The Matinee ’18 May 31st is loaded with songs that musically and thematically focus on better days ahead. With this being the last day of May, sunnier and hopefully happier moments await us. Nine songs once again occupy this mini-playlist.
Afrikan Boy Feat. aJan – “Ancestry” (London, England via Lagos, Nigeria & Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Young Fathers, K-OS (we have no idea really)
We don’t often cover hip hop artists or MCs, but occasionally a song comes around that grabs our attention and is too good to ignore. Such is the case with “Ancestry”, which is the latest single from Nigerian-born, London-based Olushola Ajose, who is better known as Afrikan Boy and rose to prominence after collaborating with MIA. With the support of Berlin-based collective aJan, Ajose has crafted a groovy and clever single that would make his more famous friend immensely proud.
Musically, the number fuses together the rhythmic Afrobeat vibes popularized by bands like Konono No. 1 with the summery, colorful reggae tones of the Caribbean. In other words, “Ancestry” is made for sandy beaches, late-night house parties, and a cruise around town. Ajose’s lyrics, however, steal the show. He tells a creative story about identity, culture, and family. Although the song centers around his own lineage and that of his sister, daughter, and others plus how determining one’s family tree has become a massive industry littered with problems, he poses bigger questions. Does it and should it matter if we are Nigerian, Chinese, Indian, Polish, or Brazilian? By categorizing ourselves within a certain ethnicity or cultural group, are we contributing to the controversy that surrounds identity politics? The song may be playful, but Ajose’s message is extremely relevant today.
The video for the track is well worth watching. It’s on YouTube.
Drahla – “Twelve Divisions Of The Day” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Sonic Youth, Eagulls, Ought
After signing with Captured Tracks just a few months ago, English post-punk trio Drahla released their second single with the label yesterday. Clearly, Rob Riggs, Luciel Brown, and Mike Ainsley have been re-energized that the forward-thinking company has taken an interest in their music, and this makes us very happy campers. And so does “Twelve Divisions Of The Day”.
The song isn’t a joyous one by any stretch of the imagination. It delights us, however, because it possesses all the elements that makes Drahla one of the more unique and interesting post-punk outfits. They’re not hammering away at their instruments in order to blow our minds. Instead, they’ve adopted a more “subdued” approach that instead sends chills down our spines. Sure the awesome bass line throbs in the distant spaces, the drumming is machine-gun propulsion, and the guitar aggressively chimes in the foreground, but the tone is foreboding, dark, and yet enticing. Brown’s stuttering vocal delivery adds to the song’s eerie vibe, and her words, too, paint a gloomy, post-apocalypitc picture of a world consumed with narcissism, self-indulgence, incest, and “an unnatural human existence”. In other words, we have lost what it means to be human. Frig, this band is awesome.
Their debut album will expected later this year or early next year (fingers crossed). In the meantime, this single will be released as a 7″, and it can be pre-ordered here.
Eyesore & the Jinx – “Gated Community” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Shame, Dead Pretties, The Strokes
Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool – it seems these central England cities cannot do any wrong when it comes to producing outrageously awesome bands. Some of our favorite groups come from these municipalities, and we might have to add Eyesore & the Jinx to the list. Their name is worthy of recognition, but it’s their fiery brand of indie punk-rock as depicted on their debut single, “Gated Community”, that has our ears buzzing.
The song buzzes with energy from the start with some rambunctious percussion straight out of the ’60s. Then the song gets a little jangly, a little punk-ish, a bit spaghetti Western, and just wickedly fun. For three minutes, you’ll be losing your shit and forgetting about all your problems, dancing, jumping, or moshing with your closest friends. The lyrics, too, have an ’80s angst vibe, as the band describe about trapped in the suburbs and concerned about their material (or is immaterial?) things. Trapped in their Gated Community. If the music sounds like this in their little neighborhood, we’d move there in an instant.
The song is out on Eggy Records. Here’s a band we’ll be watching.
Hales Corner – “Welcome” (Bloomington, IN, USA)
RIYL: Ducktails, Real Estate, El Vy
We love music that takes us back to our youth and even our parents’ younger days. Music that reminds of simpler times, where walking along the beach or hanging around a fire and listening to your friend strum his guitar were commonplace. Forget video games, social media, and dating apps, our free time was spent with our friends and family. Sending us back to the ’80s are Indiana outfit Hales Corner and their awesome little tune “Welcome”.
The song isn’t the synth-pop, coming-of-age, or dance-pop that occupied the era. Rather, it is akin to the music that came out during the height of Flying Nun’s influence and the popular Dunedin sound. Warm, jangly, and infectious, the track is a brilliant throwback to the days when bands imitated The Chills and The Clean. Equally impressive are the band’s lyrics, which focus on ordinary people trying to get through “the daily grind”, an infliction that hit a lot of people hard during the recession of the ’80s and still affects folks today. Thank goodness there are bands like Hales Corner to brighten our days. We may have just found another new favorite band (sure helps that they bridge North America with New Zealand).
Kamasi Washington – “Street Fighter Mas” (Inglewood, CA, USA)
RIYL: Anderson.Paek, The Roots, Menahan Street Band
Kamasi Washington is more than just a great saxophone player and musician. Calling him an artist doesn’t do justice to his genius. He is like Beethoven and Pablo Picasso rolled into one incomparable individual – an innovative composer and bandleader who creates vibrant, colorful prisms with his music. All his music. His latest, “Street Fighter Mas”, might just be the center piece of all his masterpieces.
