Singer-songwriters galore occupy The Matinee ’18 March 20th edition. There are some bands in the playlist, but the majority are young women and men carving out their own niches with fabulous stories to share. This isn’t to say the music is languid or laid back, as there are some rip-roaring hip shakers and more melodic shimmying-quality tunes below.
bed. – “Replay” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Girlpool, Waxahatchee, Frankie Cosmos
Portland duo bed. continue to bubble beneath the surface despite making some of the best lo-fi indie-rock west of the Mississippi. If they were based in the Brooklyn, there is little doubt in our minds that they would be Big Apple favorites and supporting Yo La Tengo on their current tour. Instead, the husband-and-wife duo of Alex and Sierra Haager ply their trade in the Pacific Northwest (and Portland is one outstanding city) and playing at joints like Mississippi Studios. But maybe, just maybe the other side of the US will start paying attention to this underrated band, as their latest single has an East Coast flavor.
“Replay” is arguably the duo’s most rocking song to date. The song possesses the scintillating edge that Waxahatchee and Girlpool have perfected, yet there is a touch of dreamy pop a la Frankie Cosmos embedded in it. Like these artists, bed. share their most intimate thoughts. This one concerns being stuck in a relationship going nowhere, and the experience is like continuously slamming one’s head against the wall. Hopefully Sierra isn’t describing their marriage because that would just be awkward (yet really awesome!).
bed’s new album is expected this autumn. It will be interesting to see if they continue down this edgier path or return to their lush styles.
Carla Geneve – “Greg’s Discount Chemist” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, Lady Lamb, Camp Cope
For a country with less than 25 million people, Australia sure produces more than its share of great singer-songwriters. The list is bountiful, and another name to add is Carla Geneve. Based out of the city of Perth on Australia’s West Coast, listening to Geneve for the first time immediately will lead to comparisons to fellow Aussies Courtney Barnett, Alex Lahey, and Stella Donnelly. Those more familiar with the North American indie scene may hear a young Angel Olsen or Lady Lamb. Regardless whom she reminds you of, the comparisons alone indicate her massive potential. Forget potential, her new single, “Greg’s Discount Chemist”, reveals her massive talent.
The groovy, jangly vibes of the song set the tone and mood, specifically inducing a few shoulder shimmies, head nods, and hip shakes. But like the aforementioned artists, her storytelling is the jewel that catches your eyes (well ears). The song isn’t so much about the pharmacy Geneve’s walks passed each day, but rather how it is the one certainty in her life and the place she gets her, well, medicines. Instead, she reveals her anxieties and how she has to “pretend” in order to get through the day. Her lyricism is fantastic, particularly:
“I wish I could kill time, but time’s killing me.
I wish I could walk a line, but I can’t feel my feet.”
By the way, Geneve is only 18 years old. We did say she’s a massive talent.
Happy Axe – “Seven Sounds” (Canberra, Australia)
RIYL: Jenny Hval, Julianna Barwick, indi
There aren’t too many songs that make us go “Wow” at first listen. Usually a few listens are required to fully appreciate the genius of the track and the artist behind it. Australian multi-instrumentalist, producer, and singer-songwriter Emma Kelly, who goes by the moniker Happy Axe, though, immediately amazed us with her song, “Seven Sounds”. Amazed actually might be understating its impact and brilliance.
With the theatrical darkness of Jenny Hval and the soothing, looping melodies and vocals favored by Julianna Barwick, Kelly has crafted a masterpiece. It is simultaneously haunting and sinister yet lush and exotic. A song that could be on the darkest Black Mirror episode or a majestic moment in a Guillermo del Toro film. Like these artworks, the only way to experience this song is in seclusion and with nothing to interrupt your attention. Then you can immerse yourself into the gripping strings of Kelly’s violin, her whispery and distant voice, and suspenseful production work that hovers in the background. This is simply magical.
Happy Axe’s new album, Dream Punching, is expected some time this year. In the meantime, the single is available on Bandcamp.
Ice Baths – “New Strappings Pt I” (London, England)
RIYL: Preoccupations, Wolf Parade, Suuns
Just as we were about to put Preoccupations in a category all to their own when it comes to dark and grueling post-punk, along comes Ice Baths. To compare them to the great Canadian indie band may be a disservice because as their latest single “New Strapplings Pt 1” demonstrated they are a bit more out there.
The track merges the oft-kilter experimentalism of Suuns with the anthemic bursts of Wolf Parade’s more proggy numbers. It is dark yet engaging, haunting yet exhilarating. These are qualities that we often associate with the aforementioned Canadian bands. Hmmm… makes us wonder if Ice Baths aren’t actually from the Great White North. Regardless of where they call home, this song reveals the potential of the quartet.
