The Matinee ’18 October 18th is full of cinema, theater, magic, and epics. Let these nine songs take you places that real or imagined.
Behaviorist – “Dirty Pictures” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: San Fermin, Phoria, Rubblebucket
The respect and popularity of an artist should never be judged by the number of followers s/he has on social media. Instead, look at who is lining up to work with the individual, and this will give you a better indication of how her/his talent. In the case of Stephen Chen – who is better known for his work as the saxophonist in San Fermin – and his project Behaviorist, a who’s who of indie heavyweights make appearances on his new single, “Dirty Pictures”.
Joining Chen are members of Son Lux, Dirty Projectors, Rubblebucket, and, of course, San Fermin, and together they deliver a remarkable and stunning number. Actually, “Dirty Pictures” is musical perfection – from the orchestration to the execution to the fabulous songwriting.
Like Chen’s main band, “Dirty Pictures” adopts a widescreen, symphonic, art-rock approach. Its gentile intro gives way to a more haunting and cinematic tone with Chen’s changing vocals leading the charge. He is a man unsatisfied with his relationship, and he seeks sexual pleasure by watching pornography. Playing the role of his partner is Ella Joy Meir of Iris Lune, whose gorgeous voice reveals a woman who is hurt yet feels she needs to apologize. As she lushly states after discovering he’s looking at dirty pictures in a magazine, “I’m sorry I’m not enough”.
Curtis Harding – “Where We Are” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Sam Cooke, Al Green, Gil Scott-Heron
Curtis Harding is easily one of America’s most underrated artists. He is like Sam Cooke, Al Green, and Gil Scott-Heron resurrected, consistently delivering vintage soul and R&B songs (think the ’60s and ’70s). His last album, Face Your Fear, was one of our Favorite Albums of 2017 because he reinvigorated life into two genres and wrote some of the most powerful songs of the year. His songwriting is unparalleled, as he addresses society’s most pressing issues through the perspective of the everyday woman or man. If you are still discovering Harding’s brilliance, then let “Where We Are” be your introduction.
Set aside 7 minutes and 40 seconds and just listen. Hear the wonderful orchestration, where the strings beautifully merge with trembling rhythms, the taut guitar, and the humming organ. Listen to Harding’s classic soul voice and allow it to penetrate deep into your psyche. Pay attention to his lyrics, as he paints a story of a soul wondering across America in search for answers. In search for his identity, for peace, and for what it means to an American today.
This outstanding single is out now via Anti-. It’s undoubtedly one of the best songs of 2017.
Dahlia Sleeps – “Settle Down” (London, England)
RIYL: Cults, Cathedrals, Memoryhouse
For as long as we’ve been listening to Dahlia Sleeps, they’ve always brought us to our knees. Well, they opt to change pace and surprise us by getting us up off our feet with “Settle Down”.
Simply put, “Settle Down” is Lucy Hill, Luke Hester, Spencer Buckley, and Callum Sharp at their most jubilant. Their brooding trip-hop gives way to a breathtaking and exhilarating synth-pop approach reminiscent of Cults and Cathedrals. The synths pop, the rhythms titillate, and Hill’s magnificent voice brightly illuminates. Her words, which were written by Hester, are also optimistic, making us believe that better days are to come. That despite pain and uncertainy, we always have one thing we can count on – hope. The music and the message will put a smile on your face and lift your spirits. We promise they will.
Dahlia Sleeps’ new EP, Love, Lost, will be released December 3rd on Beatnik Creative. It’s going to be one great early Christmas gift.
Jealous of the Birds – “Marrow” (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
RIYL: Wallis Bird, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco
Bob Dylan was the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Forty years from now, could Naomi Hamilton, who goes by the moniker Jealous of the Birds, join him? This might seem premature or even ludicrous to say, but the recent university grad is a poet and storyteller disguised as a singer-songwriter. Just like Dylan. O.k., she doesn’t have a “Hurricane” in her arsenal yet, but she does have an uncanny way of capturing the human spirit, which she does on “Marrow”.
While Dylan is low-key in his arrangements, Hamilton chooses to soar. Her widescreen alt-folk approach is more akin to Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco, who are also two iconic powerhouses within the genre. The music is graceful at times and blusters during its most climatic moments. Hamilton’s words, though, are what drew you in, as the song is littered with great lines and imagery to describe her desire to experience the world and see all of its beauty. Some of the best lines are:
“Oh to have a distilled sense of sensing.
Does a banshee get tired of lamenting?
Daisies can’t become daffodils,
So why should I become this?”
Like the old saying goes, the world is your oyster, so discover it’s magic.
Kadhja Bonet – “The Watch” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Natalie Prass, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jessica Pratt
Earlier this year, the talented Kadhja Bonet released Childqueen, her fabulous psychedelic-soul-pop album (get it here). Three songs, however, didn’t make the final cut because, as she states, they didn’t quite fit the flow of the LP. Instead of letting them disappear into the abyss, she has released the tracks as part of a special EP, Childqueen Outtakes, via Fat Possum Records. One of the tunes is the delicate fairy tale, “The Watch”.
For those around our age or older, this song will bring back memories of the ’70s and the days when Mary Chapin Carpenter’s gorgeous voice would ease our anxieties. Bonet’s voice possesses the same qualities, floating effortlessly in the air like a feather in a gentle breeze. You’ll immediately become lost in her spell even before she can finish asking in the very first line, “Does anyone happen to yesterday?” To be honest, we don’t care what happened yesterday when a song as light and stunning reaches our ears. When a song feels exactly like its lyrics, specifically when Bonet says, “Bring on the sun.”
