With the long weekend before us, The Matinee ’18 March 29th edition features some several upbeat tunes, including some funky numbers, to get you through the workday. There are also some laid-back, easy-listening tunes in case you want some mellower fare. Enjoy your Thursday and have a safe and most excellent Easter break.
Air Waves – “Warrior” ft. Kevin Morby (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Caribou, Boards of Canada, Four Tet
People like to say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. That’s true to an extent. In music when a great musician agrees to collaborate with you, that’s not just flattery but respect. It doesn’t matter if the band is a household name or not, which is the case with New York City underground stalwarts Air Waves, but when Kevin Morby collaborates with them you know they are special.
Started by Nicole Schneit, Air Waves have been around for well over a decade, playing everything from indie rock to electronica. Their latest number, “Warrior”, echoes the trippy electronica / electro-rock of Caribou and Boards of Canada, where every element (synth, guitar, bass, percussion) leaves you bewildered and bedazzled and in utter awe. Morby’s voice sounds more like a shadow, as it is slightly louder than a whisper. The song, though, is more than what it seems. It is a tribute to Schneit’s mother, who was diagnosed with fallopian cancer last year. As Schneit explains:
“The doctor told her she had a fifteen to twenty percent chance, and her response was ‘I’m going to get this mother fucker.’ So the title ‘Warrior’ and the song are about her. After chemotherapy, surgery, and then more chemotherapy, all the cancer in her body has left and she’s currently in remission. I feel like most of the people in my life, including myself, are warriors and have overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to defeat.”
Schneit (vocals/guitar) is joined by Brian Betancourt (bass/vocals), Blake Luley (guitar/keyboard), and David Christian (drums). Their new album, Warrior, is out April 6th via Western Vinyl. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Black Light White Light – “King Kong” (Copenhagen, Denmark via Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Pond, Masasolo, Morgan Delt
Copenhagen is the place to find great psychedelic-pop, and it is vying with Melbourne, Austin, and Los Angeles as the center of innovative neo-psychedelia. One of the artists helping the Danish capital earn this distinction is Martin Ejlertsen and his project Black Light White Light. Like a blend of his friend Morten Søgaard (the man behind Masasolo) and Kevin Parker (of Tame Impala), Ejlertsen is crafting dizzying disco psych-pop.
He recently released a new album, the aptly-titled Horizons via Forward Backwards Recordings, which revealed his psychedelic genius. And the titan of all the song, “King Kong”, in particular, displayed how far ahead Ejlertsen is from his peers. With everything in reverb, including his vocals, this track is simultaneously a cosmic trip and a mysterious night out in a fog-filled Paris. Regardless of the setting, a cat-and-mouse chase ensues as as Ejlertsen asks, “can you see me?” and later dares us to “take me like King Kong”. But is it really a chase or is it a battle of wits between two foes or even two lovers? Or maybe, just maybe Ejlertsen is daring us to unveil our true selves to the world. To reveal our inner animal and monster.
Control Top – “Type A” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Sonic Youth, Wild Flag, Ex Hex
Unleash hell! That would have been a great title for Control Top‘s new single, but “Type A” is also quite apt. We’ll get to the actual name in a moment. While still making a name for themselves after undergoing a few lineup changes over the past few years, the Philly trio led and fronted by Ali Carter have found some stability with Alex Licktenhour (drums) and Al Creedon (guitars) now permanent members. To celebrate, they, well, unleash hell.
“Type A” is a tour-de-force post-punk / indie-rock tune that could be right out of Sonic Youth’s early catalogue. It is fierce, ferocious, and fiery, and it hits you hard like a Mike Tyson hook to the temple. But instead of devastation, you get up the next day and wear the black eye like a badge of honor. Control Top, though, pound at you in three direction. Carter’s piercing vocals send shivers down your back while Creedon delivers laser beams with his electric guitar. Licktenhour, meanwhile, is like Usain Bolt, except he’s sprinting at a feverish pace for 143 seconds instead of 9.58.
As for the song’s title, listen to the lyrics closely. It’s pretty obvious who Carter is referring to as having a “Type A” personality and who “always has to get your way”. This track deserves a “F*ck yeah!”
Pick up the song on Bandcamp. It’s also the lead single from their soon-to-be-revealed / -named debut album.
Drens – “No” (Dortmund / Cologne, Germany)
RIYL: Fidlar, Twin Peaks, Hockey Dad
Right from the very beginning, “No” sounds like a tune coming from either underground indie-punk scene of Chicago or the Gold Coast shores of Australia that has bred a new wave of surf-rock. Crunchy guitars, rambunctious rhythms, a head-swaying, body-gyrating melody, and nonchalant yet quirky vocals with thoughtful lyrics about trying to get through the monotony of each day – surely this song is by Twin Peaks or Fidlar? Nope, the track comes from four blokes in Germany who call themselves Drens.
The thing about the song is that the band didn’t expect people to listen to it. As such, they’re surprised by how well it is doing with several blogs sharing it. Their attitude provides a glimpse into Fabian Livrée, Arno Augustin, Patrick Uitz-Blickling, and Joël Brüning’s mentality – they’re making music just for fun and they’re having a good time in the process. This also explains “No” – entertaining, energetic, and meant to be played at every house party in Western Germany for the next 10 years. If they were living in our city, we would for sure invite them over to rock our homes and possibly create our own self-help group.
