The Matinee ’20 March 4th edition is all about variety: these artists deliver a wide range of tunes, from Americana and blues to disco-infused synthpop and electronic. Dive in and enjoy!
Damien Jurado – “Birds Tricked Into the Trees” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Pedro the Lion, Jeff Tweedy, Gregory Alan Isakov
Damien Jurado is one of those artists whose output is reliably, consistently rewarding. His musical storytelling prompts imitation among his contemporaries. His albums turn casual listeners into ardent fans. The reason for both is simple: Jurado is a minimalist master. As you hear on “Birds Tricked Into the Trees” from his upcoming 15th album, What’s New, Tomboy?, Jurado isn’t afraid to get real.
This dusty ballad reflects a new, pared-down chapter of Jurado’s life. Gone are the psychedelic storylines of his earlier albums. “It shouldn’t be a surprise / to know I was here all along,” he sings at the start. That raw simplicity is the heart of his talent: a man and an acoustic guitar, pairing emotional honesty with a breezy melody. The result is refreshingly intimate. Jurado seems content to admit he’s living a mellower life – more content, or, perhaps just contemplative. “Birds Tricked Into the Trees” should be heard with closed eyes in a peaceful environment. His sage lyrical advice (“It’s all about knowing when to say you’re wrong”) balance the melancholy tones. Leave it this Seattle troubadour to make bittersweetness so palatable.
Genevieve Stokes – “Surface Tension” (Portland, ME, USA)
RIYL: Nilufer Yanya, Millie Turner, Sorcha Richardson
Discovering talented, young artists never grows old, and this new generation of singer-songwriters gives us hope that the golden era of indie music will continue for at least another decade. One name to keep a close eye is 18-year-old Maine native Genevieve Stokes.
Instead of following the pop paths paved by Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, Stokes has chosen the less-travelled alt-pop route where artists like Nilufer Yanya and Millie Turner have found indie praise. Taking this approach has allowed her to release a single that has a serious “Wow!” factor.
“Surface Tension” is a mesmerizing dazzler. At first tranquil and haunting, it gradually becomes a stunning, lightly groovy number. Stokes’ restrained arrangements create a sombre yet intoxicating soundscape. Her vocals shine above the melody as she sings about feeling out of place in her hometown. She feels disassociated from all her relationships and thus subjects herself to self-imposed isolation. Her first words are revealing:
“I’m missing people I’ve never met
There are things in this town I’d rather forget
But I just keep on moving / There’s no point in losing
I just keep refusing
Oh, I just keep on proving / Nothing is quite true
Everything is fluid.”
By the way, Stokes wrote this song when she was only 16 years old. The young woman is a star in the making. The arrival of her debut EP (hopefully this summer) should convince everyone who hears it.
Izo FitzRoy – “Blind Faith” (London, England)
RIYL: Janis Joplin, Susan Tedeschi, Beth Hart
Sultry vocals and bluesy rhythms: what more can you ask for in a new music discovery? The smoky allure of London-based Izo FitzRoy is too powerful to ignore, as you’ll quickly understand when you spin “Blind Faith”. While “new” isn’t the most accurate term for this artist (she’s better known in the UK), her talent is a revelation to us – and one we welcome.
Pour yourself a neat whisky to sip while you dance along to this tune. The opening riff is understated perfection – just a bit of piano, bass, and percussion to set the mood. It gives you a hint of the jazzy, R&B, and disco-infused experience that lies ahead. What it does not do is prepare you for the speed at which your jaw will drop when FitzRoy’s vocals arrive around the :30 mark. You may as well be sitting by a roaring fire: her rich alto timbre evokes sparks and heat. That sizzle permeates every note here and leaves you shaking your head in appreciative awe.
Kluster B – “Love Must Conquer” (Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Melby, Hater, Wy
Back in January, Kluster B, who are just one of the most innovative pop-rock bands in the business, released the mind-bending “Counterpart”. The collective of Linnea Hall (vocals), Pontus Örnstrand (keyboard), Sebastian Hegedüs (guitar), Adam Jonsson (guitar), and Andreas Pollak (drums) refuse to linear and predictable, which is why we are fans. Their newest track is more of the same – or more of the unpredictable brilliance.
