More booming rockers, a groovy funk-soul-disco-pop tune, some psychedelia, and one of the best songs of the year are all featured on The Matinee ’18 March 16th edition. We get things started with one of the great singer-songwriters of the past decade.
Courtney Barnett – “Need A Little Time” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett
When Courtney Barnett released “Nameless, Faceless” a month ago, she informed the world that she was taking a different approach for her sophomore album. She promised more straightforward and less meandering lyricism, more introspection, and a sound that would display her growing as a musician. While the first single from Tell Me How You Really Feel, showcased Barnett’s evolution, “Need A Little Time” hits all the marks and then some.
Barnett’s words are more personal and intimate, as she takes a “time out” to reflect on her actions and her life to date. The approach is more akin to Sharon Van Etten that is until the bridge and the finale, where she revs up the intensity and rocks out like TORRES and Kurt Vile. It’s arguably Barnett’s grimmest tune, yet it is spectacular.
Barnett’s new album, Tell Me How You Really Feel, is out May 18th via Milk Records (AU/NZ), Mom + Pop Music (North America), and Marathon Artists (Europe). She’s heading back on tour, which includes a stop at Newport Folk Festival. Initial dates are available here.
VNLVX – “Echaté” (Ventura, CA, USA)
RIYL: Savages, Les Butcherettes, Bosnian Rainbows
Leave it to the fine folks at Burger Records to shine the spotlight on a little post-punk band that everyone should know. That band is VNLVX, which honestly we don’t know how to pronounce (is vinyl-vox or vinyl-vex or vin-love-x?). Then again, who cares about pronunciation when the band delivers a seismic, shake-the-walls scorcher with “Echaté”.
An informal Spanish term for “you”, the song is like a young, unrestrained Savages who once upon a time made the ground shake while they played in London’s underground bars. The heavy riffs, the intense rhythms (the drum work is outstanding), and the primal vocals are all reminiscent of a time when punk bands were fearless. A time when the leaders of the world were taking us down the drain and when we needed bands that expressed our angst and frustration. VNLVX are assuming that mantle for us today.
Tomma Intet – “Falling From The Edge Of The World” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Alberta Cross, Travis, Civil Twilight
Last September when we were first introduced to Tomma Intet with their single “Through The Circle Of A Rope”, we said, “Look out world: Sweden has another group deserving of our undivided attention.” And if you weren’t sold then or just missed it, then wait until you hear “Falling From The Edge Of The World”, which is nothing short of amazing. For that matter, it is without question one of the best songs of the year so far.
Urgent, exciting, and dramatic, the song is late ’90s Brit-pop-rock taken to the deserts of the USA. The driving melody, the pulsating rhythms, and the holier-than-thou vocals are mesmerizing. The lyrics are even better, as the band have crafted a post-apocalyptic story that should form the basis of the next Mad Max movie or if there should be a sequel to The Book of Eli. Amazing. Absolutely a musical triumph.
The single is out via Lövely Records / Gaphals. Let’s hope there is an album coming from Tomma Intet, who are a collective of musicians from Gothenburg whose composition shifts depending on availability. The collective was established in the winter of 2016, and, according to them, their music is “based on the idea of enlightenment and transcendence.” So far, the group is living up to their tagline.
Sjowgren – “Beginners” (San Francisco/Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Warpaint, Broken Social Scene, Belle Mare
Although Bay-area Sjowgren were one of our Favorite Hidden Gems from 2017, we still don’t know who the members are. They remain a mystery to us, but their anonymity hasn’t turned us off. Quite possibly it has had the opposite effect, as we continue to follow them with the hopes they will unveil their identities. For now, we’ll succumb to their imaginative and cinematic takes on indie pop-rock, which includes “Beginners”.
“Beginners” is arguably the most stunning and intimate song Sjowgren have released to date. For over five minutes, they take us on a whirlwind ride of emotions – from lush and ethereal to edgy and chaotic to euphoric and blissful. The multi-dimensional approach perfectly complements this tale of a person trying to get through the day and realizing her dreams. Of a person trying to survive while the rest of the world moves forward. Listen intently to the lyrics and find hope “to be anything I want to be”.
Frederick The Younger – “Human Child II” (Louisville, USA)
RIYL: Janis Joplin, The Black Angels, The Limiñanas
Last year, Frederick The Younger released their debut album, Human Child, which was a “complex and even divergent compilation of music that (was) fascinating and engrossing.” At times, they were like Janis Joplin, other times like Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and occasionally touching on My Morning Jacket-like anthems. A one-note, three-chord rock they are not. Instead, they’re one of the most exciting new and young rock outfits around. Further demonstrating how brilliant they are, they released a follow-up to one of their best songs in “Human Child II”.
