Rocking tracks, shimmering electronic / electro-pop numbers, two young English singer-songwriters to watch, and one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs of the year are featured on The Matinee ’18 March 27th edition. Several countries are yet again represented, once again demonstrating that music is one of the few things that unites us.

Blush Response – “Cruel” (Adelaide, Australia)

RIYL: Cocteau Twins, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive

We’ve covered numerous shoegaze groups because we truly love the genre. So when a band comes along that we have yet to hear about, we get a little shocked. In a good way that is, especially when they deliver a monster track like Blush Response have with “Cruel”.

Started by Alister Douglas, the Adelaide-based quartet whirl a song that could be directly from the Cocteau Twins’ Heaven or Las Vegas or My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Wonderfully reverb-drenched guitars (provided by guest shoegazer Brodie Brümmer of Flyying Colours), a titillating bass line (provided by another guest, Emily Retsas), and Douglas’ airy vocals, and you get an awesomely classic number. Like the great tunes from the late ’80s and early ’90s, you’ll hammer out your best air guitar, breathing heavily from its spellbinding nature, and/or losing your mind. When it’s all over, you’ll do what we often do – hit repeat.

Blush Response’s debut album, Hearts Grow Dull, is out next month. In addition to Douglas, the band includes Joseph Caporaso, Walter Marsh, and Zach Caporale.

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Dead Sea – “Know Where” (Paris, France)

RIYL: Kevin Parker, Tycho, DIIV

Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker has a side career as a DJ and producer, where he uses the opportunity to work on his beats and melodies. The experience is usually akin to a nighttime foray into the ocean. That is, his music is inviting yet simultaneously hot and chilling. Many bands attempt to replicate the approach, and some do it better than others – like French trio Dead Sea.

Barely a year into their career, the Paris-based band’s new single, “Know Where”, is an exotic, exhilarating slice of chillwave. The breathy vocals, the sublime production work and beats, and the stellar crystalline guitar collide to create an ethereal wall of sound. Or check that; it creates a tidal wave of sound that you want to come crushing down upon you so you can absorb its power and majesty. As the music surrounds you, you’ll dance, you’ll spin, or you’ll just close your eyes and pretend you are floating effortlessly in the clouds.

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Matt Maltese – “Greatest Comedian” (London, England)

RIYL: Marlon Williams, Baxter Drury, Alex Cameron

The 21-year-old British singer-songwriter Matt Maltese has quickly developed a cult following, but not because he’s like Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, or Jay-Z. He’s actually more like a young Tom Waits with a knack for colorful yet extremely insightful storytelling. He is, in other words, a story lover’s songwriter, and his newest single might just be his very best.

“Greatest Comedian” is a silky smooth pop number in the Baxter Drury and Alex Cameron mold. It’s light yet infectious, quirky yet fun. His clever lyrics describe all the ways God is the “Greatest Comedian”. Some of his words are direct and poignant, such as “There are cronies with the jobs and ties and cash, and there are people like me the whitest trash”. There are some tongue-in-cheek remarks about people with certain beliefs, such as thinking the Earth is flat. To think, he’s only 21. Imagine when he reaches his 60s and 70s, his tongue will be even sharper. This young artist is a songwriting star.

“Greatest Comedian” is out now on Atlantic Records UK.

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Pole Siblings – “How Low” (Falun, Sweden via Finland)

RIYL: London Grammar, Wy, Annabel Allum

Where does Swedish indie label Strangers Candy find these bands who have a knack for leaving listeners in a daze? Leaving us like deer staring in the headlights, paralyzed by the fast-approaching beauty and brightness? Last year, it was Wy. This year, siblings Sofia and Johan Stolpe wow us with their project Pole Siblings. Although we’ve been fans of the duo for nearly a year, they continue to find ways to bring us to our knees. It’s apt that “How Low” poses the same question.

The song is simply beautiful and stunning. It is also emotionally powerful. From the mournful organ that weeps in the background to the bone-jarring drop, “How Low” envelops you and slowly squeezes.But it’s Sofia’s stirring vocals that suffocate you, taking away your last breath as she describes how her heart has been crushed and “will never grow without you”.

Pole Siblings’ forthcoming sophomore EP, Sköljer bort dig, arrives April 6th via Strangers Candy. Pre-orders are at Bandcamp.

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Sabiyha – “Wolf” (London, England)

RIYL: Julianna Holter, Cross Record, Dana Falconberry & Medicine Bow

After her debut single, “Bird”, was released earlier this month, taste makers (including the BBC’s Tom Robinson) were espousing Sabiyha‘s potential. Although we did not share the song, it did raise eyebrows here. Her latest single, though, has us in awe of her incredible talent.

“Wolf” is a rarity in music today – a song that truly sounds like folklore if not mythology. The tight plucks of the mandolin mixed with the feathery percussion and the soft flutter of the flute create a mystical soundscape. They are the sounds of the still night that blankets the forest and the haunting beauty that lingers in the wild. Sabiyha’s vocals soar high, telling a magnificent tale of a wolf in the night – or is it the wolf that lives within us? This isn’t Little Red Riding Hood’s story, but rather that of a gifted young singer-songwriter who had to grow up quickly and support her parents. Of a young woman who had to shed her skin and become someone else to survive. Sabiyha has achieved this and much more, as her arrival is sure to shake up the indie music scene for years to come.

