It’s Labor Day in North America, but great music doesn’t take a break. The Matinee ’18 September 3rd features nine songs to either help you enjoy this final holiday of summer or ease into the work week if you live elsewhere. The descriptions are a bit shorter since I’m doing double duty while Wendy is away.
Birch – “femme.two” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Saint Sister, Half Waif, Lisa Hannigan
Michelle Birsky – a.k.a. Birch – first caught our attention as a synth-pop artist. Her debut EP, Halfway, was reminiscent of the intimate ambience of fellow Brooklyn outfit Wet. Birsky, though, is writing a new chapter to her career and completely changing her approach. Teaming up with Mat Towles, she has entered the world of folktronica and darkwave, and the results are startling.
“femme.two” is a stunning introduction to Birksy’s new world. The arrangements and orchestration are taut, yielding a haunting yet hypnotic approach. Its hazy darkness would fill up New York City’s most lavish clubs, leaving all its patrons in a trance. At the same time, its intimacy is perfect for a moment of solitude when you’re looking to escape for a moment. Birsky’s vocals are alluring, often times stuttering in the still of the air and other moments gently floating through the brooding soundscape. Her lyrics, though, are unexpected given the tone of the track. It’s not a love song nor introspective. Instead, it is founded on the most important movement of the recent past. As Birsky explains:
“The concept for ‘femme.two’ was inspired by the Women’s March; it’s about the feminist movement today, how far we’ve come, and how far we have left to go.”
Birsky is putting the final touches on her debut album. It should be out late 2018 or early 2019.
CHINAH – “Strange Is Better” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: TT, JFDR, Samaris
It has almost been exactly three years – three years and two days to be exact – when we were first introduced to CHINAH. The trio of singer-songwriter Fine Glindvad, guitarist Simon Kjær, and producer/pianist/keyboardist Simon Andersson were relative unknowns, but they’ve seen grown to be one of Denmark’s most exciting electronic bands. They’re not the typical electronic outfit, however, as they prefer to enthrall with their dark intimacy as oppose to shock and overload like many other outfits. They may have saved their most bewitching single with “Strange Is Better”.
The beats, synth, and production work are spectacular, where every element is delivered with surgeon-like precision. Each note, tone, and rhythm is spine-tingling, creating the haunting atmosphere for Glindvad’s distant vocals to shine. She is like the voice in the back of our minds or the person standing in the shadows of the far corner and teasing us to come over. She’s not, however, trying to seduce us. On the contrary, she’s trying to wake us up from our stupor and realize that strangeness is the new norm. That what worked in the past is now obsolete. And given CHINAH have been going against the mainstream, we should heed their advice.
Cosmic Strip – “Sugar Rush” (London, England)
RIYL: Lush, Air, Cocteau Twins
On Friday, one of shoegaze’s next great artists and future legend Camella Agabalya, who is the mastermind behind Cosmic Strip, released her debut EP, Heavenly. Despite only releasing a handful of songs and this one record, she has a strong, loyal fan base, which demonstrates her immense talent. We only joined the bandwagon a month ago when she released the gobsmacking title track, and we won’t be getting off anytime soon. The record is worth spinning for its spellbinding shoegaze – or dreamgaze, if you will – such as revealed on “Sugar Rush”.
Cosmic catharsis is the only way to describe the track. It combines the ethereal approach of Lush and Air with the shimmering reverb brilliance of Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. Like these bands, when the guitars arrive, mind-blowing happens. While the air spins with delirium, Agabalya’s gorgeous vocals fill the gap, softly telling us that we are her “Sugar Rush”. After listening to this song, though, you will agree that Cosmic Strip will be your sugar rush for today and everyday.
Eckhardt And The House – “Put Me In A Cape” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: BRONCHO, COIN, Hippo Campus
Back in March, Eckhardt And The House – the project of producer, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and actor Rik Elstgeest – released his debut single, “If You Cannot Talk”, which was not just groovy but immensely clever from a storytelling perspective. How many songs do you know that describes a young girl listening to her iPod or whatever device while on a long bus ride? As fun and amusing as that tune was, he’s outdone himself with his second single.
“Put Me In A Cape” is simply FUN! It’s a little funky, a little poppy, a little jittery, and filled with good vibes. This tune is the ideal tune to play at a dance party or at a bar because everyone would be dancing, bouncing, or at the very least bopping. Everyone would be smiling and screaming the chorus, and some definitely would grab their jackets or the tablecloths and pretend to wear a cape. Others, meanwhile, would be standing next to the trumpet players and pretending to blow booming notes. But don’t forget about Elstgeest’s story, as he delivers another unforgettable tale. This time he recounts one mere mortal’s attempt to become a superhero. Somewhere, Ben Stiller is listening to this as he’s writing the sequel to Mystery Men.
The single is out on Amsterdam-based indie label TCBYML.
The Gooch Palms – “Marfa Lights” (Newcastle, Australia)
RIYL: Guantanamo Baywatch, Dune Rats, The Growlers
The best songs, in our humble opinion, are those that either create their own mystical worlds (like a real story) or are based on an adventure. As Leroy Macqueen and Kat Friend have taken their project The Gooch Palms to Los Angeles (they still visit and tour frequently across Australia), they have plenty of stories to share. Not that didn’t have amusing tales to tell before, but new places yield new experiences to share, which they do with “Marfa Lights”.