Like a walk through the forest at twilight, the song is tantalizingly spooky. Front woman Jenni Cochran is like a Siren, luring us deeper into this forbidden place and telling us that we are more than we think we are. Her band mates, meanwhile, concoct a psych-infused, folk-rock spell that would make The Black Angels and The Black Lips quake in their shoes. For that matter, this would be better on an episode of Stranger Things or Black Mirror.
Frederick the Younger are Jenni Cochran (vocals/keys), Aaron Craker (piano/guitar/vocals), Matt Kohorst (bass/vocals), and Dave Givan (drums).
DANTE – “Sermons” (Perthshire, Scotland)
RIYL: Frightened Rabbit, Travis, Mt. Doubt
Last week, DANTE released their sophomore album, Wear Your Weight With Mine, via Stitch Records (available on Bandcamp). While we had hoped to review it, the week has been too busy. We would be remiss, however, to not share one tune from the terrific LP, and “Sermons” illustrates how far the Scottish sextet have come since their debut.
No longer a folk-driven band, DANTE have transformed themselves into the younger sibling of Frightened Rabbit. Like their more popular older brothers, Seán McLaughlin, Stephen Thom, Vicky Gray, Ruaridh Kidd, Stuart Hosking, and Craig MacLeod have delivered a memorable indie-rock tune. It rings with the urgency of a desperate man seeking answers, yet it is intimate, introspective, and honest as McLaughlin reveals his own demons and those that haunt him. Here’s a band we won’t be ignoring from here on out.
Champyons – “No Applause” (Berlin, Germany & New York City, USA)
RIYL: Portugal. The Man with Isaac Hayes as producer, Har Mar Superstar, Baxter Drury
The seventies get a bad rap for its music, but if it wasn’t for the decade we wouldn’t have bands creating some funky, soulful, disco-pop like Berlin and NYC outfit Champyons. Today, their debut album, Cha Cha Cha, arrives, and it can be purchased and streamed here. To convince you to invest the time and coin, take a listen to “No Applause”.
The song sounds like the byproduct of Isaac Hayes producing Portugal. The Man’s or Har Mar Superstar’s latest single. In other words, it is the definition of cool. The bass line in the track is funky, and the melody grooves like John Travolta strutting down Canal Street. Yeah, this is the perfect weekend tune, so if you’re hosting a party spin this one and watch people showing off their best moves. Heck, they, like us, might be dusting off the white polyester suits and the bell bottoms while teasing her hair.
Banzai Cliff – “Man Of God” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: The Cars, Cheap Trick, Billy Idol
Another group that is taking us back in time is Banzai Cliff, the project of Nicky Koch and producer David Ulrich. But instead of disco or pop, they’re channeling the smokey pop-rock of The Cars on their new single, “Man Of God”.
From the lo-fi approach to the reverb-drenched guitar to the groovy rhythms to Koch’s vocals, the song feels right out of 1981. You’ll want to polish the black leather jack, slick back your hair, and iron your favorite white T-shirt. Oh yeah, don’t forget the pack of bubblegum, the Bubblicious variety of course.
Despite the fun, retro approach, Koch’s lyrics are more akin to Ariel Pink. Some of the lines are great (like the one about getting a tattoo on his ankle), and they reflect a young man raised in a religious home and discovering how the “other side” lives. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there’s some brutal honesty in them.
Amen Dunes – “Believe” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Neil Young, Kevin Morby, Trevor Sensor
Is this the year that Amen Dunes, the project fronted by Damon McMahon and also includes Jordi Wheeler and Parker Kindred, finally receives recognition for being one of New York’s great bands and songwriters? Their lo-fi beginnings may have had them flying below the radar, but their new music so far singles a slightly different approach. For instance, “Believe” echoes the intimate folk-rock of Neil Young in his 20s and 30s and more recently Kevin Morby.
Like these artists, the song is a classic. It”s beautifully constructed with every element flowing with ease and grace. McMahon’s lyrics are vulnerable and honest, as he reflects on his mother’s illness, the fragility of human life, and how forgiveness can be the most powerful thing we can do. Beautifully moving is this tune. These might also be the words we’ll be uttering when Amen Dunes’ new album, Freedom, arrives March 30th via Sacred Bones Records. Pre-orders are available here.
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