The first month of the new year comes to a close today, so let’s go out in style. The Matinee ’20 January 31 edition features 8 songs that are meant to be heard standing up.

Chromatics – “Toy” (Portland, OR, USA)

RIYL: Glass Candy, Still Corners, Röyksopp

American electronic band Chromatics continue to impress us with every release. Their most recent LP, Closer to Grey, arrived last October while we were on hiatus, so we missed a chance to rave about it. The release of their new single, “Toy”, lets us make up for lost time. And what a way to be reminded of their brilliance!

Prepare to be charmed and haunted by Ruth Radelet as she pleads for escape from tortured thoughts. Her warm, sultry vocals balance the song’s icy synths. You sense frustration (and perhaps a bit of hopeless resignation) as she sings about having her emotions toyed with by a former lover. Every woman can relate to her message here – of not wanting to dream for fear of seeing “your face in my nightmares”:

“Tell me what I have to do
‘Cause I can’t stop thinking of you
Tell me what I have to say
‘Cause I can’t go on living this way”

Chromatics have shared three versions of “Toy” on Spotify, while this single is available for purchase via the Italians Do It Better label.

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Frances Quinlan – “Your Reply” (Philadelphia, USA)

RIYL: Hop Along, Foxing, Waxatachee

Fans of Philadelphia indie folk-rockers Hop Along already know today is album release day for Frances Quinlan. Her debut solo effort, Likewise, is the first time she’s released a full LP under her own name. Based on the sun-kissed perfection of lead single “Your Reply”, we suspect this collection will find its way onto many Album of the Year lists come December.

“Your Reply” showcases all of Quinlan’s strengths: the only thing more mesmerizing than her storytelling is the intoxicating quality of her vocals. Feathery soft one moment and effusive the next, Quinlan packs a lot of emotion into her delivery of vivid lyrical imagery. You don’t expect songs about “wartime juveniles shot and martyred” to sound quite so jaunty, in an Avett Brothers breezy murder ballad kind of way. But it works, because Quinlan is a talented artist who should, with this release, earn the solo name recognition she justly deserves. 

She is joined on the album by her Hop Along bandmates Joe Reinhart (who also engineered and produced it), Tyler Long, and Mark Quinlan. 

Likewise is available today from Saddle Creek Records. You can get it from these streaming and purchase sources. Quinlan has just begun a North American tour with a full list of dates on her website.

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Hazel English – “Off My Mind” (Los Angeles, USA via Australia)

RIYL: Amber Arcades, Fazerdaze, Sarah Bethe Nelson

Roughly four years ago, Hazel English burst on the indie scene with engrossing bedroom-pop and intimate songwriting. Big and little magazines and sites praised her music, including ourselves. Her EP, Never Going Home Again, was remarkedly real and revealing yet beautifullly composed, making it one of our favorite little records of 2016. Since then, she’s released a few singles and kept a steady online presence, so that the world would remember her for when the big day arrives. Now, we know when the celebration commences, as on April 24th English’s debut album, Wake Up!, will be released April 24th on Marathon Artists and Polyvinyl Records.

The first single from the forthcoming LP is a natural progression for the Australian-born, LA-based singer-songwriter. Whereas her previous singles were largely of the lo-fi variety, she gets a bit more widescreen on “Off My Mind”. The song is summery, psychedelic-pop fare, and it’s perfect for the days when the birds are chirping and the flowers are blooming. As the light, body-swaying melody fills the air, English’s distant yet soft vocals are shrouded in memory. She sings about being stuck in the past and trying to move forward. To “take away the thoughts that hold me back” and “not watch my life pass me by”. While she contemplates her future, all we can see is a star rising over Sunset Boulevard.

Pre-order Wake Up! here. It should be one of the great records of the spring.

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Jaguar Jonze – “Rabbit Hole” (Brisbane, Australia via Yokohama, Japan)

RIYL: Phantogram, SORRY, Thyla

During our self-imposed one-year hibernation, several “new” artists emerged and caught our attention. If we were active, we obviously would have shared their music. Better late than never, right? One of the artists that made our ears perk up and take notice is Deena Lynch and her project Jaguar Jonze. Instead of following the typical pop path, the young singer-songwriter is covering a wide expanse of territory that includes psychedelic, dark-pop, electro-rock, and alternative. Her first three songs – “You Got Left Behind”, “Beijing Baby”, and “Kill Me With Your Love” – were gritty yet engrossing affairs and bordered on the cinematic. The standout feature, however, is the one thing we hold in the highest regard: her songwriting. Barely 20 years old, Lynch has already demonstrated that she is one of the great young storytellers in the business, a trend she continues with “Rabbit Hole.”

Like her previous three singles, “Rabbit Hole” is a spectacular mélange of genres. Psychedelic and spaghetti western notes open the track before it turns into a dark, urgent, electro-rock number. As it slowly intensifies, we fall into Lynch’s world and her struggles with those around her and the “insecurities” within her.

“I will question, I will doubt your answers
Make my heart stop and belief
I will trick, ask you to please stand down
Create the instability”

The video above is also a brilliant piece of artistry. The small room could symbolize a few things – a psychiatrist’s office, the world that Lynch exists in, the entrapment she feels. The juxtaposition of the bright yellow-painted walls and the black lounge chair, meanwhile, indicates conflict and struggle. Light vs. dark. Life vs. decay. Hope vs. defeat.