In case you’re wondering, the Marfa Lights are an unexplained phenomenon that occurs off Route 67 in southwest Texas. Ghostly lights glitter in the dark, and some think they are UFOs or the work of some paranormal activity. While there are plenty of photos available on the internet, now the event is forever cemented in the music world. The duo deliver a smile-inducing, chest-heaving number. It’s catchy, radiant, and simply a mood-changing number that will turn your frown upside down (sorry couldn’t resist). Even if you have never seen “the dancing lights”, this tune will make you think you’re sitting in the back seat with The Gooch Palms. Together, you make your way to experience the unexplained, and it is memorable.
Mystic Braves – “What Went Wrong” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Smith Westerns, Woods, Whitney
Two weeks ago, LA quintet Mystic Braves released their new album, The Great Unknown, via Lolipop Records. It fell off our radar, which is unfortunate since much of it is a re-imagination of the ’70s psychedelic folk-rock scene. We would remiss if we didn’t share at least one song, and one of the album’s highlights is “What Went Wrong”.
Like the music that came out of the Laurel Canyon neighborhood, the song feels like the first day of spring with its warm and vibrant vibe. Jangly guitars, feathery percussion, and gentile vocals effortlessly fill the air, yielding an intoxicating effect. Bodies will sway, toes will tap, and eyes will close to experience the song’s shimmering haze. As a lightness takes hold of your mind, listen to the lyrics and reflect back on a failed relationship and how the outcome could have been different if you said and did the right things. Now take hold of those lessons and apply them to the here and now. As this song demonstrates, we can still take from the past to make the future bright.
Mystic Braves are Julian Ducatenzeiler, Tony Malacara, Cameron Gartung, Shane Stotsenberg, and Ignacio Gonzalez. Other songs from the album to check out are “Are You Gonna Be There” and “Under Control”.
Nat Vazer – “Struggletown” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Jessica Pratt, Lucy Dacus, Natalie Prass
Back in June, we were introduced to Melbourne singer-songwriter Nat Vazer and her single, “You’re Winning Me Over”, and we were immediately hooked to her blustery indie pop-rock. Could she make us do a double take a second time? The answer is a resounding yes, as “Struggletown” is a multifaceted wonderland.
Jive, jazz, doo-wop, and pop merge on this enrapturing single. The fluttering bass line and stuttering drums set the tone, creating a light and carefree atmosphere. The background “oohs” and “aahs” accentuate the mood with their ’50s smoothness. “Struggletown”, however, is still very much a contemporary number due to Vazer’s gentile yet commanding voice and the jangly edges that echo from the lingering guitar. Her lyrics, too, address a modern-day challenge, specifically feeling trapped in the 9-to-5 cycle and working in a toxic environment. Most of us know the feeling, but it takes a great deal of courage to leave one’s job and jump into the great unknown. Vazer did this and now she’s doing what she loves and reclaimed her life in the process.
Vazer’s next milestone comes September 14th when her debut EP, We Used To Have Real Conversations, arrives.
Slothrust – “Planetarium” (Los Angeles via Boston, USA)
RIYL: Screaming Females, The Pack A.D., Sharkmuffin
Leah Wellbaum (vocals/guitar), Kyle Bann (bass), and Will Gorin (drums) have thrown us a curveball. The majority of Slothrust‘s songs are named after animals or food, such as “Birthday Cake”, “Peach”, and “Horseshoe Crab” (the first two are on their forthcoming new album). This time, though, they send us to the “Planetarium” for one whale of a bluesy, raucous rock tune.
This song is off-the-charts! It’s a massive adrenaline rush, akin to the one you would experience hurtling down a roller coaster or jumping out of an airplane (with a parachute on of course). Bann and Gorin roar with their rhythmic arsenal while Wellbaum delivers some serious guitar licks that are reminiscent of B.B. King or Chuck Berry. Her best ammunition, however, are her lyrics, which hit the target – between an ex’s or an arch-enemy’s eyes or directly at the heart – every single time. Right off the bat, she delivers a massive maelstrom when she hollers:
“I want to take you to the planetarium
I want to show you how ugly the sky is.”
Immediately after, she reveals how she is really feeling:
“Have you ever faked sick before
Because I’m faking it right now?”
We have to say it – “F*ck yeah!”
Slothrust’s fourth album, The Pact, is out September 14th on Dangerbird Records. It’s going to be awesome!
Subsonic Eye – “The Tired Club” (Singapore)
RIYL: Say Sue Me, Basement Revolver, Frankie Cosmos
There is an indie renaissance happening in Asia. Although K-pop and J-pop still dominate (for better or worse), South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore are experiencing a huge increase in the number of indie bands being formed. Part of the reason is that boutique labels are sprouting up, following the blueprints set by industry giants Flying Nun, Merge Records, and Sub Pop. Their presence has enabled us to enjoy the fantastic indie pop of Korea’s Say Sue Me and Japan’s Otoboke Beaver or the rattling indie rock of The Molice. Today, we get to enjoy the delights of Singapore’s Subsonic Eye.
Like the aforementioned names, Subsonic Eye are masters of cinematic dream-pop. Their newest single, “The Tired Club”, is just the tip of the iceberg, demonstrating the quintet’s ability to create widescreen and blustery soundscapes. The jangly guitars, the buzzing synths, and the smooth rhythms swirl around front woman Wahidah’s blissful vocals like a sonic twister. However, her voice is crystal clear, calling through the escalating noise to tell us that she won’t leave our side. To tell us that we will not suffocate nor submit to the pressures of the external world. Instead, we will be trailblazers, which this little band is doing in a part of the world where indie movement is only beginning.
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