Whether you’re lining up to snag a bargain during the Black Friday sales or are recovering from the massive Thanksgiving feasts, The Matinee ’18 November 23rd edition will help you stay alert and wide awake. The nine songs taken together are like a massive caffeine cocktail, so forego the Red Bulls and just spin the mini-playlist.

Amasa Hines – “Zatoichi” (Little Rock, USA)

RIYL: My Morning Jacket, DeVotchKa, Augustines

When 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the year’s best releases. One of the most criminally overlooked gems is from American indie band Amasa Hines. Their recent release, Ivory Looking Glass, is a treasure trove of musical riches, including this sweeping tune.

“Zatoichi” is a masterpiece. From the stirring strings that evoke DeVotchKa to the pure vocals of frontman Joshua Asante that call to mind My Morning Jacket and Augustines, this tune tugs at your heartstrings and dares you to remain unmoved. We guarantee it’s impossible. As the melancholy tension builds from a stream to a raging river, so too does your emotional response. Prepare for chills when Asante repeats the refrain, “I held your hand through the darkest hour.” The crescendo triggers the release of those feelings – a year’s worth of suppressed frustration from all the madness and turmoil in the world – and damn, if the rivers aren’t calmer on the other side.

This is the beauty of Amasa Hines: their music is equally cathartic and majestic. Discover the power of this song. Get to know the craftsmen behind it. We promise your life will be richer for it.

Their Ivory Looking Glass EP is available here on vinyl and digitally from iTunes.

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AmPm – “Travelling Light” feat. Frida Sundemo (Tokyo, Japan and Gothenburg, Sweden)

RIYL: Bonobo, CHINAH, Nick Murphy

Speaking of overlooked gems, the Japanese music scene is often bypassed in favor of North American, European, and Australian artists. The Land of the Rising Sun, however, is slowly emerging as an indie powerhouse, and no we’re not talking about the Korean-influenced J-pop (which if far away from being indie). Most of the country’s growth has been driven in the rock and punk-pop spheres with the likes Otoboke Beaver and Shonen Knife leading the charge. Within the electronic arena, point your ears in the direction of creative duo AmPm, who are sort of like Deadmau5 and Sleep Party People in that they wear masks during their performances.

Despite their enigmatic nature, they’re developing a reputation for their sultry grooves and electrifying melodies, making them Japan’s equivalent to Nick Murphy (f.k.a. Chet Faker) and Bonobo. As evidence of their growing global appeal, they’ve enlisted the support of Swedish singer-songwriter Frida Sundemo, and together they deliver a sensual, intoxicating number with “Travelling Light”. Before you hit play, stand up and stretch your arms out wide. Then let the music play and just spin, sway, or swim within the exotic, dreamy layers of AmPm’s production work. In addition, lose yourself inside Sundemo’s smokey vocals and her story of taking an unplanned adventure to nowhere. To a destination where “we no longer need to wake up”. If this place sounds like this tune, it must be pure ecstasy.

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Bel Heir – “HEY” (Philadelphia, USA)

RIYL: Mainland, SWIMM, Wavves

Bel Heir have recently released a new single titled “HEY”. Their newest single provides an explosive punch of impressive indie rock. Their sound encompasses a bit of punk as well as some early 90s grunge influences definitely heard in their previous releases (“Bad Intentions”).  The trio from Philadelphia have been making music under the moniker of Bel Heir since 2013. So far this year they have been releasing a handful of singles which will lead up to a new album.

The lyrics follow the story line of possibly not meeting the expectations of others. It also hints to not wanting to or being able to change with the following lyrics:

Be this way be this way, be this way / I love this, I love this, I love this / Be this way / It may sound crazy baby, I can’t slow this record down

Bel Heir are Ian Walsh and brothers Paul and Patrick Mancel on bass and guitar/lead vocals.

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Evan Myall – “Frances” (Alameda, CA, USA)

RIYL: The Dandy Warhols, The Shins, Mac DeMarco

Most people feel a bit down after a great vacation. It’s never easy returning to the daily grind when your heart is still miles away. To combat those emotions you need a taste of what you left behind. This is where Evan Myall comes to your rescue. His new single, “Frances”, is a perfect slice of sun-kissed indie goodness. Its golden hues will warm your heart as you recollect those brighter days.

What makes “Frances” so irresistible is its mellow buoyancy. Granted, you do expect a certain level of sunniness from a California artist. But too many emerging artists deliver saccharin fare when your soul craves organic honey. Myall delivers the latter, infused in big, delicious, summery hooks. The layers of jangly rock and dream-pop vocals are on par with The Dandy Warhols and The Shins in terms of being instantly addicting. You hear this tune once and it becomes woven into your DNA, not that you’ll mind. You may have heard some brilliant tunes this year, but we doubt you’ve heard a more impressive debut single.

We will definitely keep a watchful eye on Evan Myall’s career. A talent like his won’t stay hidden for long.

“Frances” is out now from Text Me Records at these streaming and purchase links. The Basic Gardening EP is available on Bandcamp.

