Only a few alumni occupy The Matinee ’18 March 13th edition. The majority are brand new to this space, although you might know them already if you’re more of a music excavator than we are. Regardless, enjoy these tunes, which have a bit of a throwback vibe.
Big White – “Right Before Everything Dies” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Echo & The Bunnymen
From the sunshine of Sydney comes a band who are reinvigorating the guitar-driven Brit-pop of the ’80s and ’90s. Well, Big White have been around for a couple of years and they’re a member on Spunk Records‘ roster, but for most people around the globe, including ourselves, we’re just getting introduced to them. Their new single, “Right Before Everything Dies”, is the perfect gateway into their retro sound.
The song sounds like The Smiths chilling out at Bondi Beach with Singapore Slings in their hands, watching the kids surfing and the beautiful inhabitants absorb the rays. The lyrics, though, are anti-Morrissey, as they’re not as foreboding nor brooding. While there is a bit of sadness in the tune, there are splashes of hope. Check that, there are waves of optimism, as the band insight us to live for today before the sun sets. Someone should tell Morrissey to do the same.
Big White are Nicholas Griffith, Elmo Aoyama, Cody Munro Moore, Bowen Shakallis, and Jack Wotton, and they, like most of the music world, is at SXSW.
Britt Rion – “Chaos & Beauty” (Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Ladyhawke, Billie Eilish, Salt Cathedral
Everyone loves a fairy tale every once in a while because these stories make us imagine what life could be like if our dreams came alive. Could we one day be the humble princess that cares for the poor yet saves her kingdom from the colonizers? Could we slay the dragon and be honored as a knight at King Arthur’s Round Table? For New Zealander Britt Rion, she offers a different fairy tale with “Chaos & Beauty”.
Like many other Kiwi artists, she cannot be pigeonholed or defined within a single genre. On this number, she crafts a mystical and stunning atmosphere through the restrained production work, the slight tremors of her electric guitar, and her lush, magical vocals. Her lyrics, too, transport one to places like Neverland, the Enchanted Forest, or, for more modern tastes, Storybrooke, where fairy tales are come to life. Where somehow, some way “Chaos & Beauty” can coexist. It’s something we could all strive for today.
Feverbones – “Sight Inside” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Lemon Twigs, White Denim, Jagwar Ma
There is no shortage of great artists and bands in Austin. Spoon, The Black Anges, Shakey Graves, Okkervil River, and White Denim are some of the names. Will Feverbones join this elite group? In listening to “Sight Inside”, the answer is an emphatic yes!
Groovy, infectious, a touch experimental, and with just the right amount of psychedelia, “Sight Inside” is a wicked ride. It’s the musical equivalent of a cappuccino – a little bit frothy and with enough caffeine to get you bopping up and down for a couple of hours. Like a really great cup of the Italian coffee beverage, the song lingers with your for a while thanks to the bubbly, oft-kilter harmonies. What a buzz!
The song is taken from their album, Dream Talk, which Austin Town Hall Records will release. They’re at SXSW this week, so catch them if you can.
Flower Face – “April To Death” (Ontario, Canada)
RIYL: Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief, Stella Donnelly, Phoebe Bridgers
With the rising popularity of singer-songwriters over the past five years (e.g., Sharon Van Etten, Big Thief, Julien Baker), there isn’t a better time than for a young artist to be heard. One to add to your list is Ruby Mckinnon, who goes by the alias Flower Face. The 19-year old Ontarian is mature beyond her years. While her vocals are sweet and innocently delivered, her lyrics and stories are thunderous jolts like a Mike Tyson uppercut to the jaw. Case in point “April To Death”, which addresses the different coping strategies people and features lines such as:
“Turn around and tell me it’s OK.
My hands still got the morphine shakes.
I’m a live but I don’t know where I am.
I want to leave, but I don’t think if I can.
Drop out of high school,
Spend my time in hotel bedrooms.”
Not all her lyrics, though, are based on her personal experiences. As Mckinnon shares:
“A lot of my writing is based on empathy – on putting myself in places I haven’t been as a means of exploring the capacity of my own feelings. I was writing about death before I’d ever lost someone close to me. I had a close brush with death when I was 17 – I went through surgery and chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. A lot of people thought that explained my lyrics, but I was writing about the dark long before I’d been there.”
Mckinnon is not only a survivor and a wonderful songwriting, but she’s going to be a massive star. Find all her music on Bandcamp.