“Wolf” and “Birds” are from her forthcoming EP, Hollow Bones, which is expected later this year.

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Sama Dams – “Say It” (Portland, OR, USA)

RIYL: Editors, Said The Whale, Deerhunter

There are bands that hover under the radar, then there are those that can only be detected with sonar because only the truest indie fan will know them. Unfortunately for us, our sonar clearly has been on the fritz, as we just recently discovered the brilliance of Sama Dams, the Portland, Oregon-based trio who are about to release their fourth album. Yes, fourth album! Formed in 2011, Sam Adams (the band’s name is a play on his name), Lisa Adams, and Chris Hermsen have evolved from an indie-folk band to one that rubs shoulders with art-rock experimentalists like Deerhunter and early Editors. Maybe the change will put them on more people’s radars, just like how “Say It” has grabbed our attention.

The first word we uttered when hearing this song was “sensational”. The dark, probing approach led by a wonderful key arrangement beautifully captures the storyline of a failing relationship and one person’s struggles in dealing with loss and loneliness. Sam’s voice fills the air first, taking the role of a man wallowing in despair. Lisa’s voice then enters the fray, but it is unknown if she is Sam’s subconscious or the one who has broken him. Or was it he who has broken her? The duality is masterfully executed and makes us wonder who is the assailant and the victim. Spin this one multiple times to find out.

Sama Dams’ new album, Say It, is out April 6th via Friendship Fever with pre-orders at Bandcamp.

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Second Still – “Automata” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Savages, Eagulls, No Joy

It’s probably time to put Second Still near the top of our list of awesome post-punk/coldwave bands. Most band within the genre will aim to shake your nerves and send chills down your back. The LA-based band, though, opt to simultaneously freak you out and dazzle you. Is it possible to create music that is as dark as a moonless night yet feel as enrapturing as a dive into the crystal blue seas? In listening to “Automata”, the answer is an emphatic yes.

This haunting song commences with a sinister vibe. A calm bass line bellows deep before searing guitars brighten the space like lightning flashing across the sky. Suki San’s transfixing vocals are shortly revealed. She’s like a ghost or the unknown entity standing out in the pouring rain who can only be seen when the sky is illuminated. Her lyrics hold a similar refrain of a woman who cannot live with herself, who can feel anything, who cannot see herself. She has become a creature of expectations – or more accurately, a slave to the thoughts and desires of others. This tune is so creepy yet stunning.

Second Still are Suki San (vocals), Ryan Walker (guitar), and Alex Hartman (bass). Their sophomore EP, Equals, is out April 20th via Belgian label Weyrd Son Records (vinyl edition) and LA-based Sentimental Records (cassette).

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays” (Portland, USA and Auckland, New Zealand)

RIYL: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Tame Impala

After Unknown Mortal Orchestra released two edgy, electrifying singles as part of the announcement for their new album, Sex & Food, we were wondering if Ruban Nielson, Jacob Portrait, and Quincy McCrary were transforming into an electronic act in the HEALTH mold. If you, too, were wondering if this was the case, the trio provide a clear answer with “Everyone Acts Crazy Nowadays”.

The track is what we’ve come to expect from UMO – a groovy yet sensual number that can be played in a club, at an outdoor festival, or an intimate gathering with friends. The psychedelic-pop vibes remain, but there’s more of a house quality to the production work. Nielson’s vocals are lush and titillating, although his lyrics are forceful as he describes how the entire world is hurtling through the rabbit hole. The civilization we once knew has been replaced by fanatical zealots and irrational thought. But if this is the end of the world, we may as well enjoy these final moments with a sumptuous tune from one of the best indie bands of the 21st century.

Sex & Food arrives April 6th via Jagjaguwar. It can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp. Their worldwide tour also starts in April, and they’ll be accompanied by Makeness. Tour dates and information are available here.

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VIOLET – “Jaded” (Birmingham/Lichfield, England)

RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers, Avalanche Party, Minor Victories

Even though we share about 50 songs (or more) a week, it’s impossible to keep track of all the terrific indie rock bands emerging from the UK. Another one we’re adding to our favourites list is VIOLET. The quintet from the Midlands aren’t quite the usual English outfit. They’re fusing together the shoegaze of the ’90s with the anthemic, Britpop that emerged this decade and last. The result is something really awesome, as heard on “Jaded”.

Fiery, reverb-heavy guitar riffs bookend the track, recalling the shoegaze greatness of My Bloody Valentine and A Place To Bury Strangers. In between, the song shimmers with a head-swaying melody that sounds like something out of a Toad The Wet Sprocket track. The lyrics, too, are smart, as the band describes how they desire to escape the messed-up world we live in, though unfortunately there aren’t many answers. In the meantime, all we can do is momentarily escape reality by rocking to this gem of a song.

“Jaded” is available on iTunes via HolyHowl and streaming at Spotify.

VIOLET are: Luke Brickett (guitar/vocals), Harry Lehman (lead guitar), Theo Spivey (guitar/synth/percussion), Arran Bick (bass), and Patrick Murphy (drums).

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