The Saturday Sampler February 24th edition mirrors the Olympics: this playlist features plenty of gold-medal caliber talent from across the globe. Artists and bands today represent Austria, England, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, and the USA. From indie rock to soulful pop, these tunes will dazzle and delight you. We kick things off with a new UK “supergroup” of sorts.
Mastersystem – “Notes On A Life Not Quite Lived” (Scotland & England)
RIYL: Frightened Rabbit, Editors, Minor Victories
The National are one of the only indie bands comprised of two sets of brothers – until now. A new UK supergroup of sorts, Mastersystem is the collaborative effort between Scott and Grant Hutchison (Frightened Rabbit) and Justin Lockey (Editors) and James Lockey (Minor Victories). The group began a few years ago when the brothers Hutchison and Lockey played around with the idea of working together. But their respective bands’ recording and touring schedules sidelined the new project until recently.
The stormy fervor of “Notes on a Life Not Quite Lived” features Scott Hutchison on lead vocals, so the Frightened Rabbit tone is undeniable. But that’s just the driver’s seat view. Beneath this vehicle’s bonnet growls a full-throttle engine of reverb-heavy dueling guitars and propulsive percussion. It’s not as darkly brooding as Editors; it’s more intense than most Frightened Rabbit. You could say it’s a perfect bridge between their respective styles. The dynamics here – restrained as Scott sings of “lessons learned” and being “lost in a deep abyss” and fully unleashed in the last minute – are all the proof you need that this is one of the best UK collaborations in recent memory. Mastersystem is the outlet for angst you didn’t realize you needed. It’s brilliant catharsis.
The band’s debut album, Dance Music, is out April 6th via Physical Education Recordings. You can find pre-order links here.
Bambara – “José Tries To Leave” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Eagulls, FEHM, Preoccupations
There hasn’t been a better time to be a fan of post-punk. Bands like Preoccupations, Eagulls, and FEHM are breathing new life to genre. We should also start paying attention to Bambara, the Brooklyn-via-Athens, Georgia, although they would have been on radar if we had listened to our friends at Arrowhawk Records a couple of years ago. Now signed to Wharf Cat Records, the trio of Reid Bateh, William Brookshire, and Blaze Bateh are getting ready to release their new album, Shadow On Everything, on April 6th. Offering a preview of what’s to come, last week they shared “José Tries To Leave.”
The tune is brilliant, but for more reasons than its dark, eerie atmosphere that comes from the steely guitar and the pummeling rhythms. It is the story the trio have crafted, which is just sensational. Despite the foreboding soundscape, the song starts off like Romeo & Juliet, as two lovers spend a night together. However, in a matter of moments after they leave one another’s comfort, tragedy strikes. Click the audio link above to read the lyrics. Be forewarned: the ending will send chills down your spine.
Erika Wennerstrom – “Twisted Highway” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Heartless Bastards, Brandi Carlile
We are hoping – crossing every digit imaginable – that Erika Wennerstrom will be performing at Newport Folk Festival this year. The Heartless Bastards frontwoman has one of the greatest voices on the planet, and she’s also one of the best songwriters. When she takes the stage, we want to experience the “Extraordinary Love”, which she shared last month and is the lead single from her forthcoming debut solo album, Sweet Unknown. The follow-up is equally powerful and has us thirsting for more.
“Twisted Highway” is a majestic, soaring piece of art. It’s anthemic in a soul-searching way with the piercing electric guitar and the chest-pounding rhythms. What really stirs the soul are Wennerstrom’s voice and lyrics, as she shares a story of finding her way and getting through all the misinformation, some of which was of her own doing. Yet she has found her way and is sharing with us her new life. Oh, is it wonderful.
Fontaines D.C. – “Winter in the Sun” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: The Clash, The Vaccines, Parquet Courts
Say hello to the Next Big Irish Band: Fontaines D.C. will soon become a global household name thanks to their fresh post-punk sound. And while “Winter in the Sun” isn’t their newest release, it’s the one that first grabbed us by the collar and demanded our attention. This is pure modern rock ‘n roll that would make Joe Strummer proud. It’s youthful and restless with the energy of The Clash and the indie charm of Parquet Courts. In one word, it’s smashing.
You may be wondering why a Dublin band have “D.C.” in their name. If so, think back to when Glen Hansard’s old band (The Frames) tried to break into the U.S. market, only to discover another band with their same name. It seems a similar luck befell these guys, so maybe that’s why they adopted a post script? If two extra letters bring them success on par with The Frames, we applaud the strategy. But honestly, these guys are so damn talented they don’t need extra luck. Every note they play makes you want more. Fortunately, their newest release (“Boys In the Better Land / Chequeless Reckless”) is out now, along with a new video.
