The Matinee ’20 February 19 serves up six fresh tunes, but with a twist: today’s playlist is presented in reverse alphabetical order. These artists from Canada, Scotland, and the U.S. offer hooks galore for your mid-week new music fix.
Very Very – “Badlands” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Lana Del Rey, Carly Simon, Carole King
Having your heart broken is devastating, but it can also yield something spectacular. Breakup songs aren’t always harsh and vindictive; sometimes they are introspective and awe-inspiring. Toronto-based artist Very Very achieves the latter on her new single, “Badlands.”
Reminiscent of the smooth R&B of the ’70s, “Badlands” is a graceful journey inside the heart and mind of Jena Munn. Her piano playing is delicate while feather-like percussion provides the perfect balance and gives the track a subtle jazz vibe. Munn’s voice, though, is what sweeps you away. With each word she sings, you fall deeper into her world. Her lyrics are full of regret, both in terms of how her ex left her and how she “fucked it up all over again”. Her songwriting is poignant, particularly when she shares:
“How come every time I swing / I’m on the wrong side of the ring?
My God, how about a little self-reflection
I must be out of my mind / Thinking I could build a good life out in the Badlands
Too many bad men, creeping around.”
The video is well worth watching. We cannot help but think that if Prince was still around, he, too, would softly utter “Wow!”
Maita – “A Beast” (Portland, OR, USA)
RIYL: Waxahatchee, Mitski, Hop Along
You know an artist is a talented star in the making when seminal indie label Kill Rock Stars signs and agrees to release her debut. Maria Maita-Keppeler – known simply as Maita – has talent in spades. She first caught our attention with the rocking “Can’t Blame a Kid”. It wasn’t just the music that piqued our ears; her songwriting was eye-opening and refreshing as well. Here is a young woman writing stories, not merely lyrics. As further evidence to her talent, she presents “A Beast.”
This slow-building, gritty rocker is reminiscent of the indie rock that Hop Along, Mitski, and Waxahatchee helped popularize in the early 2010s. Keppeler’s guitar at first weeps then wails. She reserves her anger for the men who break the hearts of others and take away their innocence. Her lyrics hint at both, where a man’s wrath can ruin a life. Maita eloquently sings:
“I never could forget, but I’ll forgive like a dog
Somewhere in my bones, these wounds they make their homes.”
Locate S,1 – “Whisper 2000” (Brooklyn via Athens, GA, USA)
RIYL: Computer Magic, Tennis, Talking Heads
Last month, Christina Schneider – a.k.a. Locate S,1 – released the mind-boggling, energizing kaleidoscope “Personalia”. Just when you thought it was impossible for the mad scientist to deliver another multi-genre tune so soon, she punches us in the gut with this brilliant single.
“Whisper 2000” is the bridge between the 20th and 21st Centuries. There are moments that sound familiar, such as the funky New Wave beginning. It then deviates into bewildering territories of nu-disco, electro-pop, and art rock. Your immediate reaction might be, “What’s going on?” Then you realize how well the synth-driven intro, the rollicking, guitar-focused outro, and everything in between works. Schneider’s storyline ties everything together as she adopts the voice of the OnStar A.I. to tell her real self and everyone else how to act. However, she isn’t accepting conformity:
“Whisper 2000, that’s what I am
Just a magazine, don’t think you know who advises me (no one)
Too pink to be gray, too good to be pink, too dumb to think
I could have been a hologram.”
Only a genius can create something so out-of-the-box yet make it accessible. And speaking of creatively different, Schneider’s partner, Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes, directed the video for the track, which can be viewed here.
The Districts – “Velour and Velcro” (Philadelphia via Lititz, PA, USA)
RIYL: The National, Frightened Rabbit, Foals
Watching The Districts mature as a band has been a joy. Their early, southern rock sound reminded us of My Morning Jacket. Then they toned down the volume to focus on indie rock. Last month they again surprised us with the nu-disco “Cheap Regrets.” Regardless of the sound, they always enthrall with stellar musicianship and brilliant songwriting. We have come to expect The Districts to deliver outstanding songs; this is what they’ve done yet again with “Velcro and Velour” from their upcoming album You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere.
Now the band shifts towards the cinematic art-rock that The National and Foals have perfected. While it doesn’t rattle the walls, it still moves you with its stirring, rapturous approach and endearing lyrics. As it builds to a breathtaking, smile-inducing climax, frontman Rob Grote shares a memory from his childhood about enduring love:
“But I believe in heaven,
I have seen it’s true
When you pushed and pulled me in your bed
When your eyes laid gazes at my head
The way your lips assured me.”
If the audio alone doesn’t evoke smiles, the video will. This band never ceases to amaze.
Clem Snide – “Don’t Bring No Ladder” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Eef Barzelay, The Avett Brothers, Karl Blau
Three words we did not expect to write this year are: new Clem Snide. Fortunately the music gods have smiled upon us. Next month the Nashville-based indie project of Eef Barzelay delivers a fresh LP chock full of banjo-studded gems. Forever Just Beyond boasts a star-studded cast of cameos featuring members of The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, and Old Crow Medicine Show. It is the result of a collaborative effort with producer Scott Avett who also lends backing vocals on “Don’t Bring No Ladder.”
Longtime fans who adore the band’s sardonic lyrics have much to celebrate here. Their irreverent musings on life and death abound, riding shotgun in Barzelay’s Americana vehicle. Hopefully this new LP will introduce a new generation of fans to their brilliance. We envy those younger listeners who will hear Clem Snide’s stellar discography – from their breakthrough 1999 hit (“I Love the Unknown”) to the 2005 classics from End of Love (“Something Beautiful” and “God Answers Back”) and more – for the first time. You are about to discover your new favorite music. Clem Snide’s return is a testament to triumph over adversity and a reminder that hard-fought gains are worth the struggle.
Catholic Action – “Another Name for Loneliness” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: Talking Heads, Brian Eno, Marsicans
We presented this playlist in reverse order so we could end on a high note with a band that initially blew our minds in 2016. Glaswegians Catholic Action consistently combine catchy hooks with inspired songwriting. Their raucous indie rock approach is less about the “me” and more about the “we”; they view their songs as anthems of a new generation. They are voices for those who cannot be heard and the inspiration to those who need a pick-me-up. They do this once again with “Another Name for Loneliness.”
In under four minutes the band lift our spirits with this infectious pop-rock tune. It’s a track that will have you dancing and jumping to the bouncy rhythms and joyous melody. Even the handclapping works because it adds a human element to a song that encourages people to stand up and be found instead of being lost. With a song as inspiring and energetic as “Another Name for Loneliness”, every soul be raised and seen.
Catholic Action are Chris McCrory, Ryan Clark, Jamie Dubber, and Andrew MacPherson. Their sophomore album, Celebrated by Strangers, is due out March 27th on Palo Santo Records. You can stream or pre-order it from these links.
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