Nine more songs occupy The Matinee ’18 February 22nd. A couple of indie giants return and plenty of smaller bands that you ought to know. Anyway, let’s get to the music.
Speedy Ortiz – “Lucky 88” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Veruca Salt, Hop Along, Girlpool
As a band enters the “veteran” phase of their careers, they tend to dial down the noise while finding other ways to blow your minds. Not every group does this successfully, but Speedy Ortiz are gracefully ageing. Not that they’re old to begin with (they’re still in their 20s), but as they enter their seventh year they’re still reinventing themselves if their newest single, “Lucky 88” is any indication.
Temporarily, the Massachusetts-based four-piece have set aside the punk-fueled early years for a synth-infused rock approach that stirs the emotions. Where they have not changed is front woman Sadie Dupuis’ poignant lyrics, which have become more poetic over the years (she’s a gifted and published poet). On this track, she unveils her anxieties for the world to hear. “I don’t care anymore”, she repeats before explaining how fame and fortune do not always yield happiness. Providing more background to the song is the creative video, which sees the band take on – or more accurately being ingested by – The Blob, which obviously represents more than a monster.
“Lucky 88” is from Speedy Ortiz’s forthcoming album, Twerp Verse, which is out April 27th on Carpark Records. Pre-orders are available here. Unsurprisingly, they’ll be on tour next month. Click here for dates and information. The quartet are Mike Falcone (drums), Sadie Dupuis (vocals/guitar), Darl Ferm (bass), and Andy Molholt (guitar).
Boniface – “Phantom Limbs” (Winnipeg, Canada)
RIYL: Rick Astley, The Human League, Soft Cell
Back in October 2017, we mentioned that Micah Visser – a.k.a. Boniface – could be Canada’s next great poet laureate when he released “Again & Again”. While he goes more widescreen with “Phantom Limbs”, his songwriting has not been compromised. Actually, it gets stronger.
Like Rick Astley collaborating with The Human League, Visser delivers a fantastic piece of ’80s-inspired synth-pop. The production work is outstanding, reminiscent of the days of big hair, neon colors, and John Hughes movies. His lyricism, though, mirrors that of present-day auteurs like Angel Olsen, Alex Cameron, and Julien Baker, as he tackles head-on the difficult subject of anxiety and loneliness.
“You need to get prescriptions filled.
You stay in your apartment,
I call but you don’t say shit.
Tell me that you need me,
Shaking and you don’t sleep.
Tell me what I’m supposed to do now.”
Forget Visser being the country’s next poet laureate; he’s proven himself to be one of Canada’s great storytellers today. The young man’s future is limitless.
The Hanged Man – “Blåkulla” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Jenny Hval, Kate Bush, Volkano
Halloween is still eight months away, but there’s always time for a song that will send chills down your spine and make you believe in the afterlife. Doing this week’s chores are The Hanged Man, the Stockholm-based project established by former Volkano member Rebecka Rolfart. Their new single, “Blåkulla”, is deliciously dark, enchanting, and mind-altering.
The exaggerated keys that hum and pound in the background create the foreboding and suspenseful mood, as if we’ve been led into the house on the hill and forever trapped. There we are greeted by Rolfart’s tantalizingly, ghostly vocals, who dares us to “run for your life”. Dares us to try to escape, but we cannot because “she’s taken over our head”. The last 80 seconds are brilliant, and the finale reflects the climax witnessed at a rock opera. Simply just awesome.
The single is out on Dubious Records.
HEX – “It Begins With a Man” (Wellington, New Zealand)
RIYL: Wytches, WOMB, Mermaidens
We would be reminisced if we did not include Wellington-based quartet HEX this week, as the Gothic psychedelic-rock trio are heading to next month’s SXSW. Already a favorite of the NZ capital’s music scene (which includes Stella and me), married couple GG and Kiki Van Newtown and Jason Erskine released their debut album, The Hill Temple, last week, and it is available on Bandcamp. The LP is full of dark enchantments, such as “It Begins With a Man”.
Witch-like would be another way to describe this tune, as an eerie and foreboding atmosphere is created from the methodical instrumentation. Meanwhile, Kiki’s vocals are like a siren, who is luring you deeper into the black lagoon. Or in this case, luring an unaware man into her pool and slowly devouring him. When HEX set foot on the many stages in Austin a month from now, people will be waiting in line to be consumed by their sinister magic.
