The Matinee ’18 September 4th edition is filled with surprises. This includes the return of an indie star from abroad, songs that sound like one thing but reveal a different message in its lyrics, and playful tunes that will leave you smiling.
CASTLEBEAT – “Research” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: DIIV, Ghost Wave, Daywave
The summer may be over in some parts of the world – at least the summer holiday season – but there’s never a bad time to think about the lazy days spent at the beach or the cabin and basking under the sun’s heat while the gentle breeze cooled your skin. This feeling of July bliss is speckled across “Research”, which is a song taken from CASTLEBEAT‘s debut album, VHS.
This isn’t the first time we’ve featured Josh Hwang’s surfwave project, as he previously blew us away with “Town”. While Hwang offered advice on starting a new life on “Town”, he allows his dissonant guitar, trembling bass line, and dabbling drum machine do all the talking. It’s a 2.5-minute instrumental that is simply intoxicating, which you expect an entire band to create. Instead, Hwang is a one-man band, and this wordless track, without makes a huge statement about the talent the young Brooklyn-based artist possesses.
Death of the Maiden – “Horses” (Oxford, England)
RIYL: Emma Ruth Rundle, Chelsea Wolfe, Anna von Hausswolff
Some people get into music hoping to gain fame and fortune, and they’ll go to great lengths to achieve the dreams. Others become involved to make a statement and to give a voice to those who scream to be heard. For Tamara Parsons-Baker, Emma Coombs, Jenny Oliver, and Hannah Bruce, they formed Death of the Maiden to, in their words, “provide role models to young people in the LGBTQ+ community. We are trying to empower, be visible women, feminists, queers, (PoC – albeit white passing – privilege), in the music scene because, unfortunately, it is still difficult to be these things in the music scene and in the world.”
These four Oxford residents make a huge statement with their newest song, “Horses”. It’s clear from the opening to the very last notes that the quartet intend to enrapture and captivate. The dark, bleak, folk-rock approach is paralyzing with the shallow rhythms and the slight stammering of the acoustic guitar. Parsons-Baker, meanwhile, is like an enchantress with her whispery, hollow voice. Her tale is similarly mystical in a Sleepy Hollow way, as she describes how the men on horses are coming to destroy us. The story, of course, juxtaposes the witch hunts of Medieval times with what has and continues to happen to millions of people around the world, who are punished, jailed, and ostracized for being different. For practicing a different religion, because the color of their skin is different, because of who they choose to love.
Death of the Maiden are working on their debut album, which they hope to release early in 2019.
Elijah Wolf – “Tell ‘Em” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Noah Gundersen, David Ramirez, Fred Thomas
We all know to never judge a book by its cover. Often this applies to something that is not so pretty or appealing, but it can also apply in the opposite scenario. Something gorgeous and that seems absolutely delectable can end up being grotesque. In music, a song could radiate like the summer sunshine and leave feelgood vibes, but the storyline and lyrics reveal an emerging danger or a growing darkness. Brooklyn singer-songer Elijah Wolf‘s new song, “Tell ‘Em”, does this very thing.
The song is pure poetry. Musically, it is dazzling folk-rock that at times reaches chest-swelling levels while permanently leaving you in a state of calm elation. However, his words say another thing, as he describes the final days of his Grandfather’s life. As Wolf recalls:
“‘Tell ‘Em’ was written about my time visiting my Grandfather towards the end of his life. I wrote this song after a specific conversation we had in which he seemed confused and lost, and I couldn’t quite make sense of this. It was as if he was trying to tell everyone something but couldn’t quite find the words. I went home that evening and wrote this on my acoustic guitar to try to make sense of it all. I wrote the song to feel triumphant and strong but was left with more confusion, which explains the spacious lap steel outro.”
Wolf’s new album, The Mtn Laurel Rd, opens to the world on September 7 via Old Flame Records.
Holy Drone – “Sinking Peaks” (Warrington, England)
RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers, My Bloody Valentine, Soundgarden
When Holy Drone revealed “Radio Song” last month, the song exemplified their name – a dazzling display of celestial shoegaze. For their second number, the band formerly known as Danxia have thrown out the stargazing approach in favor of a more aggressive approach.
“Sinking Peaks” is grunge-infused shoegaze – or shoegaze-infused grunge, depending on your perspective. It is heavy, hard, and an absolute face-melter. Instead of the reverb-drenched guitars brightening the sky, they are loud and thunderous. The rhythms explode between the electrified claps, adding an extra layer of urgency and grungy goodness. While the music is bone-jarring, front woman Emma Bate-Nilsson’s vocals are angelic, and they cut through the raging storm with ease. She is here to deliver a message from the heavens about the lost souls that roam the planet. About the people we, including those who are meant to serve the greater good, have forgotten.
Holy Drone are Emma Bate-Nilsson, James Atherton, Louis Haughton, Luke Holland, and Dave Kennah. The song is available on Bandcamp for the bargain-basement price of “Name Your Own”. Get it but please leave a tip.
INDIANS – “Leave” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Phoria, U.S. Girls, Lontalius
Danish multi-instrumentalist and producer Søren Juul previously made a name for himself under the moniker INDIANS, and he released two albums with super label 4AD. Two years ago, he opted to just use his own name to signify a change in style and composition, as he turned the project into a solo endeavor. As he prepares to release for his new EP, ELMS, later this year, he’s returned to the name that made him an indie star.
