The Matinee ’18 November 29th edition is filled with mystery, imaginative stories, and big statements. The songs will take you to another planet and through the cosmos, into the confines of the unknown, and within the mind of others. Buckle in because these eight songs offer a whirlwind of emotions.

Sharon Van Etten – “Jupiter 4” (Los Angeles via Brooklyn & New Jersey USA)

RIYL: Vök, The Knife, Röyksopp

When Sharon Van Etten shared “Comeback Kid” back in early October, the song signaled a change of pace for the New Jersey-born singer-songwriter. She exchanged her heart-felt indie rock for a synth-driven, alt-pop approach. On “Jupiter 4”, she continues to explore new territory, and she does it masterfully.

“Jupiter 4” is utterly stirring and hypnotic. It is possesses the foreboding beauty of Vök and The Knife, yet it retains the crippling emotional power of her earlier work. Her execution with the synths and electronic beats is flawless, as she keeps them low-key in order to build the desperation. Van Etten, however, has not completely set aside the guitar, which makes an appearance with its quietly searing wail. But it is Van Etten’s somberly emotional outburst that grabs hold of you. She calls out:

“Touching your face,
Had to take a long, long time
To be here.
Turning the wheel on my street
My heart still skips a beat.
It’s echoing, echoing, echoing, echoing, echoing, echoing.
Baby, baby, baby, I’ve been searching for you
I wanted to be in love.
Baby, baby, baby, I’ve been waiting
My whole life for someone like you.

We won’t have to wait long, though, for Sharon Van Etten’s new album, Remind Me Tomorrow, which arrives January 18th, 2019. The outstanding Jagjaguwar will release it. Pre-orders are available now on Bandcamp.

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Be Forest – “ATTO I” (Pesaro, Italy)

RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Black Rebel Motorcycle, A Place To Bury Strangers

One of the most outstanding shoegaze / darkgaze / post-punk bands of the past decade is Be Forest. For most music fans, their name is unrecognizable, yet they stand alongside A Place To Bury Strangers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Trementina in ensuring the genre won’t die. Part of the band’s mystique is that they don’t follow the usual playbook of big announcements. They instead prefer to surprise people, like they did when they dropped “ATTO I” with barely a word.

And not a single word is spoken on this spine-tingling track. The lingering, chiming guitars laid over the throbbing percussion and harrowing bass line do all the talking, as the combination yields a mysterious and eerie soundscape. This is the feeling of one being trapped alone in a dense forest, where no light can penetrate, not even that of the full moon. And like the darkness of this space, the song envelops and paralyzes you. There is nowhere to go, nowhere to escape, so all one can do is succumb to the blackness and its beauty.

What happens next is a mystery, but the SoundCloud version includes the date, January 27, 2019. We are not sure what it refers to, but maybe it’s when their new album will fall.

Be Forest are Costanza Delle Rose (bass/vocals), Nicola Lampredi (guitar), and Erica Terenzi (drums/synths/vocals). The single is out on We Were Never Being Boring Collective.

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Chad VanGaalen – “Friendly Aliens” (Calgary, Canada)

RIYL: Conor Oberst, Marlon Williams, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks

A Chad VanGaalen tune is not simply music. It is often an experience like no other because of his sharp wit and out-of-this-world and imaginative storytelling. Literary, his songs are often about extraterrestrials or creatures from a different dimension (let alone mindset). For instance, his amusing and creative 2017 LP, Light Information, was the musical equivalent of Futurama, as he described the adventures of lonely alien traveling through space and eventually landing on Earth (or a similar planet). For “Friendly Aliens”, he stays closer to home and essentially reinvents Steven Spielberg’s classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

This song is awesome by any metric. It is fun yet it absolutely rocks. The bridge and the outro are mind-blowing exhilarating, as all the elements cascade into a massive wall of sound. The approach brilliantly mirrors one man’s meeting with fate – specifically the aliens that he longs to see and whose love he wishes to bask in. Well that’s one interpretation. Another could be a little story he’s created for his kids, as they spend the nights looking at the stars and wondering what exists out there. Whatever story you prefer – or create yourself – there’s no limit to the possibilities because VanGaalen, whom we affectionately refer to as The Wizard, wants us to stretch our imaginations. This is unquestionably a song-of-the-year candidate.

VanGaalen’s split single, “Friendly Aliens / Monopoly Arp” – which is also called odds and sods – is out now via Flemish Eye (Canada) and Sub Pop (world). Get it on Bandcamp.

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Dahlia Sleeps – “Love, Lost” (London, England)

RIYL: Hundred Waters, Portishead, Rhye

In the three years we’ve been covering Dahlia Sleeps, which includes ten singles and their beautiful debut EP, we’ve exhausted all the superlatives to describe their talent and music. There comes a point where words no longer can justify their artistry, and instead the music speaks for itself. For any of us to come to this point speaks to the beauty and power of Lucy Hill, Luke Hester, Spencer Buckley, and Callum Sharp’s work. They are one of the great trip-hop / dream-pop / cinematic electronic bands on the planet. If you have any doubts or are first hearing about Dahlia Sleeps, then let “Love, Lost” be your ticket onto their ascending plane.

The song is simply stunning. It perfectly captures what makes Dahlia Sleeps a favorite in these parts. The instrumentation and production work are subdued and verge on minimalist to allow every element to strike a chord with the listener. Whether it’s the hallow bass line, the teetering beats, the humming synths, the throbbing keys, or Hill’s superb vocals, something if not everything grabs hold of your soul and crushes it. Hill’s songwriting, too, is a gift to behold, as she takes an individual’s struggles and make them our own. In this case, she describes how we are unable to help a loved one, who is struggling to cope with the demons in her head. Listen closely and let her words shake you to your core. Let his band bring you to your knees.