Funk, jazz, soul, and even a bit of dark pop and pop-noir collide on this super cool and satisfying single. As is his trademark, he doesn’t hog the spotlight. While his saxophone gets an expected solo, he makes room for his band mates to showcase their with their own solos. Trumpet, trombone, and piano get a starring role while some ultra funky percussion driving the song (is that Anderson Paak on drums?). The addition of the choir illuminates the tune, giving it some extra sensual drama akin to a ’40s film-noir.
Despite the song’s captivating and even seductive tones, it is actually inspired from Washington’s days of playing the famed video game. As he expressed in the press release:
“Where the song really came from was me jokingly saying I was going to have my own theme song so that when I showed up to play Street Fighter, they’d play my theme song before I came in, like a boxer.”
See, even the great innovators find inspiration in the most unexpected things.
Melby – “Reject” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Amason, Alvvays, Francis
It has been nearly a year since Swedish indie-pop gems Melby graced the world with new music. At the time, they released their shimmering self-titled, debut EP. If people missed out on the record or any of their songs – like the psychedelic-pop kaleidoscope, ‘”Cross”, or the ethereal beauty that was their first single, “Human” – then “Reject” is a great way to be introduced to Matilda Wiezell (vocals/keys), Are Engen Steinsholm (guitar), David Jehrlander (bass) and Teo Jernkvist (drums).
Whereas their past songs had the emotional power of Daughter or segued to psychedelic-pop territory, they dive in to the swimmingly enchanting depths of dream-pop. Echoes of Swedish greats Amason and current dream-pop favorites Alvvays fill the air. Like those bands, this song will make you feel like you’re dancing on Cloud 9, as by the breezy, jangly notes, the bubbling bass line, and Wiezell’s lush and melancholic vocals overwhelm you. Like her words, the tune will wash away all your worries and giving you another reason to believe tomorrow will be a grand day. Hopefully for Melby, their grandest moments and successes are to come very soon.
The single is out now on the most excellent Swedish boutique label Rama Lama Records.
Petal – “Stardust” (Scranton, PA, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Snail Mail, Mitski
By now, you know we are huge fans of Kiley Lotz’s project, Petal. For a couple of years now, she has found new ways to touch our emotions and make us yearn for what was. Her last EP, Comfort, for instance, showcased how Lotz could turn simplicity and subtlety into something raw and emotionally powerful. Consequently, her forthcoming album, Magic Gone, which is out June 15th on Run For Cover Records, is one we cannot wait to hear.
Lotz has already shared one song from the record – the quiet rager, “Tightrope”. Now she shares the second single, “Stardust”, which is another slow-building, heart-stopping rocker. The peaceful piano and Lotz’s delicate vocals serenade us at the beginning with Lotz sharing memories from a past relationship. Then the guitar, bass, and drums enter, and Lotz’s vocals become more urgent before rising into a forceful storm. It is her releasing the pain that comes when a love ends. There is, however, no anger nor rage in her words. Instead, as she describes it, the song is about “coming to terms with the end of a relationship and the things that went wrong, but knowing you wouldn’t change a thing and that you’ll always love and cherish the time you had with that person.”
Seems like every time Petal releases a new song, she finds another way to tear our hearts out, and we love her for it.
Queue – “Float Away” (Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Amber Arcades, Pip Hall, Bryde
Two years and two months ago, a little band named Queue arrived on the scene, and their debut single, “Falling Into Skies”, had us saying, “we had to share this”. We’ve been fans since not due to that one song but also because they’ve consistently produced outstanding and meaningful tunes. The newest song from the trio of Olivia Price, Aida Blank, and Steve Vannell is no different.
Beneath the slow growl of at first the chiming then grizzled guitar and the melodic rhythms that hum throughout “Float Away” is an emotional roller coaster for not one but two people. It is a song about a love that will endure through everything even as one struggles with a mental health issue. However, the illness doesn’t just affect one of them; they both must deal with. As Price’s lush voice describes this relationship perfectly, “We don’t know simple. But you know why, float away sometimes.” This song illustrates why we are bullish about Queue’s potential, and hopefully their time will come very soon.
Tanukichan – “Perfect” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: New Order, Fazerdaze, No Joy
It wasn’t long ago when Hannah van Loon was making big waves with Trails and Ways, contributing to the band’s rise as one of the Bay area’s most promising alt-pop bands (although they’ve recently moved into the catchy, power-pop realm). In 2016, she opted to go solo under the moniker Tanukichan, and her debut EP, Radiolove, was a sweeping record of emotional indie rock and catchy jangle pop. Up next for the multi-instrumentalist is the arrival of her debut album, Sundays, which is fast approaching. The lead single, “Lazy Love”, revealed a move towards lush dream-pop and dreamwave, and the second song further validates that van Loon is once again changing her stripes.
“Sundays” is a thing of beauty. van Loon’s falsetto reaches heavenly heights as she reflects on the moments and days that have passed and await her. It’s the calm before the storm, where one embraces the moments of solitude before jumping into the chaos of the world. As stunning is her voice, the bubbling bass line on the track is superb, drawing the listener in like Peter Hook once did with Joy Division and New Order. There is just no limit to van Loon’s talents and artistry, nor the charm and intimacy she brings into each of her songs.
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