Hearts Hearts – “Sugar / Money” (Vienna, Austria)
RIYL: Radiohead, Glass Animals, alt-J
Less than a month ago we were introduced to the innovation of Hearts Hearts. Merging the oft-kilter brilliance of Grizzly Bear and Glass Animals on “Phantom / Island”, David Österle, Daniel Hämmerle, Johannes Mandorfer, and Peter Paul Aufreiter had us doing triple takes and wondering why we had not heard of them earlier. We continue to ask that question after hearing “Sugar / Money”, which is another superb effort from the Vienna-based quartet.
A little less anthemic than their previous number, “Sugar / Money” is equally spectacular. Like Radiohead’s latest work, Hearts Hearts use subtlety to create a lush yet sinister soundscape. It’s titillating but foreboding, sensual yet mysterious, and absolutely brilliant. Just goes to show that a band doesn’t need to create an explosive banger to blow your minds. This band is going places.
Hearts Hearts’ new album, Goods/Gods, is expected in April via Berlin label TOMLAB.
Linn Koch-Emmery – “Wires” (Stockholm via Norrköping, Sweden)
RIYL: Marika Hackman, Alex Lahey, Amber Arcades
Five months ago, Linn Koch-Emmery released her memorable EP, Boys, which showcased a young artist who brilliantly meshed catchy pop-rock melodies with thoughtful songwriting. She’s back to further entice us with her art in “Wires”, which, as the kids like to say, is a sugary earworm.
Her voice is fuller than we remember, but the soaring qualities remain. You’ll be smiling, dancing, and spinning within the song’s springtime vibe. Be sure to inhale her words because she offers a dose of hope and optimism for anyone who feels trapped or thinks there may be no way out of a mess. She may be a young artist, but she has a lot to say – and we should be listening to Sweden’s next great artist who is oh so close to breaking out. We cannot wait to watch her career take off.
The song is out now via Welfare Sounds.
Max Frost – “Good Morning” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Justin Timberlake, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, Vance Joy
This weekend’s playlist ends up an upbeat note courtesy of Austin’s Max Frost. His exuberant new single, “Good Morning”, is Texas-sized huge: the soulful groove is smokin’ hot, the chorus has an infectious hook, and the gospel choir backing vocals will have you yelling “Hallelujah” at the top of your lungs. This 25-year-old artist knows how to deliver a ridiculously addictive anthem: he treats it like a kite. Once he unfurls the powerful verse, the power of the chorus takes over and makes the song soar. This is blue skies and sunshine compressed into a very radio-friendly two-and-a-half minutes.
Even though he is signed with major label Atlantic Records, Frost still has the hunger and drive of an emerging star. And it’s that unexploited charisma that makes the song even more irresistible. Go on and crank this one, especially this chorus:
“Baby it’s a brand new day
Ain’t no clouds hanging’ over me
Something doesn’t feel the same
The rest of my life gon’ start today”
When your alarm goes off on Monday, queue up this banger of a tune. You’ll be filled with enough red-hot fire to conquer and slay everything in your path. You can grab your copy of this single from iTunes and these streaming links. His previous releases are available via Atlantic Records.
The Pale White – “Loveless” (Newcastle Upon Tyne, England)
RIYL: Kasabian, Echo & the Bunnymen, Muse
We’re not sure why it’s taken us two years to share a new song from The Pale White, who wowed us with their anthemic pop-rock and had us drawing comparisons to Sundara Karma. Five months ago they released their terrific self-titled EP, which led to NME namely them as one of their 100 Essential New Music for 2018. Proving the popular magazine is prophetic, the trio of Adam Hope (vocals/guitar), Jack Hope (drums), and Tom Booth (bass) deliver a bombastic new single in “Loveless.”
The song is stadium-worthy. That is, put them in the middle of Wembley Stadium and watch 70,000 become entranced by their Arctic Monkeys-cum-Muse sound. For yourself, gather your friends and neighbors, turn up the speakers, and watch a house party emerge. While the lyrics point to the lack of empathy and community in the world, this tune will have the opposite effect on all who hear it.
Ruler – “Petrified” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Fred Thomas, American Wrestlers, Noah Gundersen
Ladies and gentlemen, you’d better start spreading the word about Matt Batey and his project, Ruler. The Seattle-based singer/songwriter is poised to be one of this year’s biggest surprises. He actually grabbed our attention last September when he self-released “Keep Moving.” The fine folks at Barsuk quickly caught on and shared “Easy Life”; now he completes the trifecta with “Petrified.”
Like a mix of American Wrestlers’ boom indie pop-rock and the soaring anthems of Noah Gundersen, Batey delivers an absolute gem of a song that is catchy without being predictable or mainstream (the bass line is tremendous). The lyrics are heartfelt, meaningful, and tinged with hope that isn’t overly simplistic. This boisterous number will make you feel like you can overcome your fears and conquer the world. You’ll want to run as far as you can or hop in your car and just escape. In other words, this is the perfect runaway song (not that we’re encouraging people to runaway from home) that offers a marvelous reprieve from the chaos around you.
Ruler’s debut album, Winning Star Champion, is out May 25th via Barsuk Records.
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