“Love Must Conquer” is alt-pop pageantry. The track fuses together dream-pop, ’70s psych-pop, and even an undertone of disco and bossa nova for a shimmering, groovy result. You’ll want to sway to the ocean vibes in the first half and then pair up with a friend and do the cha-cha during the song’s final 70 seconds. More discerning types may think the track is the flip side of the coin to Joy Division’s classic, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” – one that is light, sunnier, and equally appealing as the dark, post-punk anthem that took the world by storm in 1980. Maybe one day, Kluster B’s music will have the same impact.
The single is taken from Kluster B’s new album, b, which is out April 17th on Rama Lama Records.
Sammy Brue – “Teenage Mayhem” (Portland, OR, USA)
RIYL: Justin Townes Earle, JD McPherson, firekid, Parker Millsap
We have been huge fans of Sammy Brue since before he could drive, shave, or vote. This talented Americana artist first impressed us in 2015 with his EP, I Don’t Want You To Leave. Now fresh off a tour with Michael Kiwanuka (where he again knocked our socks off!), this 18-year-old singer-songwriter wows us just a little more with his new “Teenage Mayhem” single.
In under three minutes, Brue restores your faith in music. Don’t be fooled by the mellow intro: this rockin’ ditty will get your blood pumping. The lyrics resonate with anyone who remembers how it felt as a teenager contemplating their future. The “hidden hopes and dangerous thoughts” he sings about are emphasized by scorching instrumentation and full-throttle percussion. This tune is more than an exploration of teen angst through a blues-rock lens: it’s an fiery anthem for everyone who’s still trying to find where they belong. No matter our age or generation label, we all want answers to the question of “Will we ever truly feel like we’re someone?” There is no doubt that Sammy Brue is steering indie music to a bright future.
Look for this trio (Sammy is joined by the equally stellar KJ Ward and Tanner Williams) to set SXSW ablaze later this month.
Tatum – “Fever” (South Africa)
RIYL: Highasakite, Gordi, Lana Del Rey
When looking for new music, many of us gravitate to the same countries. Australia, Sweden, USA and UK are popular sources, but great indie music is being created everywhere. All we need to do is open our ears and minds and listen. This is how we discover emerging talents like South Africa’s Tatum.
Still just 19 years old, Tatum is simultaneously a throwback and a visionary. Her new single, “Fever”, highlights her sultry, soulful vocals. While there’s no question she could belt out tunes like a pop diva, she invites us into her world with restraint. She make us feel like this song is about us and not just her. The soft piano-driven melody feels familiar yet fresh, as Tatum turns the ballad into a haunting, gripping experience. It’s like feeling the cold chill of a winter gale on your face, where your body goes numb and the paralysis overtakes your entire body. Her lyrics have a similar effect: she describes how a toxic relationship changed her forever. How she is no longer the person she once was.
“Silence did the killing
And I hate you for the things that you have changed forever in me (changed forever in me)
Beauty is too painful
And I hate you for the things that you have changed forever in me (changed forever in me)”
The deeply moving single is out on Bad Future Records, who will release Tatum’s debut EP later this year.
Zola Blood – “Two Hearts” (London, England)
RIYL: Phoria, Maribou State, North Downs
We can count on one hand all the bands that can create sensual, pulsating darkwave music; Zola Blood is one of them. The London-based quartet is proof that the sum is greater than its parts. It commences with the three-headed musical section of Ed Smith (synths), Sam Cunnington (drums), and Paul Brown (guitars), who always weave intoxicating soundscapes that you want to completely immerse yourself in. Then there is the jaw-dropping vocals of Matt West, whose ghostly delivery turns every song into a memorable event. Together, the foursome create magic, such as on “Two Hearts”.
Haunting industrial and Krautrock textures form the foundation of the track, a bleakness that is broken by Brown’s searing guitars and Smith’s occasional synth blasts. West’s vocals, meanwhile, shine through the darkness and become the beacon that we gaze upon. He sensually describes the meeting of two people and the chemistry that immediately ignites between them – it ignites “like a wildfire“. But as quickly as they come together, their relationship falls apart where there is only silence between them.
When you hear this track, you won’t utter a word because you will be lost under Zola Blood’s spell – in the starkly beautiful world that they and few others can produce.
Zola Blood’s new EP, Two Hearts, drops May 22nd via Akira Records.
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