This week we’ve changed the schedule a bit, so there won’t be a Melodic Tonic. Instead, The Matinee ’18 February 21st edition is today’s spotlight on new music. Due to the last-minute change, the descriptions are tighter than usual, and we would like to send our apologies to the artists and bands that the shorter pieces. For readers and listeners, we hope you enjoy this multi-dimensional mini-playlist.
Band of Gold – “Well Who Am I” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Multi-genre, alt-pop experimentalists
For those who follow the Norway music scene already know that Band of Gold, the duo comprised of Nina Mortvedt and Nikolai Hængsle, won the prestigious Nordic Music Prize in 2015. Their self-titled debut LP beat the likes of Björk and Jenny Hval. Now that’s an accomplishment to highlight on your résumé! The two are back with a new song that puts them on the path for even greater recognition.
With “Well Who Am I”, Band of Gold deliver a song that sounds like a collaboration between St. Vincent on guitar, ’90s disco-pop artist Deee-Lite on lead vocals, and Merrill Garbus (a.k.a. tUnE-yArDs) doing the arrangements and beats. This funky, groovy, ear-popping bit of alt-pop experimentalism is absolutely superb and – should we say it? – a delight. You won’t be getting this tune out of your head anytime soon.
Beat Degeneration – “Feet In The Sand” (Italy)
RIYL: The Academic, Tokyo Police Club, Avalanche Party
There must be something in the air or water in Italy because there is no shortage of bands creating anthemic tunes that make you smile. The latest addition to add to your library is Beat Degeneration, a young trio who describe their music as “slacker power-pop”. We’re not quite sure that means, but their new single, “Feet In The Sand”, is flat out fun.
Just like the title would suggest, the tune feels like summer. The surf-pop-rock grooves will have you swaying from side-to-side while their lyrics will make you think of falling in love for the first time. Aah, this song makes us feel young, innocent, and idealistic again. It also wants us to rock out like we were 18 years old. Those were the days!
“Feet In The Sand” is the lead single from the band’s new album, Searching for Some Heaven, which arrives April 20th on Jigsaw Records. The band consists of Guido Giorgi (vocals), Piero Pecchi (bass), Diego Dal Bon (drums), and Liviano Mos (keys).
Ellevator – “Hounds” (Hamilton, Canada)
RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Eleanor Friedberger, Stars
It’s surprising to learn that long-time indie band Ellevator will release their debut EP in two months. Specifically, their eponymous EP arrives April 20th via Arts & Crafts. While they’ve hovered under the radar on a global level, hopefully this year international listeners (and even Canadians) will embrace their artistry, such as heard on “Hounds”.
As with almost everything they’ve done before, “Hounds” is a warm and intimate indie-rock number that approaches Broken Social Scene levels. Each element is precisely executed – from the deliberate tinges of the electric guitar to the echo of the rhythms in the background. The arrangements provide the perfect canvas for Nabi Sue Bersche’s enrapturing vocals and startling admission of fighting demons or hounds inside her. The song is a plea for help, as she sings, “Calling for somebody to heal me. Calling, calling for, calling for somebody to fix me.” People better get in the queue because this could be the year Ellevator rise to the penthouse of Canada’s music scene.
In addition to Nabi Sue Bersche, the band is also comprised of Elliott Gwynne, Michael Boyd, and Tyler Bersche.
Exitmusic – “I’ll Never Know” (Brooklyn & Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Portishead, Phantogram, London Grammar
For over a decade, Aleksa Palladino and Devon Church crushed the hearts of thousands of fans, including us (many of us have been fans since the beginning), with their ambient, soul-churning electronica project, Exitmusic. It’s been more than half-a-decade, however, since they graced us with new songs, and yesterday they came out of the shadows.
“I’ll Never Know” is stunning. For those being introduced to Exitmusic for the first time, sit down and take a deep breath because this song will dazzle you and take your mind to distant places in our galaxy. It is pure escapism that only Palladino and Church could create.
While one love affair is rekindled, another one comes to the end. With the release of this song and their forthcoming new album, Recognitions, which is out April 20th via Felte, the duo announced that their marriage had come to an end. The two have gone their separate ways, and their fourth full-length documents their separation, their pain, and their mutual love for one another. There’s no word on whether they will continue as musical partners; however, their 15-year history does provide us with a hint of what to expect. Their exit will be memorable and talked about for years to come.