RIYL: Phoria, The xx, Maribou State
On Friday, Kai Gundelach – or simply Gundelach – will release his new album, BALTUS, via Terrible Records and Norwegian boutique label U OK. From the songs he’s shared so far, the record could be one of the year’s biggest surprises and most celebrated. To give us a hint at what is to come, he’s shared one last song that features fellow Norwegian, ARY. Together, the two make music magic on “Past The Building”.
Sit down with your loved one and grab a glass of wine each or whatever your preferred evening cocktail may be and gently indulge in this cinematic love story. The song is simply stunning, as Gundelach’s production work and musicianship are scintillating and lush. His deep vocals beautifully marries with ARY’s intimate, whispery delivery, as the two describe moments of weaknesses when they’re together and apart. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of music that exceeds even The xx’s most sultry songs.
Michael Rault – “I’ll Be There” (Toronto via Edmonton, Canada)
RIYL: The Byrds, Morgan Delt, Amen Dunes
Three years ago, Michael Rault made an emphatic statement with Living Daylight, which was one of our favorite records of 2015. It was psychedelic pop re-imagined. His third album is coming soon, and he continues to follow the retro path to indie success. This time, however, he goes more of the psychedelic-folk route with “I’ll Be There”, which is the opening track from It’s a New Day Tonight.
If Rault was around forty or fifty years earlier, Cameron Crowe would have been tagging along and writing his first article about him. As such, Almost Famous would have been based on Rault’s life, and “I’ll Be There” would be on the soundtrack and on everyone’s favorite retro playlist. But since none of us can re-write history, Rault is carving out his own memories, and this swimmingly delightful, summery tune is another notch in his untold story. The clean, jangly guitar lines and the sun-blissed harmonies remain, but there is a subtle rock edginess not heard on his previous work. Romanticism and reality are merged in his lyrics, further adding to the song’s delirious qualities. All this yields what is arguably Rault’s finest song to date.
Polly Tikk – “Flowers” (Berlin, Germany via Sakhalin Island, Russia)
RIYL: PJ Harvey, TORRES, Tiny Ruins
In hearing “Flowers” from Berlin-based Polly Tikk for the very first time, “This is pretty cool” were the first words out of our mouths. The next words were, “Why haven’t we heard of them before?” Better late than never, right?
Pikk, who is joined by French expats Nicolas Pannetier and Yoann Pisterman, delivers a tantalizing number. It starts off low-key and melodic with Pikk’s vocals at the center. She recalls an experience of weakness, but she states she “will never walk the pass again.” It’s a proclamation that she’s not ready to give up or succumb to whatever her fate may be. The song then shifts into a gritty, edgy tune. It never gets too loud or heavy, but the foreboding vibe is haunting and exhilarating. It is very much like a young PJ Harvey, and the comparison only becomes more accentuated with inclusion of the saxophone in the song’s final minute. Here’s hoping the rest of the world discovers Tikk and her bandmates’ talents.
The single is out now on Duchess Box Records.
Sad Palace – “Honeycone” (Hampshire, England)
RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, early Tame Impala, Kasabian
One of the great little English bands are Sad Palace. Well, that’s our humble opinion, as since their formation 18 months ago we’ve been captivated by their potential. They’re like the perfect blend of Arctic Monkeys indie rock with early Tame Impala neo-psychedelia. When you have such a combination, stardom should await, right? Well, it has yet to come. However, if they continue to create groovy, sultry, and suspenseful songs like “Honeycone”, then there is no telling how high they’ll soar.
If there is to be a remake of Saturday Night Fever, then this tune could be the new anthem for Tony Manero. This song is made for strutting down the sidewalks of New York City in your best duds. It is cool personified from the funky, groovy intro to the gnarly guitar solo in the second half. There is, of course, a bit of bliss, as the band somehow find a way to add a dreamy element. All this in less than four minutes.
Wilder Maker – “Closer To God” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Richard Swift, Kurt Vile, Kevin Morby
A few years ago, Rich introduced us to Wilder Maker, the project fronted by Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Gabriel Birnbaum (lyrics/instrumentation/vocals). His piece also contributed to our fandom of Katie Von Schleicher (keys/vocals), who is one of Birnbaum’s collaborators and occasionally assumes lead vocals. The two return with Adam Brisbin (guitar/vocals), Nick Jost (bass/vocals), and Sean Mullins (drums/vocals) and share their first single in over two years with “Closer To God”.
This tune was difficult for us to pinpoint. It might sound familiar, yet it is multi-faceted. Psychedelic, folk-rock, and indie rock converge. Think Richard Swift being the conductor of an all-star band comprising Van Morrison, Kurt Vile, Tom Petty, Neko Case, and all of Spoon. Seriously, that’s what this song sounds like, which is a modern-rock masterpiece. They don’t make songs like this anymore.
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