Two notable characteristics apply to the The Matinee ’18 March 1st edition. First, it is filled with artists and bands who remain under the radar, but they won’t be long. Second, Canadian artists feature prominently on the mini-playlist with five of the nine songs coming from the Great White North. The Matinee commences with a young singer-songwriter with a gift for the storytelling, and it ends with one of the most innovative bands on the planet.

Carrie Schneider – “In The Dark” (Saint Cloud, MN, USA)

RIYL: Brandi Carlile, Courtney Marie Andrews, Kathleen Edwards

If Carrie Schneider made the move to Nashville, she might already be a star. Or maybe she should follow Courtney Marie Andrews’ footsteps and head overseas, where European audiences quickly gravitate to gritty country-folk artists who tell brilliant stories. In hearing “In The Dark”, there is little doubt that she would play in front of sold-out venues, and The Guardian and The Line of Best Fit would be writing articles about her.

“In The Dark”, which is taken from her debut EP, Flowerbed (available on Bandcamp), is a spectacularly dark and engrossing single. The three-headed guitars (acoustic, electric, and steel) brilliantly complement one another to create the suspenseful atmosphere. The feathery strikes of the drums and low throb of the bass heighten the drama, reflecting the heartbeat of Schneider’s protagonist who dares to walk alone and into the unknown. In some ways, the heroine is Schneider, who is charting her own path to indie stardom. That is until the folks in Nashville and Europe discover her.

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Francobollo – “Hoo Ha” (London, England via Sweden)

RIYL: Wolf Parade, Deerhunter, The Districts

Francobollo are a DIY success story. They’ve sacrificed much – leaving families and friends behind in Sweden to move to London, touring endless, and working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off with a big 2016, which saw them emerge as one of Europe’s biggest surprises. A reason for their rise is that they are unpredictable. They can rock out like Queens of the Stone Age, deliver some indie pop-rock goodness a la Sundara Karma, or they go oft-kilter and talk about British politics like they do on their first single of 2018, “Hoo Ha”.

Maybe oft-kilter is the incorrect adjective because this tune is immensely brilliant. It rings of the prog-infused indie-rock of Wolf Parade mixed with the whimsical nature of Deerhunter. And like those two bands, they cleverly interject politically-charged lyrics, criticizing those in charge for their narrow-mindedness and populist rhetoric. Wait for the 2-minute, 10-second mark, at which point the song gets chaotic to reflect the mindlessness leadership of those whom we elected.

Sean Bean, Simon Nilsson, Petter Grevelius, and Sven Bailey will be at SXSW. We wouldn’t be surprised if the quartet’s popularity twofold come April.

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Jo Passed – “MDM” (Vancouver, Canada)

RIYL: Veruca Salt, The Breeders, Bikini Kill

Two years ago, we were struck by the awesomeness of Vancouver-based Jo Passed. At the time, however, they were a neo-psychedelic, dream-pop band. Two years later, they’ve reinvented themselves into one heck of an alt-rock band, who wouldn’t be out of place in the ’90s alongside hole, Veruca Salt, Elastica, and many more. At least that’s the indication given from their newest single, “MDM”.

As we liked to say 25 years ago, this song is the bomb! From the rad guitars to the booming bass to the fly drumming, the song is executed to perfection that even Billy Corgan would admire. But what makes the track are its contradictions. The lush vocals contrast with the high-octane approach, which in turn mirror Jo Hirabayashi’s story of the conflicting messages people hear and the competing priorities they experience in this increasingly chaotic world. What are we do in such situations? There’s no clear answer, but one solution is just to rock out for three minutes to an off-the-heasy song like “MDM”.

Jo Passed’s new album, Their Prime, arrives May 25th via Royal Mountain Records and Sub Pop. These two labels know a thing or two about great alternative bands. Oh, the LP is also available for pre-order on Bandcamp.

The band is comprised of Jo Hirabayashi, Bella Bébé, Megan-Magdalena Bourne, and Mac Lawrie.

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Men I Trust – “Show Me How” (Montreal, Canada)

RIYL: Sade, Yumi Zouma, Wet

Finally, one of our Artists to Watch this year has released their first single of the year. Surprisingly, it has taken Men I Trust nearly three months into the year (and more than three months since their last song) to unveil “Show Me How”. The wait, however, was well worth it.

While the trio of Dragos Chiriac (keys/mastering), Jessy Caron (guitar/bass/keys), and Emmanuelle Proulx (vocals) have long mesmerized us with their silky smooth, R&B and soul-infused electro-pop, they just might have delivered their smokiest tune yet. “Show Me How” echoes of Sade in her prime. Proulx’s soft and dreamy vocals are seductive like the legendary artist. The crystalline chimes of the electric guitar are striking and intoxicating while we could just drown ourselves into the tremendous, jazz-like bass line. We thought we heard it all from Men I Trust, but they’re proven once again there is no limitation to their art.