False Heads – “Retina” (East London, England)
RIYL: FEHM, Shame, Nirvana
The band we have incorrectly spelled on multiple occasions are back. We have spelled False Heads in three ways – as a compound word in lower case and with the “F” and “H” capitalized and now this version. One thing we did get right is sticking with the Essex/London trio since they first arrived two years ago (and they’ve stuck with us despite the misspellings). It’s pretty easy to be fans of a band who mix post-punk, grunge, and alt-rock into a sublime cocktail, like what False Heads have done again with “Retina”.
The Nirvana influences can easily be recognized, particularly in the middle portion of the song. Yet on this track, the post-punk elements are more front and center, as the song drips with the hypnotic darkness of fellow Brit bands FEHM and Shame. As such, this awesome tune – and Luke Griffiths’ harrowing lyrics about being imprisoned inside one’s mind and society writ large – will haunt your mind for days. Get to know Griffiths, Jake Elliott, and Barney Nash, who are one of the UK’s most exciting young bands. The best way to do this is to see them in concert, as they’ll be off on a mini-tour starting Friday. Dates and information are here.
High Up – “Domino” (Omaha, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Antibalas, The Sugarmen 3
It was only three weeks ago when Christine and Orenda Fink (the latter of Azure Ray fame plus her own solo work) and Josh Soto – who together form High Up – delivered an instant classic with “Alabama to the Basement”. Now with their debut album, You Are Here, literally right around the corner – it drops this Friday, February 23rd on Team Love Records – they shared another remarkable song.
“Domino” is a delicious slice of ’70s retro-soul, and it will have people dancing and shimmying their shoulders. The band channel the greatness of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings both in sound and songwriting. The funky guitar and bass lines coupled with the booming horns create the exhilarating environment. Christine Fink, meanwhile, keeps us captivated with her old-school, soul-infused voice and lyrics about “keeping in line”. She’s not telling us to queue up for a sandwich, but to stay on the straight-and-narrow and remember that every action has a consequence. It’s a message that we certainly should hear today and remember every day. And with music as stupendous as this, we have no reason to fail to heed this lesson. In High Up we trust!
Núria Graham – “Smile on the Grass” (Spain)
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Jonathan Bree, Lake Ruth
We have to admit that we have not heard of Núria Graham until the other day. We won’t be forgetting her, though, because for starters she’s a mix of Angel Olsen, PJ Harvey, and Nadine Shah. Another reason is that she has a big fan in Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson, who mixed her new single, “Smile on the Grass”. Not surprisingly, the song has instant classic written all over it.
As the ’50s film-noir vibe percolates throughout the track and Graham’s sultry vocals spins a tail of deceit and seduction, one sees the opening sequence to a James Bond movie. Whether it’s Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or Daniel Craig, you can see 007 approaching a woman in a mysterious place and seeking answers. Where and to what their interaction will take them is left to you, as Graham just sets the stage for our imaginations to go wild. Brilliant, just an absolutely brilliant piece of artistry.
Graham’s new album, Does It Ring A Bell, is out March 30th via Primavera Sound’s in-house label El Segell.
pierre_XO – “leftovers” (Earth)
RIYL: Future Islands, Leftfield, mid-career Depeche Mode
For anyone who is feeling down, battling through depression, has been or is being bullied, or just needs a pick-me-up, put on the headphones and live within pierre_XO‘s new single, “leftovers”. A mixture of Future Islands’ reinvention of ’80s synth-pop and the darkwave that dominated the late-’80s and early-’90s in the UK, the song is uplifting and exhilarating. If you’ve watched the film Trainspotting, there is a scene where Ewan McGregor’s character, Mark Renton, is running through the streets of Edinburgh with nothing to lose. This is how “leftovers” will make you feel – that you can overcome even the greatest odds.
There’s not a great deal of information about pierre_XO despite him having a significant social media presence. We think he’s from the UK or the US, but he wishes not to be pigeonholed anywhere other than being from Earth like everyone else.
Second Still – “Opening” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Siouxsie Sioux, Preoccupations, My Bloody Valentine
Nearly a year ago, Second Still caught our attention with the slayer shoegaze trance, “Strangers”, which was like Karen O fronting a super-band comprised of The Cure and the Cocteau Twins. This time around, they’ve created a song in “Opening” that would sound like Siouxsie Sioux fronting Canadian post-punk dynamos Preoccupations. And it’s awesome.
This dark, hypnotic monster is one within which you must unravel your deepest secrets and urges. Suki’s enchanting vocals suck us deep into our mind and the song’s pulsating and Hades-inspired world. The beginning, as such, is seduction, but the ending is terrifying as Ryan’s stark guitar and Alex’s throbbing bass intensify. The last forty seconds are memorable, as the band channel their inner My Bloody Valentine to create a death-defying, shoegaze finale. Awesome.
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