Hop Along – “Prior Things” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Big Thief, Waxahatchee, Mothers
Last week, we shared Hop Along’s single, “Not Abel”, although we were more than 3 weeks late in sharing it. We vowed at the time that we wouldn’t be so tardy. This time around, we’re only a couple of days late, which allowed us to fully appreciate the quartet’s genius.
While the Philly quartet have been known for their rock edge, “Prior Things” sees them continue to test new waters. This time they dabble in folk-rock, as the sounds of a couple of fiddles and additional strings surround Frances Quinlan (vocals/guitar), Mark Quinlan (drums), Tyler Long (bass), and Joe Reinhart (guitar). There’s no anthemic climax or spine-tingling bridge, but instead the song is six minutes of intimate and wonderfully balladry. The approach perfectly provides the frame for Quinlan’s self-doubt and questions about what has happened between her and everything around her. While she shares her own insecurities, she helps understand that we’re not along in trying to make sense of the world.
illuminati hotties – “Paying Off The Happiness” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Frankie Cosmos, Jay Som, Colleen Green
We were first introduced to Sarah Tudzin’s project illuminati hotties last summer when she released “(You’re Better) Than Ever”. At the time, we said she could be a superstar “if she continues to make such addictive and meaningful music.” Well, we think our prophecy is about to come true because her debut album, Kiss Yr Frenemies, is out May 11th on Tiny Engines (pre-orders available here). To give us a glimpse of what to expect, she’s shares – you guess it – an addictive fare in “Paying Off The Happiness”.
With the quirky and infectious appeal of Frankie Cosmos and Colleen Green and the satirical tongue of Jay Som, Tudzin explains the mistakes she’s made at the old age of 24 and how she’s still trying to find some balance in her life. From contemplating getting a fourth job to poorly-timed and -received jokes to all the “emotional debts that has me so lost”, Tudzin is essentially having an early mid-life crisis. However, she delivers it in a fun and amusing way that you cannot but help to delight in her (mis)adventures. Hmm…sounds like the plot line to a future coming-of-age movie starring Saoirse Ronan or Emma Watson.
Laura Jean Anderson – “Silence Won’t Help Me Now” (Los Angeles via Olympia, WA, USA)
RIYL: Cloves, Cat Power, Jessie Ware
Laura Jean Anderson entered our world two years ago when she released a Neko Case-esque song, “Take Me In”. Since then, she’s only released two other singles, which is a shame since she has a spectacular voice and a songwriting style that is intimate, personal, and relateable. The Olympia, Washington born artist is back, and hopefully “Silence Won’t Help Me Now” will be the start of re-launching her career.
Anderson’s vocals are front and center of this R&B – pop number that echoes the work of Cloves and Jessie Ware. They soar without going overboard like other singers. This restraint gives her words added emotional power, as she shares a message to herself to not give up nor give in to one’s inner struggles. “Silence won’t get me through”, she gracefully sings. Hopefully these five words will guide her the rest of the way, where her voice will no longer be silenced but instead heard for many years to come.
The single is out now via B3SCI Records.
Natalie Prass – “Sisters” (Richmond, VA, USA)
RIYL: Janelle Monáe, Jessica Pratt, Estelle
After Natalie Prass turned into a sultry R&B-pop diva on “Short Cut Style”, the lead single from her forthcoming album, The Future and The Past, we were left wondering whether the artist who made ’50s and ’60s orchestral- and chamber-pop cool again had turned a new leaf. Specifically, was she leaving the past behind in favor of a more contemporary approach? The answer is an emphatic “No”, as with “Sisters” she delivers a funk-infused, gospel single right out of the ’70s.
This tune is F-U-N-K-Y (the capital letters and hyphens are intentional). The jazzy piano and rhythm arrangements belong on the stages of America’s most treasured jazz and blues bars, such as New York’s Birdland or The Green Mill in Chicago. The song, however, belongs outside where tens of thousands of people can hear it as they march along the Mall of America in Washington, D.C. and through the main streets of every small town and big city in the US. “Sisters” is a solidarity anthem, calling on women and girls to unite. As Prass sings, “Keep your sisters close/You gotta keep your sisters close to ya.”
Prass also likely made a conscious choice to choose an approach from the ’70s, which is when the women’s and civil rights movements became more closely aligned and progress started to take place. This tune, as such, is more than just a feminist number, but one to which every person should march.
Video Age – “Hold On (I Was Wrong)” (New Orleans, USA)
RIYL: Tame Impala, Prince, Men I Trust
If you have a VCR and a tape of a classic ’80s or early ’90s series like Facts of Life or better yet The Wonder Years or Saved by the Bell, play them now but put the volume on mute. Then spin Video Age‘s new single, “Hold On (I Was Wrong)”, during the opening credits or the point of the show when a main character reflects on what has happened. Trust us, this shimmering, psychedelic disco-pop song was made for the era of laugh tracks, leading characters with big hair, and “yes he did say that” moments.
If you don’t have a VCR or no idea what these shows are, then open the window, gaze out into the distance, and let your imagination go to work as this song repeatedly plays in the background. Be taken away by the smooth vocals, the very ’80s synth and keys arrangements, and the funky rhythms. Now you’re the main character in Ross Farbe and Ray Micarelli’s story, thinking about all the times you were wrong. If only more songs would make us feel like Kevin Arnold, Winnie Cooper, Zach Morris, or A.C. Slater (if you prefer Screech, to each their own).
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