“All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.” ~~~ Marshall McLuhan
The Matinee ’18 August 23rd centers around the theme of perception versus reality. Not all the songs, however, sound the same, as there are dance-inducing synth-pop, engrossing dream-folk, experimental pop, indie rock, Brit-rock, cosmic Americana, and much more. Given today’s theme, I’m doing something that I try to avoid – using direct quotes from the band since it is, after all, their reality. Or is perception?
Baby Jey – “Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come” (Edmonton, Canada)
RIYL: Jim James, The Drums, Connan Mockasin
Often where reality and perception collide is in a daydream. As our minds wander, we imagine what another life could be like or if some good fortune comes our way. We’ve all done it, although maybe not quite in the way that Baby Jey, the project of Jeremy Witten (guitar/keyboards/lead vocals) and Dean Kheroufi (bass/backing vocals), do on their new single “Someday My Space Cowboy Will Come”.
The song sounds just like its title. It’s a dreamy, trippy escape through the desert of America’s southwest. But instead of the Wild West of Billy the Kid, Butch Cassidy, and Wyatt Earp, this territory is more akin to the one that Will Smith and Kevin Kline reinterpreted. A futuristic, barren wasteland that is, where the saloon’s principal musician plays behind a keyboard and is backed by a jazz-trained band. There he enchants us with a tale of wondering when his superstar hero will come “to bring me home”.
But is this really a daydream or the effects of the desert sun?
“Now in the desert nothing makes sense.
Plastic pineapples or bowling pins.
The chevrolet outside the motel
Brought me right out of the dust bowl
To another wasteland, another day,
But still I hope and still I pray.”
Death Valley Girls – “Disaster (Is What We’re After)” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Joan Jett, The Runaways with horns
And then sometimes both reality and perception is just surreal. Watching Iggy Pop, who is dressed like a diplomat, eat a hamburger while a rocking song plays in the background would constitute as surreal. Leave it to Death Valley Girls, however, to get the iconic punk rocker to do this for the video of their newest tune, “Disaster (Is What We’re After)”.
The video is below, and it’s worth watching because this is likely the closest any of us will get to eating with James Newell Osterberg, Jr. He has pretty good manners, well right into the end at which he tosses the bag aside and says, “I’m Iggy Pop, and I just ate a burger for Death Valley Girls.” You cannot make this up!
But beyond the video, the four ladies who gave us the outstanding and bombastic Glow In The Dark, deliver another anthemic rocker that will have you dancing and raising your hands to the skies. The power guitar riffs are awesome, and the raging rhythms are worthy of the intense head banging that will ensue. That isn’t all, as the quartet are joined by a fiery horns section that adds to the chaotic furnace. Then there’s Bonnie Bloomgarden’s vocals, whose booming voice takes us on a brief journey through what should be fantasy but is this surreal reality within which we currently live. We can, however, do something about it, as they tell us that “We are the revolution!” and “We won’t surrender”. At least we won’t give in like the hamburger that Iggy Pop devoured.
Death Valley Girls are Bonnie Bloomgarden (vocals/guitar), The Kid (a.k.a. Laura Kelsey) (drums/vocals), Nikki Pickle (bass/vocals), and Larry Schemel (guitar). Their new album, Darkness Rains, is out October 5th via Suicide Squeeze Records. Pre-order and pre-save options are here or just go directly to Bandcamp.
Djinn City – “Reality” (Russia)
RIYL: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Maribou State, Glass Animals
We must first apologize to Tim Mitronin and Aidar Khusnutdinov, who are Djinn City. Although we’ve shared a couple of their songs, over the past year or so and their psychedelic-infused electronica has impressed us, we overlooked “Reality”. Our perception of the song was way off from its actual intent, which, as such, clouded our judgment. Furthermore, we completely ignored the cool, groovy bass line and the trippy, indie-electronica approach, where the duo have brought HAL 9000 into the present day. The result is a dizzying yet hypnotic number that would cause even the most stoic individual to temporarily lose their senses.
The story behind the song is much deeper. Check that, the song is actually two stories. As Aidar describes:
One is the recent story of a German family with 10 children who decided to move to a remote Siberian village to avoid sex education lessons (obligatory in Germany). The house they had to live in in Russia had no water and no central heating, and Siberian winters are harsh. And soon they came back to Germany. That’s where the ‘Reality bites’ hook comes from.
