The return of one of indie’s greatest singer-songwriters highlights The Matinee ’18 October 4th edition. Following her are eight other outstanding young artists and bands, some of whom have shot to stardom and others on the cusp of it.
Sharon Van Etten – “Comeback Kid” (Los Angeles via Brooklyn & New Jersey, USA)
RIYL: Siouxsie Sioux, The Knife, Fever Ray
In the four years since her soaring fourth album, Are We There Yet, and its follow-up EP, I Don’t Want To Let You Down, Sharon Van Etten has experienced more life-changing events than most individuals will encounter in their lifetimes. She stepped aside from music to pursue her psychology degree, gave birth to her first child, and landed a recurring role on The Netflix drama The OA. She also moved across the country, calling Los Angeles home for the time being. Despite her multiple roles, the New Jersey native always stayed in touch with her musical side, as evidenced by her regular appearances in one of Newport Folk Festival’s collaborative, superstar sessions. And now, she unleashes it and in a big, big way.
Van Etten’s earlier works were largely alt-folk and indie rock, and she turned the ballad into a sonic force of nature. With “Comeback Kid”, however, she has set aside her guitar and replaced it with sizzling synths and a head-jarring drum machine. She’s gone dark disco-electro, where she sounds like the second-coming of Siouxsie Sioux or Fever Ray’s sibling. And it is awesome! The song possesses the same power and exhilarating effect as her masterpiece, “Serpents”. This time, however, instead of singing about trying to forgive another for his crimes, she sings about how redemption can take many forms and how one can turn the naysayers into believers. How one can turn his own life around.
Van Etten’s new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, arrives January 18th, 2019 via Jagjaguwar. You better believe this will be at the top of our Most Anticipated Albums of the new year.
Julia Jacklin – “Body” (Blue Mountains of Australia)
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Emma Russack, Lera Lynn
Since the release of her excellent debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, which possessed the intimacy of a June Carter classic, Julia Jacklin has been in constant motion. She’s toured across the globe on at least two – possibly three or four – occasions. Earlier this year, she joined her friends Ryan K Brennan and Liz Hughes to release Phantastic Ferniture‘s coming-of-age, self-titled, debut album. While she is yet again on the road, the young woman from the beautiful Blue Mountains region of Australia has found the time to release a new single and video, and both are stunning.
Whereas her earlier solo tracks possessed a dreamy, folk vibe and Phantastic Ferniture’s music borders on euphoric pop, Jacklin gets darker and gloomier on “Body”. Her electric guitar strums quietly in the background while the rhythms and piano throb direly in the foreground. They give way to Jacklin’s soft vocals, which are lush yet vulnerable. Her story is emotionally crippling, as she recounts the loss of one’s innocence and the torment, turmoil, and despair that envelops her. Although the track is full of pain, it is powerful in its message and revelations. It defines why the #MeToo movement is so important.
“Do you still have that photograph?
Will you use it to hurt me?
Well, I guess it’s just my life,
And it’s just my body.”
The single is out now on Liberation Records. Hopefully, this is the first hint that Jacklin’s sophomore album will be coming in 2019.
Free Love – “Playing As Punks” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: Happy Meals, New Order, Yumi Zouma
We’re not exactly sure why Suzanne Roden and Lewis Cook changed their name from Happy Meals to Free Love, but if we had to guess it might be related to the pair growing and maturing. While they’ve established themselves within the rave, techno, and electronic landscapes, their newest single sees them delve into dreamier and lusher meadows.
“Playing As Punks” is a stunner. It’s a truly mouth-gaping, intoxicating tune that will leave you floating on Cloud 9. The fabulous production work remains, but the pair expand their musicianship to include a Peter Hook-like bass line and sultry, bubbling synths reminiscent of disco dazzler Yumi Zouma. More impressive is their songwriting. Although they’ve dabbled in storytelling, they take their craft to a whole different level in describing how different characters chase their dreams. If this sounds like an ’80s coming-of-age movie, you would be correct, and their lyrics could form the foundation for a future film.
Free Love’s new EP, Luxury Hits, sees the light of day on November 9th.
GRDNS – “Venus” (Bradford, England)
RIYL: Temples, The fin., My Morning Jacket
Somehow and some way, Bradford quartet GRDNS are still hovering below the radar. It’s a crime that must be investigated because they’re creating ultra-cool indie and psychedelic rock. In this day and age of the internet, a band’s place of residence shouldn’t matter, but then again maybe a move to Manchester, London, or Brighton would help the band gain some much-deserved hype. Fortunately, they’re still quite young, so time is on their side. And maybe, just maybe a promoter for Temples or The Brian Jonestown Massacre is scanning the interweb and comes across “Venus” and gets blown away like we did.
“Venus” is a dizzying yet rocking affair. It possesses the trippy haze of the ’70s, where the swirling guitars and front man Jacob Lyons’ transcendent vocals recreate the spiraling vortex of The Byrds and The Doors. And yet, it is a stupendous rocker, where at its zenith the outfit channel their inner My Morning Jacket and fire face-melting riffs and hammer military-style rhythms (hopefully when performed live there will be a killer guitar solo). As if he is a young Jim James, Lyons’ lyrics and storyline are otherworldly. He’s crafted a sci-fi romance between Earth and the goddess Venus, and how they cannot exist if the other one dies. Hmm… maybe this tune could be used on a future episode of Dr. Who.
In the meantime, the single is out on Dance To The Radio. GRDNS are Jacob Lyons (vocals/guitar), Sam Gledhill (guitar), Cameron Harrison (bass), and John Fitzpatrick (drums)
Hajk – “Dancing Like This” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Band of Gold, Carly Simon, Alicia Bridges
A little more than a year ago, Norwegian outfit Hajk released their self-titled debut album, which introduced the world to their psychedelic-infused and funky indie-pop. Although they could continue down this path, they’ve chosen to venture into new territory and demonstrate they can also make melancholic music that still makes you swoon.