The EP is available on Bandcamp and streaming on Spotify and Apple Music. The other two songs are also terrific, demonstrating why Bonet is a star in the making.
Micra – “Plastic” (Sydney, Australia and Bulgaria)
RIYL: Chromatics, EXITMUSIC, Still Corners
We often like to say that music is the tie that binds us all. Everyone loves music of some sort, whether it be top-40 stuff, the classic music of Beethoven, or the blues of the ’20s. For Bulgarian born-and-raised singer, Ivana Kay, and Australian producer/guitarist, Robbie Cain, it was their common love of Unknown Mortal Orchestra that brought them together. They met at a UMO concert and the days after they forged a partnership that is known as Micra. Last week, they released their debut single, “Plastic”.
You may as well write Micra alongside Chromatics, EXITMUSIC, and Still Corners because Kay and Cain have the potential to rival these indie electro-pop giants if “Plastic” is an indication of what is to come. Like the aforementioned three bands, the Sydney-based duo have crafted a stunning, widescreen number. Its multiple crescendos – where the guitars, synths, rhythms, and Kay’s ethereal vocals ascend together – are spellbinding. They are moments where one stops and needs to collect her/himself because of its otherworldly nature. Kay’s lyrics, too, are enchanting, as she describes how one woman has allowed the plastic to define her. Her worth is determined by the things she own, and her true self is hidden by the masks she wears.
If Micra can continue to create shimmering soundscapes with thoughtful storytelling, there is no telling how popular they can become. They surely will be Triple J favorites.
Native Sun – “11th Street” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: The Rolling Stones, Julian Casablancas, Ron Gallo
Get ready to strut like Mick Jagger and whale on your air guitar like Keith Richards because Native Sun channel the legendary The Rolling Stones on their newest single, “11th Street”. Seriously, the NYC’s retro-rockers deliver a song that even Julian Casablancas and The Strokes would look up in envy.
The song echoes The Stones of the late ’70s and early ’80s when they were delivering anthems galore and getting 20,000 concert-goers in a frenzy. The guitars are fiery, the drums pound heavily on your ear drums, and the bass line has you feverishly nodding your head. Front man Dany Gomez, though, sounds more like the aforementioned Casablancas, which means his vocals are feisty and intense and his words are fun and clever. Exactly what is this song about? Well, the gents explain that “11th Street” is “Samuel Beckett in an urban landscape rejoicing in the unknown.” Now that’s an awesome and amusing poetic image.
Dany Gomez (vocals/guitar), Jake Pflum (lead guitar), Alexis Castro (drums), and Mo Martinez (bass) are Native Sun. Their new EP, Always Different, Always the Same, is out November 9th. PaperCup Music and Buen Dia Records will release it.
Soap&Skin – “Surrounded” (Vienna, Austria)
RIYL: Agnes Obel, Anna Calvi, Björk
Halloween is less than two weeks away, which means the eerie numbers will start to emerge from the shadows. Some will be outrageously fun, many will be gloomy and foreboding, and others will be theatrically bone-chilling. In the case of “Surrounded”, the newest single from Austrian singer-songwriter and composer Anja Plaschg – who is better known as Soap&Skin – it falls in the latter category. And it is awesome.
“Surrounded” is a strikingly rich and engrossing number, and it sounds like it was made for one of the Brother Grimm’s scarier tales. The orchestration is magnificent, where the haunting soundscape – highlighted by the harrowing notes of the cello and piano – sounds like it is coming from the Black Forest. It is mystical and creepy, fascinating yet spine-tingling. As stunning as the music is, Plaschg’s multi-octave voice is even more dazzling. She whispers like a voice coming from the distant darkness and then it soars with the operatic fervor of a diva. The section commencing at 2:15 and lasts for 25 seconds is truly awe-inspiring, as Plaschg’s cascading voice is that of an individual perishing within her surroundings. When you hear this song, you, too, will perish within the Vienna-based artist’s masterpiece.
“Surrounded” is taken from Soap&Skin’s forthcoming, new album, From Gas To Solid / you are my friend, which is out next Friday, October 26th. PIAS Recordings will release it, and pre-orders are available here.
YESES – “Long Way Home” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Greylag, The War On Drugs, Boniface
There are some songs that instantaneously put a smile on your face with their all-embracing, blissful melodies. Most of The War On Drugs’ songs are like this, which partially explains their popularity. “Long Way Home”, which is the latest song from Daniel Dixon’s new project, Yeses, has a similar effect.
Known for his work with indie-rock band Greylag, Dixon goes ’90s widescreen with his newest track. It is a piece of unforgettable nostalgia that will make you feel like you’re 15 again. It begins with opening guitar riffs and feathery rhythms that are intoxicating. As the song progresses, the instrumentation gets dreamier, more exhilarating, and more breathtaking. All you can say, assuming you can catch a breath to utter a word, is “Wow”. His message about whether one can really go home is also one that will grab your attention because his story is ours. Because we all have pondered whether going back will allow us to go forward.
For Dixon, though, nostalgia could pay huge dividends, particularly when Yeses’ self-titled EP is released tomorrow, October 19th. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp. Go get it!
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