Dahlia Sleeps’ second EP of 2018, Love, Lost, is out next Monday, December 3rd on Beatnik Creative. We cannot wait.

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French for Rabbits – “Highest Hill” (Wellington via Waikuku Beach, New Zealand)

RIYL: Millie Turner, Rosie Carney, Kate Teague

Kiwi band French for Rabbits have developed a reputation for creating immersive songs that often feel like our most enchanting dreams coming to life. And within their dreamy soundscapes, a blissful relaxation often lingered within each of their tunes, allowing us to momentarily escape reality. Not surprisingly, they are one of New Zealand’s favorite bands. Surprisingly, their popularity beyond the shores of Aotearoa is sprinkled in a few parts of the globe. Finally, however, Oxford, Mississippi label Muscle Beach Records recently signed them, giving founding members Brooke Singer (vocals/keyboards/guitar) and John Fitzgerald (lead guitar) plus Penelope Esplin (backing vocals/percussion), Ben Would (bass), and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (drums) an entry into the competitive US market.

The news, however, doesn’t stop there, as the band will perform at SXSW in March. As such, 2019 is setting up to be a possible breakout year and to help generate momentum the quintet released “Highest Hill” two days ago. The song is French for Rabbits at their most exhilarating and breathtaking. A bit more cinema and urgency are heard on the track, particularly in Fitzgerald’s lingering guitar and gradual escalation of the rhythms. Singer’s voice is soft at first, but it, too, slowly intensifies. She desperately asks, “Why didn’t you wait for me to get over it?”, in hopes of understanding why the ache in her heart exists.

French for Rabbits’ last album, The Weight of Melted Snow, is already out in New Zealand. It will be re-released worldwide on January 25th, but it is available for purchase on Bandcamp.

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HVOB – “2nd World” (Vienna, Austria)

RIYL: Kiamos, Samaris, JFDR

For six years, Anna Müller and Paul Wallner have carved out a little niche as one of the world’s most captivating and expansive electronic duos under the name HVOB. Although their reputation has revolved around their industrial and house roots, they can also easily unleash mesmerizing downtempo, trip hop, or post-rock. The duo, in other words, are chameleons of their craft, and they are constantly shifting. Their newest single is just another example of the Viennese band’s constant evolution.

Strap in and be taken on a journey that takes you through the cosmos and beyond with “2nd World”. As the strokes of the keys and the spatial pulses orbit around Müller’s distant but lush vocals, a swell slowly emerges within the track and inside the listener. This experience is akin to arriving to a mysterious but exciting place, where the thrill lies in the unknown and the possibilities. This place could be a distant planet, a land from our dreams, or an unexplored island. For over five minutes, HVOB guide us through this tantalizing adventure, which at its peak is memorably breathtaking. Which is simply a “WOW!” moment.

More trips await on March 15th, 2019, which is when the band’s fourth album, Rocco, will be released on [PIAS] Recordings.

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Michelle Blades – “Kiss Me On The Mouth” (Paris, France via Panama and USA)

RIYL: Cate Le Bon, Mitski, Japanese Breakfast

There is an old adage that says we are shaped by the people around us and the places we have lived. For those who have lived in many cities and towns, they likely will have a more worldly and expansive perspective of things, and they are likely to integrate their various influences into all aspects of their lives, including their work. It is, therefore, no surprise that Paris-based, American-bred, Panamanian-born with Mexican heritage artist Michelle Blades‘ music is multi-dimensional. She is, in other words, a creative mosaic of melody and rhythms. Blades can rock out, create a sweet pop tune, get a little punkish, head towards experimental waters, or at her absolute best combine all of them into one sweeping affair. She does this with “Kiss Me On The Mouth”.

The track bops and bobs throughout its 191-second duration. At first, it is a delightful, melodic-pop number, but then it suddenly gets a little grungier and grittier. And it doesn’t stop there, as Blades slowly takes us from the daylight into the dark corners of a panic room. A bit of mystery unfolds in the music and Blades’ words, and one begins to wonder to whom is she speaking. Is she confronting a former lover who wouldn’t be honest to her? Is she speaking to the various voices in her head that compete to control her? It’s an immensely clever track from an artist who is just beginning to unlock her considerable ingenuity.

The single is out on Midnight Special Records.

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Tanners – “Venus” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Sylvan Esso, Alessia Cara, Debbie Gibson

Only a few months ago, Tanners – the project of Tanner Peterson – unveiled her eponymous, debut EP, which featured the ’80s-esque “This Crazy” and “Holy Water”. They were eye-opening numbers because a woman her age (she’s just over 20) perfectly captured the innocence and pains of that decade’s youth. Now the young woman from Tennessee is showing there is more to her game with the equally rapturous “Venus”.

Eighties synth-pop notes still permeate through the track, but Peterson brilliantly infuses contemporary R&B and pop textures à la Alessia Cara. The result is a tune that is groovy and sensual as well as infectious yet immediate. It’s a tune that should be spun in retro and cutting-edge nightclubs. Specifically, it should be spun at midnight when we wave goodbye to yesterday and hello to tomorrow. Her storyline, too, has a similar vibe. It is her bidding farewell to her past while embracing her present as a queer woman from the south. So when she says, “A face I can’t forget / But I want you if I could”, there is much more in her words than a simple message of undying love.

She’s going to be a star. It’s just a matter of time.

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