(The) second story was witnessed by Russian documentary filmmaker Marina Razbezhkina. She saw how a young reindeer-breeder drove his whole herd into the bog by mistake. The bog is soft and warm, and the poor animals made no attempts to get out of it. Finally, an old experienced breeder saved the deer by blocking their nostrils one by one. It is about many of us. Daily routine sucks us in, and we make no attempts to get out because of the comfort it brings.”
Sometimes one’s reality should be treated like perception, which can be said a lot these days.
Guerilla Toss – “Green Apple” (New York City via Boston, USA)
RIYL: The Slits, Grace Jones, U.S. Girls
For most of this decade, Guerilla Toss have been quietly plying their trade, which has ranged from post-punk to noise-rock to funk-infused disco to experimental-pop. The quintet of Kassie Carlson, Peter Negroponte, Arian Shafiee, Samuel Lisabeth, and Stephen Cooper personify what an artist is – someone who is constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Call them post-modern musicians, but we opt to call them pioneers. It’s not just their music that puts them near the front of our list when speaking about contemporary innovators. Carlson’s biting social commentary is another reason to pay close attention. Before it became cool and necessary to be politically and socially engaged over the past two years, Guerilla Toss were light years ahead of the pack. And once again they’re paving new ground with “Green Apple”.
There is no genre to classify this song, so the default position is to call it experimental pop. This categorization, however, undersells its brilliance. Industrial, krautrock, Goth-punk, psychedelic, and alt-pop all converge to create a chaotic but unexpectedly addictive melody. It would be easy to say the five-piece have sent us spiraling through the rabbit hole, but this isn’t some Alice in Wonderland concoction. Instead, Guerilla Toss have ripped apart reality like how Morpheus subtly encouraged Neo to take the red pill. Even Carlson’s words question what is real and what is not:
“Do you really see?
Did you really think that?
What do you believe
Bringing apple insects?
Even the song’s title takes shots at what we perceive to real. We can expect GT to challenge us even more when their new album, Twisted Crystal, drops September 14th via DFA Records. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
House of Feelings – “Touchscreen” (feat. Meredith Graves) (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Daft Punk, LCD Soundsystem, Rubblebucket
Also quickly hiding in the shadows of New York’s music-filled neighborhoods are House of Feelings, which is the project started by Matty Fasano and includes a constant rotation of musicians such as Joe Fassler and Pitchfork contributor Dale Eisinger (goes to show that the Pitchfork staff are just as good with the pen, or keyboard, as they are with an instrument). They’ve been around for a few years, but they’ve only released a few original songs here and there. They do, however, remixed quite a few tunes, making them truly an underground (or is it cyberworld) favorite. One individual who has been a fan for some time is former Perfect Pussy front woman and current Kickstarter music director Meredith Graves. She sang on one of the band’s first songs, “Avatar”, and she lends her support once again on “Touchscreen”.
Funky, groovy, and highly addictive, the collaboration deliver one heck of a trip through France’s disco and house scenes. Anyone who loves to dance will be bouncing off the walls and even those who opt to be stationary will still be moving and grooving. While the music buzzes and intoxicates, Graves’ voice takes on that of your favorite GPS guide or automated receptionist. She seductively says in her mechanical voice how we can find pleasure and even companionship by touching our phones or turning on our computers. It’s a new era where people find everything they need, including emotional connections, through the artificial. Just a brilliant piece of art.
Joel Porter – “Ready For The Harrow” (Nashville via Bismarck, ND, United States)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, José González, Iron & Wine
Take a very deep breath and then prepare to slowly exhale. Repeat this a few times and try to hold exhale more slowly each time and, thus, extend the time. It’s important to do this because this song will absolutely take your breath away. It may also make you shed a tear or hundred, so keep the tissues close by.
With the beautiful intimacy of Sufjan Stevens and the haunting grace of José González comes North Dakota native Joel Porter and his single, “Read For The Harrow”. It is truly one those OMG moments. A moment akin to a tidal wave of gorgeous emotions washing over you. The actual story behind the song, though, is one of sadness and a final memory that will last a lifetime. As Porter explains:
“‘Ready for the Harrow’ holds a very bittersweet place in my heart. The day that Eric and I were in the studio recording this song, I got a phone call from my father telling me that my Grandpa Tony, who speaks the poem on the instrumental intro, ‘The Warden’, passed away peacefully surrounded by my family. We actually recorded the song he is featured on the next day, and I brought it back to North Dakota for my family to hear at the wake. I hated being away… but giving that to my family turned out to be such a blessing…a little piece of him here we can all go back to.”