Resetting the calendars to 1977 and the days of disco, Preben Sælid Andersen, Sigrid Aase, Knut Olva Sandvik, Johan Nord, and Einar Næss Haugseth deliver a stunning number with “Dancing Like This”. It’s not a banger nor anthemic number, but rather a beautifully graceful tune that will make you close your eyes while you gently sway to the delicate rhythms and the sublime chiming guitar. In other words, you’ll be just like Aase, who gorgeously sings:
“I just close my eyes,
And I pretend that I am somewhere else.
I close my eyes,
And I disappear.
I’d give up everything if I just could be dancing like this when you’re here.”
Isadora Eden – “Without You” (Denver via New Orleans, Brooklyn, and Massachusetts, USA)
RIYL: Joni Mitchell, Wye Oak, Tiny Ruins
While most artists make their way to Brooklyn, singer-songwriter Isadora Eden has done the opposite. She packed her bags and first headed south to New Orleans to expose herself to the folk music of the south. Last month, she headed west to Denver, which is home to some of the best roots and western soul music in the USA. Maybe now the world will get to know her name and hear her music. Time will of course determine her fate, but with an outstanding voice and intimate sound success she greet her soon.
On Friday, Eden’s new EP, Quick To Burn, will be released. She has released two of its songs, including the lovely “Without You”. Like a young Joni Mitchell, Eden has crafted an unforgettable single. The combination of the acoustic guitar, the soft bellow of a trumpet, and feathery rhythms creates a soundscape that could be the anthem for a lone gunslinger slowly traveling across the deserts of America’s southwest. Eden’s deep, gorgeous vocals, though, recount a tale that is closer to home. A tale about how the most important person in your life – who might be a lover, a parent, your best friend – struggles with an illness. Her lyrics are intimate and revealing, particularly when she sings:
“They say I’ll forget your face eventually.
No one else remembers you and me.
All the people who he used to be
All that is nothing but a memory.”
Check Eden’s Bandcamp page on Friday to get her new record.
Pip Blom – “Come Home” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, Annabel Allum, Miya Folick
It seems like only yesterday that we were rocking out to Pip Blom‘s debut single, “Taxi Driver”. At the time, we were exalting about her potential to the Netherlands’ answer to Courtney Barnett with her catchy indie-rock approach and witty lyricism. Our opinion was validated when she released “Pussycat” back in May, and she further impresses with “Come Home”.
Darker, gloomier, and more hypnotic, “Come Home” reveals another side and maturity in the 21-year old singer-songwriter’s artistry. The rhythms rattle with a quiet desperation desperate, and the mournfully wailing dissonant guitar echoes a young Thurston Moore. Blom’s vocals, meanwhile, barely waver and at times reach deadpan levels to reflect the neglect and pain she feels. Her story is more than just heartbreak and disappoint, but it’s also about being unable to break away from an emotionally destructive relationship. Simply a brilliant number from a rising star.
Blom’s new EP, Paycheck, is out this Friday, October 5th on Nice Swan Records and El Diablo Records. Joining Pip Blom (vocals/guitar) are Tender Blom (guitar/vocals), Casper van der Lans (bass), and Gini Cameron (drums).
Sonny Elliot – “Surrender” (Southampton, England)
RIYL: Cigarettes After Sex, Rhye, The Amazing
We have a soft spot for cinematic indie, which is a cop-out way of describing genre-less songs that are widescreen in their approach and breathtaking in their impact. Cigarettes After Sex and Rhye are the masters of this sound, and we’ll have to add brothers Chris and Joe Peden’s project Sonny Elliot to this exclusive club.
With an EP already under their belt, they are about to release their second one next week. If “Surrender” is just the tip of the iceberg, then the Southampton duo surely will be known as one of the rare bands that leave you in awe from the very first to the very last note. For one song, they do exactly this.
“Surrender” is spellbinding gorgeous, and it’s a song that won’t easily be forgotten. Its beauty lies in two main elements. The first is the magnificent composition, which is one part film-noir, another part glistening shoegaze balladry, and a dash of the melancholic LA music scene of the ’70s. The second is Chris’ lush voice, which possesses the same trembling impact of CAS’ Greg Gonzalez. His songwriting, too, matches the venerable indie star, as he writes a gripping story of a struggling person who finds peace in the company of another. Chris’ words are pure poetry.
The brothers’ sophomore EP, Surrender, is out October 12th. It should be up on Bandcamp next week.
Winnetka Bowling League – “Feeling California” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Cake, BRONCHO, CRUISR
A band must be doing something right when a major record label signs them even though they have a very minimal musical footprint and social media presence. Well, Winnetka Bowling League are one these rarities. They are signed to RCA Records, who two weeks ago released the mysterious band’s eponymous, debut EP. Before you think they are just another generic pop band with connections, take a listen to “Feeling California”, and we are certain your opinion will change.
The song is quirky, fun, and immensely clever. The off-kilter guitar-pop approach is catchy and immensely groovy, causing folks to shimmy and shake in weird ways yet smiling throughout. A Cake vibe also filters through the air, namely in the bopping bass line, the stuttering vocals, and the wacky lyrics. For instance, while California is often associated with vast amounts of sunshine and beaches, the outfit proclaim that “it’s always sweater weather”. They also discuss waitresses who want to be actresses, people who “eat granola while sipping RC Cola“, and those who “are always high and obsessed with fitness”. Ah, the multiplicity that is the Golden State, where nothing is never as it seems, much like this enigmatic band.
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