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IDER – “Mirror” (London, England)

RIYL: EXES, Glades, Oh Wonder

“Mirror” is the newest single from London duo IDER. It’s a very introspective single the tackles the reality that some humans just suck and to keep on going even through issues in life including a relationship ending. The duo both have intoxicating vocals that keep you enthralled from start to finish. The composition of the track includes dance ready beats and soaring harmonies. IDER have also released a pretty awesome video for the track.

The duo share a bit about their newest release: “The idea for ‘Mirror’ started with that moment when you get up in the middle of the night to have a wee and you catch yourself in the mirror and for a second, you don’t recognise yourself. We feel like everyone’s done that – when you pull weird faces at yourself in the night time light to try and freak yourself out. The song is predominantly about going through a break up and realising that you have attached so much of your identity to that other person that you’re not sure who you are without them.”

IDER are Megan Markwick and Lily Somerville.

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Lupa J – “You’re In My Headphones” (Sydney, Australia)

RIYL: St. Vincent, Grimes, Miya Folick

We’ve long talked about the talent of Imogen Jones, who was a musical child prodigy within classical music. As an adult, though, she’s carving out a huge niche within Australia’s indietronica scene as Lupa J. She has been compared to Grimes and Alice Glass for her intelligent production work and imaginative yet often brutally honest songwriting. For her new single, however, she adds a bit more luminescence to deliver another sweltering experience.

“You’re In My Headphones” is a groovy addiction. The beats and synths spiral into a bouncy and infectious melody, which causes involuntary head-bopping if not dance-floor gyration. There is, however, a dash of sugary darkness, which is heard in the deep rhythms and Jones’ vocals and lyrics. The approach is reminiscent of St. Vincent’s recent foray into electronica, as the song isn’t just meant to intoxicate but also to challenge and provoke. In this case, Jones captures the feeling of being suspended inside the vortex of another person’s aura and power. No matter how hard we try to look away or remove ourselves from the person’s presence, we cannot.

Jones’ debut album, Swallow Me Whole, is expected early 2019.

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NVDES – “On My Magic” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, Paul Oakenfold

In the short time that NVDES have been around, all their songs share one common trait – they are wildly addictive. Well, in the case of “On My Magic”, they go completely manic yet still deliver one heck of an ear-worm.

Imagine for a moment Wayne Coyne collaborating with either the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim, and this is essentially what the LA outfit have delivered in a snappy 163 seconds. It’s a good thing this tune isn’t any longer because plenty of listeners likely would combust to the insane energy and outrageous vibes that emanate from “On My Magic”. The song is seriously nuts.

If you thought the music was off-the-wall, check out the video, which is like “Weird Al” Jankovic turning into Jack Torrance from The Shining. Yeah, it’s a little whacked and creepy, yet you cannot keep your eyes (or ears) away. Such is the toxic allure of NVDES.

To check out more of the band’s brilliance, spin their debut album, Vibe City Utah, which is out now. Order / stream it here.

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The Stone MG’s – “I Need You” (Austin, USA)

RIYL: Vintage Trouble, The London Souls, Gnarls Barkley

What passes as soul music these days is borderline criminal. Yes, we understand that genres must evolve, but great soul music involves actual instruments and a groovy vibe. It shouldn’t involve making it electronic-oriented nor have vocals filtered through autotune. A great soul tune hits you right in the gut and gets your shaking your hips, and thankfully Austin duo The Stone MG’s are here to save us with “I Need You”.

“I Need You” isn’t the classic soul a la Al Green or Bill Withers, but rather it is akin to the rollicking and anthemic interpretation of Gnarls Barkley and Vintage Trouble. From the deep bass line to the honey tinges of the organ to the arrival of the blustery saxophone at the end, this tune is one funky and groovy number. It will have you clapping, dancing, and singing along to Rodney James’ words about wanting to reunite with someone. For the older folks, you’ll reminisce of times when musicians could not hide behind a recording or a special effect. It will remind you that there is still space for the classics, especially when they are delivered in this fantastic fashion.

In addition to James, The Stone MG’s include SJ Warren. If you’re in the Austin area, look for the pair performing at one of the city’s finest music venues.

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Wyatt Blair – “Gotta Get Away” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Donovan, My Morning Jacket, Ty Segall, The Lemon Twigs

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles-based singer Wyatt Blair left us slack-jawed. His tune “TV” (from his Smoke & Mirrors album) blew us away with its retro flavors of disco, punk, and New Wave. His latest offering is equally impressive, drawing inspiration from an earlier decade.

“Gotta Get Away” finds Blair channeling the ’60s with massive British Invasion-level riffs and subtle psychedelic elements. One moment you hear Herman’s Hermits; the next you get bold rock passages straight from the My Morning Jacket playbook. There is an urgency in the percussion that propels the title’s message: within 20 seconds you are ready to grab your keys and hit the road. This is the anthem to cure wanderlust: it practically begs you to leave your boring life behind and seek adventure.

If you’ve ever had the urge he sings about here (“Gotta get away / gotta leave this place”), then this tune is your new soundtrack. We’re filing this one under Catchiest Tunes of the Year. Crank it and you’ll understand why.

Look for this tune on Blair’s forthcoming LP, Inspirational Strawberries. It arrives next month from Burger Records while his previous releases are available on Bandcamp.

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