Porter’s new EP, Hiraeth, is out now. Stream it on Spotify and bring this gifted singer-songwriter into your lives.
Ricky Lewis – “TV On A Tiny Screen” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Kurt Vile, Sam Evian, Sam McCombs
Ricky Lewis‘ story is an all-too-familiar one for aspiring artists. He stumbled upon songwriting after his uncle gave him a cheap guitar as a teenager. For years, he would write songs and play at every possible open mic night in Queen’s and the other four boroughs while waiting tables, but the big break never did arrive. Just as he was about to give up and head home to start a new life, he met a woman who would change his life and open his mind to a whole new world. Now, his debut album is about to be released, and this demonstrates how one’s fortune can change if their perception is recalibrated. He sings about this life-changing event on “TV On A Tiny Screen”.
This tune is an old-school indie-rocker that is reminiscent of Kurt Vile and Sam Evian. Like those two outstanding singer-songwriters, Lewis makes rock ‘n roll sound simultaneously cool and warm, where it could be the centerpiece to our summer road-trip playlist. The rollicking rhythms and the awesome guitar work (wait for the little solo) are vintage Northeast USA, but his storytelling is all his own. There are nods to his actual packing and near move-in to his parents’ home as well as to his “baby”. Who is she is unknown, but she is like any person – someone who seeks escapism by watching whatever is on the small screen (not to mention avoid responsibility of getting a job).
Lewis’ new album, See You In The Morning, will see the light of day on September 21th. It promises to feature more stories from his life and possibly some that may be fantasy. Only Lewis knows for sure.
STUMPS – “Conversation, Conversations” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Phoenix meets Morissey and The Smiths, Jet
We’ve featured quite a few Aussie artists and bands this week, including dedicating a Matinee edition to the land Down Under. We may have saved the best for last with STUMPS. O.K., in all honesty we only received their new single, “Conversation, Conversations”, the other day, but this little fact doesn’t negate the opinion that Kyle Fisher, Merrick Powell, Jonny Dolan, and Michael Sacco could very well be the most exciting Australian band right now – or at least this week. Before you press play, we suggest you make some space, gather some of your friends, and then have one outrageous little dance party.
“Conversation, Conversation” is seriously like listening to Morissey fronting Phoenix on a surprise collaboration. The upbeat tempo and the buzzing guitar riffs in the chorus are akin to Phoenix’s hit “1901”. The rest of the track, however, mirrors the bubbling Brit-rock of the 1980s, which were resurrected in the early 2000s by the likes of The Libertines, The Strokes, and Jet. It’s fun, groovy, and exhilarating number that will make everyone dance, shake their booty, and let loose.
For those who are sticklers for a great story (like we are), you’ll adore Fisher’s tale of a romance falling apart, a young man seeking to paint the town red, and a young woman “slipping away”. All this happens because the two fail to talk. Hmm…we all better speak to our better halves today in order to keep our love real. And we all should spin this tune to set the mood.
Tanners – “This Crazy” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Bonnie Tyler, Laura Branigan, Berlin
It was only about four months ago when Tanner Peterson baptized us with her retro project, Tanners, and the inviting “Holy Water”. About two weeks ago, she quietly released her self-titled, debut EP (spin the four songs on Spotify), which for any fan of ’70s and ’80s synth- and psychedelic-pop should immediately hear. If you need some convincing (which you really should not), then spin “This Crazy”.
If “This Crazy” was released in 1982, it would have rocketed straight to the top of the charts with Casey Kasem gushing over its scintillating darkness. And in all likelihood, she would have been on Solid Gold and performing the song to a legion of new fans. MTV, meanwhile, would be spinning the song’s video at all hours and its VJs would be imitating her fashion sense. Even for today’s generation of music fans, there is no getting around the intoxicating nature of the track – from the buzzing synths, the bubbling rhythms, and Peterson’s saccharine vocals, which call out:
“I have been trying to hide this crazy,
But I know you can see it in my eyes.
I can feel you like I’m running from the police
But they can never catch me.”
While this is 2018, there’s no question in our minds that Tanner Peterson has the talent to be a star. Now someone, somebody sign her!
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