mugger’ era), L.A. Witch, The Raconteurs
Note to ourselves – should we ever find ourselves in Cape Town, we’ll need to contact The Medicine Dolls and ask if they’re playing a gig anytime soon. We only learned about them a few months ago when they released the frenetic “Kiss Kiss Kill Me”, but the song immediately grabbed our attention. Their newest tune is another hair-raising number that is just as awesome.
“Take The Bitter With The Better” is a gnarly concoction that sounds like it could have come out of New York City’s underground garage and punk scenes. Heck, if the Medicine Dolls were around in the ’60s and ’70s, they likely would have been regular performers at CBGB with this song landing smack in the middle of their set. It’s raw, gritty, eerie, and just a riot. Too bad we didn’t share this earlier because this would have been the perfect song for Halloween, particularly frontman Greg Allan’s shrilling vocals and the creepy arrangements. This band is awesome. Here’s hoping they go on a global tour!
The band is comprised of Greg Allan (vocals/guitar), Bex Nicholas (bass/backing vocals), and Anro Femurs (drums). They’ll be one of our contenders for our annual favorite hidden gems list.
Oh Pep! – “Half Life” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Land of Talk, Hannah Georgas, Young Summer
Melbourne duo Oh Pep! first enticed us in 2015 with their EP, Living, and then drew us in with the rich and complex Stadium Cake, which was one of our favorite albums of 2016. Some of us have also gotten to know Olivia Hally (guitar/vocals) and Pepita Emmerichs (fiddle/mandolin), whether it was Nick’s band playing with them or the duo spending time in Ottawa. So when hearing their latest single, “Half Life”, our ears perked up because their indie-folk foundations have been substituted for an upbeat pop vibe. Not a lot of bands could pull off such a drastic change, but Oh Pep! are no ordinary group.
“Half Life” is extraordinary. It is an upbeat number that some may mistaken for a Sylvan Esso or Oh Wonder tune or for Canadians they may hear Land of Talk or Hannah Georgas. It’s not what the song resembles, though, that demonstrates the duo’s brilliance, but rather how they develop it. Hally and Emmerichs use the unique sounds of their classical instruments to create this shimmering number. The plucks of the fiddle, for instance, act like electronic beats; the steely fiddle echos the synth; and the drums sound like drums (such a unique thought these days!). Only a handful of artists are able to do this (Andrew Bird, Kishi Bashi, Tall Tall Trees), and they are among the best in the business. So are Oh Pep!
“Half Life” was released for the Australian-based Thirty Days of Yes project that was developed in support the LGBTQI+ community and drive the “Yes” message in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. The compilation, which includes Courtney Barnett, Twerps, and Julia Jacklin, is available on Bandcamp.
Pussy Riot – “Police State” (Moscow, Russia)
RIYL: Sleigh Bells, Warpaint, HAIM
When the world was first introduced to Pussy Riot, it wasn’t due to their music but for what their music represented. At the time, they were a feminist punk band whose membership ranged anywhere from 11 to 33. Their music was powerful, with protest songs against the Russian government and calling for greater liberalization. In 2012, three members – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were arrested and imprisoned for “hooliganism”. Essentially, they had performed a song that was critical of Vladimir Putin.
The band continues to be a driving political force within the music industry as they tackle issues beyond their home country. Last year, for instance, they released “Make America Great Again” about two weeks before the election. The video depicted what a Donald Trump presidency would look like, and boy were they accurate. They’re back again with another highly political track, although they’ve replaced their punk leanings for a surprising noise-pop approach.
“Police State” is powerful and poignant. No specific country is targeted, although we can guess which nations are referred to in the song:
“No problems in paradise
We’ll lock them up
We all got to sacrifice
It won’t be long
Shut the borders
Burn the others
Sons and daughters, and the mothers
Drink the Kool-Aid
It’s a new way
Do what I say.”
The video is a must-see because the images accentuate the band’s message. And yes, the woman playing the law enforcement officer is actress Chloe Sevigny.
Superchunk – “What a Time to Be Alive” (Chapel Hill, NC, USA)
RIYL: Hüsker Dü, Dinosaur Jr., Japandroids
Excuse us for a moment as we enter our time machine and go back to the teenage and university days because Superchunk are back! The ’90s-era college radio favorites were one of the original garage-rock / post-punk bands, paving the way for bands like The Men, Cloud Nothings, and Japandroids to make their marks on the indie scene. And a little unknown fact that people may not know: original members Mac McCaughan (vocals/guitar) and Laura Ballance (bass) are the founders of Merge Records. As such, they know a thing or two about great music. Speaking of which, their newest tune is awesome.
“What a Time to Be Alive” is a classic ’90s garage-rock tune. It’s a straightforward sledgehammer that will have you banging your head, pumping your fist, and playing a mean air guitar. Younger folks, meanwhile, may want to start a little mosh pit, emulating what their parents did over 20 years ago. Yes, we said mosh. Heck, we invented it, just like Superchunk helped create blistering rockers that made us believe in each other. This song, too, will have you feeling the same way, realizing that despite the times there is still much to celebrate.
On February 16th, 2018, Superchunk will unveil their 11th album, What a Time to Be Alive, via Merge Records of course. We cannot wait!
Superchunk are singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan, guitarist Jim Wilbur, bassist Laura Ballance, and drummer Jon Wurster.
Violetta Zironi – “Don’t Make Me A Fool” (London, England via Correggio, Italy)
RIYL: Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions, Norah Jones, Nicole Atkins
After achieving stardom in her native Italy, Violetta Zironi has set her sights on conquering the English music scene. We’ll say it now that she will have no difficulty winning over fans in the UK, US, Canada, and abroad because her honeyed vocals and intimate, June Carter-like songwriting will leave people in awe. She’s not an opera singer, but rather she is the Italian version of Hope Sandoval. This is evidenced on her beautiful new single, “Don’t Make Me A Fool.”
If you blindly press play on this song without seeing her name, you likely would think it was Sandoval singing. At the very least, there’s no way you would have thought Zironi comes from a little town in the Emilia-
Get to know Zironi now because she’ll be at SXSW in March. We’ll be checking her out for sure.
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