“Leave”, which is his first song back as INDIANS, re-captures the magic of his early beginnings and builds upon it. An easy and calm, electro-R&B allure emanates in the song’s first couple of minutes. It leaves you in a daze and may even leave chills on your skin, particularly as Juul’s sultry vocals evocatively proclaim, “You ask me to leave now.” Then something unexpected happens – instead of gracefully ending, the song surges into a lavish affair of magnetic sound. It is like waiting in the still of the night for the Auroras to arrive and suddenly the sky turns into a sea of dancing color. This is awe-striking beautiful.
Kaia Kater – “New Colossus” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Corinne Rae Bailey, Lianne La Havas, Julia Jacklin
In July, Canadian singer-songwriter Kaia Kater made her debut appearance at the famed Newport Folk Festival, and she had people talking about her throughout the three days. One person commented that watching and hearing her was like seeing a young Corinne Rae Bailey. Who are we to argue with the comparison?
The two artists do share several similarities – engaging vocals, an easy and intimate indie-folk style, and smart, imaginative stories. Kater displays all her talents and Bailey-like potential on “New Colossus”.
Kater and her band craft an indie-folk tune that is simultaneously beautiful and haunting. It sounds at first like a calm and serene ballad. Underneath the gentle strums of the acoustic guitar, the stirring hum of the steel guitar, and the feathery percussion, however, is a lingering darkness, which form around Kater’s storyline about everything balancing out.
“Speculator in the new age town,
Spoils the milk and rolls the carpet down.
Speculator do you long to see
When the new colossus comes for you.
When the new colossus comes for me.”
Mary-Elaine Jenkins – “Iggy” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Margaret Glaspy, Margo Price, Rayland Baxter
Two weeks ago, we watched Iggy Pop devour a hamburger on the video for Death Valley Girls’ newest single, “Disaster (Is What We’re After)”. We wonder if 29-year old, singer-songwriter Mary-Elaine Jenkins watched it because she has… well… a little crush on the punk legend. At least that’s the indication she gives on her new track, “Iggy”.
OK, the song is likely tongue-in-cheek, but even if she’s serious she has delivered one fun and entertaining number. The guitar line is classic rockabilly, and it’s complemented by some groovy, hip-shaking rhythms. It’s the type of tune that Elvis Presley would have enjoyed or possibly even performed as a duet with Jenkins. However, we don’t think he would deliver the song’s best lines because, ah you’ll see:
“These other boys, they just don’t cut it.
I want me a leather punk-rock king.
Big white teeth and long, greasy hair.
Oh, he’s got everything I need.”
Jenkins’ debut album, Hold Still, is out September 28th on Good Child Music.
RYAN Playground – “Empty Pool” (ft. Lontalius) (Montreal, Canada & Wellington, New Zealand)
RIYL: BROODS, Wet, Lorde
After making a name for herself on runways and catwalks, Genevieve Ryan Martel is gradually making a name for herself as a gifted producer and DJ. For instance, she caught the attention of Canadian super-producer Ryan Hemsworth, who signed her to his label. She’s also played at or DJ’ed exclusive events for major fashion labels. She may not be a household name like Calvin Harris or Tiësto, but those in the known recognize her unique ability to forge light and darkness together. In other words, Martel’s project, RYAN Playground, isn’t an ordinary electronic project. It’s more like a piece of grand cinema, as evidenced by “Empty Pool”.
Featuring New Zealand multi-genre star Lontalius, Martel has crafted a deeply emotive and personal number. Her production work is precise, controlled, and subdue in order to allow create the sombre but hypnotic atmosphere. At its most beautiful moments, the song reaches breathtaking levels, and at its most intimate points it’s as private as a bedroom conversation. The pair’s vocals are a match made in music heaven, as they both softly describe the loneliness that surrounds them and how no one will understand them. It’s a moving number that could be interpreted in many ways, but one thing is clear from this track – Martel is a powerhouse in the making.
Sugarplum Fairies – “Jaguar Jackson” (Los Angeles, USA via Vienna, Austria)
RIYL: The Velvet Underground with Nico, a female version of Spiritualized, Mazzy Starr
Everyday we’re presented with surprises that leave us in awe and a smile on our faces. Surprises that have us asking, “Why haven’t we discovered so-so before” or “Why did we never give so-so a chance?” Both questions apply to Vienna-born, LA-based Silvia Ryder and her project Sugarplum Fairies, who came up on our radar a couple of months ago. We didn’t pay enough attention then, but we are now.
A few weeks ago, she released her new album, Payday Flowers, on her own label Starfish Records. From it is “Jaguar Jackson”, which will make you, too, speechless. Like a female version of Spiritualized or a more romantic version of The Velvet Underground mixed with the songwriting of Neil Young, Ryder delivers a memorable song. It’s a song that will lift your spirits, imagine of days when you traveled across the country or backpacked in a far-off land, or simply ease your nerves. Calling this stupendous or outstanding would be an understatement. Instead, we’ll call “Jaguar Jackson” an instant classic, which explains everything.
Purchase Payday Flowers on Bandcamp today.
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