We’ll learn more about Ice Baths’ talents when their self-titled album is released on May 11th via Blank Editions. The band is comprised of Alex Ives, Thomas Cleall, Ed Shellard, and Jack Davis.
Kyle Meadows – “Crossing Corners” (Pennsylvania via Charleston, WV, USA)
RIYL: Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile, Sparklehorse
Almost exactly two years to day we were introduced to Kyle Meadows. At the time, we were gifted the opportunity to premiere his single, “Low Time Call”, which was a stirring ballad in the Elliott Smith and Nick Drake mould. He returns with another stunner that will make you believe that Elliott Smith has been reincarnated.
“Crossing Corners”, which is the lead and title track of his forthcoming sophomore album (out May 1st), is intimately stunning. While you’ll gasp for a breath or two to the stirring, springtime melody and Meadows’ soft and wind-swept vocals, you’ll also bask in the warmth of this dream-folk number. Yet despite the blissful music, Meadows’ lyrics, much like Smith’s, is full of emotion and pain. His words belong to a man who has been shut out from the world, including from those he loves. “Like a needle or a pin prick in your skin”, he gracefully sings (and apologizes) to whomever may be listening. To us who are listening.
Neiv – “Indian Springs” (Alp Grüm, Switzerland)
RIYL: Yo La Tengo, Slowdive, No Joy
Swiss band Neiv write on their Facebook page that they love mountains and animals. In other words, they love all things au natural, which explains why the trio gravitate towards dreamgaze. Honestly, is there any other genre that sounds like you’re gliding high in the clouds or taking a romantic plunge in the deep blue sea? Is there anything song currently out there that compares to “Indian Springs” that makes you feel like you’ve found your own little Eden?
More akin to the restrained shoegaze that Yo La Tengo opted for in the mid-part of their career and the lush tones of present-day Slowdive, the song is dreamy and delirious. Close your eyes and at one point you’ll imagine you’re an eagle soaring high over the alps and watching the sun’s beans glace off the glaciers. Another moment, you’re a dolphin skimming the ocean’s surface and riding the waves. This is freedom, where nothing can hold you back – at least for the four minutes as this song is playing.
Neiv’s new album, Canyon Dreams, is expected later this year.
Racquet – “Sundown” (Los Angeles via Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Daughter, Douse, Cuesta Loeb
A few weeks ago, we advised people to write down the name of Sapphire Jewell (guitar/vocals) and her project Racquet, who at the time shared the provocative “Surface”. Her newest single, “Sundown”, which actually was released a couple of months ago, is equally enchanting.
Most songs usually see the guitar and vocals traveling down different planes, yet Jewell’s stirring vocals and her trusty instrument flow in unison to create a stirring soundscape. An atmosphere that feels like a lazy day walking along the shoreline as the seagulls fly and waddle near by and the waves come crashing on to shore. Her lyrics, though, evoke different images. Sundown is a reference to how the past slowly fades away, where the people and places we once knew have changed beyond recognition. It is an ode to our memories as well as what is to come.
RAINDEAR – “Sky” (Stockholm via Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Grimes, Goldfrapp, Lorde
If Rebecca Bergcrantz could turn her musical project RAINDEAR into a full-time gig, there would be no limit to her potential. Someone just needs to sign the young the Swede, who mixes the radiant synth-pop of Grimes and Goldfrapp with the clever lyricism of Lorde. Her previous song, “Diamonds In My Chest”, was a biting number about obsession. Her latest literally goes in a different direction, which also happens to be where her career is (hopefully) headed.
“Sky” is the place, and this electro- / synth-pop number absolutely soars. Her production and synth work have come a long way since her debut, “Feathers”, as the music fuller and more widescreen. It is breathtaking and exhilarating, where you could endlessly dance within the sonic prism while falling deep into a delirious state. Bergcrantz is still early in her career, but she has all the makings of a star. We cannot wait to see her name illuminating brightly in the dark one day.
Someone – “Chain Reaction” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Feist, Eleanor Friedberger, Cate Le Bon
Last July, first learned about Rose Jackson’s project, Someone, when she released the psychedelic-pop gem, “Say Something”. There was a bit more buzz for that single, but just prior to the weekend she released with little fanfare several new songs, including the truly terrific “Chain Reaction”.
This is art-pop perfection. Energetic, bubbly, quirky, and fun, “Chain Reaction” is a little a party riot captured in just 161 seconds. The bass line and percussion are off the chart while Jackson’s saccharine vocals guide us into the underground chamber where “the sparks are flying”. So invite a few people over and spin this song, and watch your own party break out in your living room.
This song and a few others are out now on Jackson’s Monocle label.
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