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Nap Eyes – “I’m Bad” (Halifax, Canada)

RIYL: Lou Reed, Andrew Savage (of Parquet Courts), Tim Darcy

There are plenty of great bands and artists who are bringing the ’70s back to the forefront of music. Few, though, can revive Lou Reed and Velvet Underground like Halifax’s Nap Eyes. Their sophomore album, Thought Rock Fish Scale, echoed the legends in style and substance. Unsurprisingly, it was one of our favorite albums of 2016. Their new album is just around the corner, and needless to say we cannot wait to hear what Nigel Chapman, Seamus Dalton, Josh Salter, and Brad Loughead have in store, especially after hearing “I’m Bad”.

Nap Eyes’ newest single is sublime folk-rock. As is with all of the band’s songs, the storytelling is fantastic and at times humorous. In this case, Chapman shares a love-hate relationship with an acquaintance. Musically, the Lou Reed vibes are maintained, but Laurel Canyon influences are heard in the song’s summery tones. However, just as they lure us four decades into the past, they finish off with a guitar solo that is Mike McCready-esque (he of Pearl Jam fame). It’s a great surprise from a band that continues to evolve and blow our minds.

I’m Bad Now arrives next Friday, March 9th via Paradise of Bachelors. Pre-order it on Bandcamp or at the label’s store.

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Never Betters – “Pictures” (London, ON, Canada)

RIYL: Wolf Alice, Warpaint, Pale Saints

Canada finally has its Wolf Alice, and their name is Never Betters. This might be a bold proclamation for a band who just released their debut single in “Pictures”, but we’re standing by it. Seriously, take a listen to “Pictures” and tell us that it’s not an exhilarating, adrenaline-inducing rocker.

Just like when the popular English band started out, there is a relentless energy and gravitating ferocity in Never Betters’ approach. It is part punk, indie rock, pop, and ’90s angst alt-rock, and the formula yields one outstanding output. It’s a song that makes us want to run to the far reaches of the planet and live out our dreams. To create new memories with those we love and those we do not because we only live once. This song is so good that you just might hear it again on New Year’s Eve when we share our favorite songs of 2018.

Never Betters’ debut EP, Guns + Roses’ Roses split w/ Grievances, is out on March 16th. It’s available for pre-order on Bandcamp. The band consists of April, Danny, Davita, and Pat.

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Nyssa – “Cowboy” (Toronto, Canada)

RIYL: Austra, Young Galaxy, Madoonna

In 1975, Glen Campbell released his classic hit, “Rhinestone Cowboy”, which was about a rodeo star whom everyone admired. Now fast forward 43 years, and Toronto-based Nyssa has shared its antithesis in “Cowboy”.

While Nyssa stays in the ’70s in terms of musical era, she opts for disco-pop over country. The synth and production work are terrific, and they will undoubtedly incite uncontrollable dancing or lead to some serious whiplash with the head-bobbing. This song is made for the disco ball-lit dance floors. It is also made for the present-day, as Nyssa rightfully expresses there is no place for an attention-seeking cowboy today. At least not the Rhinestone Cowboy variety. There is room, however, for our heroes to be strong women who are taking on the establishment and re-writing the rules. You can check the cool video on YouTube to see how Nyssa and her pal conduct their vengeance.

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Wild Spells – “The Storm” (Boise, USA)

RIYL: Daughter, Typhoon, Douse

We’ve reached the point of our mini-playlist that requires one to stop everything s/he is doing. Remove all potential interruptions and clear your mind. Now close your eyes, take a deep breath, and experience the gorgeous post-rock, dream-folk of Wild Spells‘ new single, “The Storm”. Allow the quartet from Boise, Idaho take you deep inside your soul or into the eye of a hurricane and discover what truly exists within the depths of the unknown.

“The Storm” is the rare song that goes beyond description, and the only way to appreciate its beauty is to immerse oneself in it. One must dive deep within the lush vocals, the titillating rhythms, and the melodic swells. Trust us when we say this will be the best six minutes you’ll spend today because you’ll be left with an unforgettable memory – whether this song or to the places it brings you.

Wild Spells are Eric Larson, Erin Nelson, Zack Evans, and Kory Parsley.

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Young Fathers – “Toy” (Edinburgh, Scotland)

RIYL: Young Fathers

Only eight more days until Young Fathers’ new album, Cocoa Sugar, is released. Specifically, Ninja Tune will be doing the honors of releasing the multi-genre trio’s third LP on Friday, March 9th (pre-orders and streaming links are available here). One of the reasons why this album is high on our “must listen” list is because Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and Graham Hastings are three of the most innovative individuals on the planet. They cannot be pigeonholed, and their newest output, “Toy”, evidences this.

Where do you even begin with this experimental wonderland? The song fuses multiple genres – spoken word, new wave, krautrock, Afrobeat, alt-pop, hip hop, and the list goes on and on. It’s not, however a heavy banger, but rather it’s a low-throbbing, intense number. The gloomy quality will have people losing themselves in the shadows or in the quiet corners of a room. Despite its multi-dimensional approach (there are no fewer than three transitions), it is accessible and awe-inspiring. The lyrics, as always, are brilliant, as the trio discuss how one individual has fallen into the depths of despair. There is only one word to describe this piece of art – MAGNIFICENT!

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