Lynch and her band will be at SXSW in March. Her trip to Austin represents her first foray as an artist into the US, so get to know her now.

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Marsicans – “Can I Stay Here Forever (pt II)” (Leeds, England)

RIYL: The Wombats, Sundara Karma, Circa Waves

Marsicans have been a favorite of ours over the past couple of years. It’s always exciting to watch a band grow, get signed and move on to bigger milestones in their career.

The feeling right now is that Marsicans are perfectly poised to become a breakout internationally and all the cards seem to be lined up perfectly. “Can I Stay Here Forever (pt II)” is damn near indie pop perfection. It starts off a tad bit slow and then builds into a killer track with a soaring chorus, heart pounding percussion and shoegaze laden guitar. Just when the listener thinks things might end on a slow and chilled out note as the tempo decreases, they erupt into an amazing volcano of guitars and drums in an all out jam sesh. One can only imagine how off the rails this song might be live and in person. The great news for state side folks is that Marsicans are invading America at SXSW for their first time ever. Once again, this perfectly poises the quartet to breakthrough in 2020 in a big way.

Another interesting fact is that this song is labeled “pt II” because there was a previous version that was recorded yet never released. “Can I Stay Here Forever (pt II)” lyrically speaks about unity, getting along and not losing our minds. After listening, minds may not have been lost but they were definitely blown.

Marsicans are James Newbigging (lead vocals/guitar), Oli Jameson (guitar), Rob Brander (bass/keys), and Cale McHale (drums). The quartet recently signed with Killing Moon, who will also release the band’s debut album some time in 2020 or 2021.

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Mazeppa – “The Way In” (Haifa, Israel)

RIYL: My Baby, The Black Angels or Elephant Stone on a massive trip

The year is early and there have been some outstanding music so far, but the award for the best psychedelic tune to date goes to this next song. Imagine if speakers could mimic wind currents from the music it emits, where a summery pop tune would be breezy and a thunderous rock song akin to a thunderstorm. In the case of “This Way In”, the experience is equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane named Mazeppa. The Israeli-based quartet have delivered an immensely trippy, full-throttle, voodoo-infused, psychedelic tune that blew us away.

The song is absolutely wild yet intoxicating. It creates the feeling that the listener is swirling on the margins of the hurricane’s eye or within the vortex of a tornado. We’re not, however, Dorothy and heading to the land of Oz. Nope, Mazeppa transport us to a more exotic, mesmerizing, mind-bending world that seems distorted at first but is exhilarating at the end. The only other thing to say about this track is that it is just friggin’ awesome.

The band consists of Michal Perez Noy (lead vocals/guitar/composer), Asaf Koren (guitar), Elad Bardes (bass), and Amir Noy (drums). Mazeppa was first conceived by Noy in 2017, and her intention was to use the project to translate the works of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke into music. If the outcome of each song/poem is as spectacular as “This Way In”, the Haifa-based four-piece will soon have their own spectacle to showcase.

The video for the song is on YouTube. The single is also available for purchase on Bandcamp.

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SEAZOO – “The Pleasure” (Wrexham, Wales)

RIYL: Belle and Sebastian, Yo La Tengo, Granddaddy

We’ve previously covered SEAZOO whom we’ve declared have a pretty awesome band name and have a reputation for  crafting clever and irresistible indie pop tunes.

“The Pleasure” is a brilliant track swimming with luminous and laid back harmonies. Their unique blend of trippy psych elements perfectly package this unforgettable tune. The guitar riffs perfectly set the mood and might possibly elicit some toe tapping or head bobbing. The lyrical subject matter is extremely witty and completely embraces the theme of joy, optimism and finding ever so important pleasure in life.

The overall sound of “The Pleasure” is definitely a pleasure to listen to and it’s recommended to please spin more than once. The video is also a complete riot and provides an insight that maybe SEAZOO doesn’t take themselves too seriously, but they definitely have the potential to break out in a big way.

SEAZOO is Ben Trow (lead vocals, guitar), Dan West (lead guitar), Llinos Griffiths (keys), Mike Smith (bass), Steffan Owens (drums)

“The Pleasure” is from SEAZOO’s forthcoming sophomore album JOY which will be released April 3rd via Big Terry.

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Sports Boyfriend – “Talk Yourself Out” (Chicago, USA)

RIYL: Angel Olsen, Sky Ferreira, Grimes, Nilüfer Yanya

Mark today on your calendar as the day you fell in love with Eileen Peltier, the voice behind Chicago-based project Sports Boyfriend. Unless you possess a cold, stoic heart, there is little chance you will be able to resist this rising superstar. The self-confident swagger she evokes on “Talk Yourself Out” will have you raising an eyebrow in approval on the first spin. Repeated listens will have you raising your arms in carefree abandon as you dance along to its grooves. Hypnotic, sensual, and carefree: this tune is one you’ll want to add to every feel-good playlist.

The problem (if you can even call it that) with describing Sports Boyfriend is that her sound defies established genre labels. This is what makes “Talk Yourself Out” so irresistible: it’s sophisticated and jazzy dream pop with subtle R&B elements woven throughout. The result is downright tantalizing. Did we mention this is a DIY project? Never in a million years would we have guessed this artist has been recording in her bedroom – no, the production here is sleek and rivals the output of artists on major labels. This alone should give you an idea of how bright this star will shine once more people have discovered her talents. Her new EP, Seek No Answer, is a promising step in that direction.

You can find it on Bandcamp. 

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