Hit Bargain – “Capitulate” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: INHEAVEN, Iceage, FEHM
If you didn’t already know about Hit Bargain, the four-piece consists of members of Beach Fossils, Cold Beat, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and North Highlands. Don’t think for one minute, however, that they’re replicating the dreamy and pop landscapes of their main bands. On the contrary, Nora Singh (vocals), Mike Barron (guitar and vocals), Anton Hochheim (drums), and Sean Monaghan (bass) are unleashing hell with their frenetic post-punk and “queencore” approach. Case in point “Capitulate”.
Not only are they ratcheting up the intensity, volume, and grit from a musical standpoint, they’re also channeling the great punk outfits in their lyrics. That is, they’re hammering hard-hitting, politically-charged messages. As the guitars and rhythms pound heavily in the background on “Capitulate”, Barron’s fiery vocals condemn people’s apathy. Inaction is a form of condoning and even agreeing with the current administration’s policy, practices, and behaviors, and this is not the time to “stop resisting”. With a band like Hit Bargain to lead the way, it will be difficult for anyone to sit idly on the sidelines.
Hit Bargain’s debut LP, Potential Maximizer, arrives May 11th via Buzz Records. The quartet are the best non-Canadian band to sign with the super-Canadian indie label.
Mint Julep – “As Far As I Can Get” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Memoryhouse, Cults, Beach House
Keith Kenniff is one of the most active people in music. Last week, he released a new solo album under his Goldmund moniker, and he still remains active with Helios and his label, Unseen Music. Oh, he also found time to release a new single with his wife Hollie in “As Far As I Can Get”.
This dreamy piece of synth-pop will make you long for summer. It is a spectacularly warm and intimate number that will take your breath away and make you think about sandy shorelines and warm evenings. Yet as you listened to Hollie’s lush vocals and lyrics, you may not want to stay still. Instead, her words evoke the desire to endlessly explore the depths of our emotions and the far reaches of the world. It is a song that rejuvenates the body, mind, and soul, and it encourages us to live today. Forget about waiting for summer to come; go out and make new memories now. We’ll be adding this song to our many road-trip and travel playlists.
Our Girl – “Our Girl”(Brighton, England)
RIYL: No Joy, Trementina, Pinkshinyultrablast
There seriously isn’t anything better than a great piece of dreamy shoegaze. The fuzzy chimes, the ringing rhythms, and a voice that defines bliss are, for many us, sonic perfection. Our list of favorite shoegazers is pretty lengthy, but we’re making room for Brighton trio Our Girl, who’ve been around for a couple of years.
Just one listen to “Our Girl” will have you swooning. The guitar lines, rhythms, and arrangements are all classic, reminiscent of the work of the Cocteau Twins and No Joy. It is Soph Nathan’s lush vocals, however, that take the song to epic heights. Her words, too, will leave an imprint, as she reminds herself to “not be so nice”. Granted, those define the tune – it i so nice.
Support Soph Nathan, Josh Tyler, and Lauren Wilson by purchasing the song on Bandcamp.
Wye Oak – “It Was Not Natural” (Baltimore, USA)
RIYL: Lower Dens, Flock of Dimes, Beach House
The countdown has commenced for Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack’s – a.k.a. Wye Oak – new album, The Louder I Call, The Faster It Runs. Six weeks to be exact when the LP hits stores on April 6th via Merge Records. While they have always enchanted fans and listeners since their formation in 2006, they just might be reaching the pinnacle of their great career, as “It Was Not Natural” reveals.
A slice of theater and a touch of the early ’90s filter through this elegant, synth-driven number. With Wasner’s smooth vocals, the song comes across first as a romantic number. Listen closely, however, and Wasner’s message is far from being another love tune. Instead, she remarks how humanity can be so cruel and terrible. Never have nine words been truer, “Only human hate can give us something so unforgiving.”
Zola Jesus – “Bound” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Alice Glass, HEALTH, Austra
Just six months ago, Nika Roza Danilova, who is better known within music circles as Zola Jesus released her bleak but marvelous fifth album, Okovi. It was light and darkness converging together to form something incredibly spectacular. Yesterday, she announced that she will release Okovi: Additions via Sacred Bones Records, and the B-side collection will include unreleased material and remixes of some of the original LP’s songs. One of the songs that didn’t make the first cut is “Bound”, which just demonstrates how thick Danilova’s songbook was for the LP.
The song retains Zola Jesus’ foreboding and sinister approach, but this time utilizing heavier beats that pound hard on one’s chest. Her trademark alto cuts through the thick darkness, describing how one lives and the rest are shackled. The story could be one about a relationship or a political one, but either way in each scenario we’re “looking for a way out” and Danilova sheds some light on how.
Danilova will head on a short tour in April and May with Alice Glass. Dates and information can be found here.
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