The Matinee ’20 March 9th edition kicks off the week with strong retro vibes. Although many of these songs turn back the clocks, they all will leave you at the very impressed if not amazed. Be prepared to rock out, to have your spirits levitated, dance all night, and be left breathless.
Austra – “Anywayz” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Kate Bush, Florence + The Machine, Zola Jesus
Austra has an uncanny ability to make music that eerily fits the times we live in. Their 2017 LP, Future Politics, was the glove into which our fears of a dystopian world slid. Now that we’ve had a few years to adjust to life with global anxiety, Katie Selmanis returns with fresh tunes to calm us. “Anywayz” – the opening track from the band’s fourth album, HiRUDiN – reminds us how much we’ve missed this generation’s Kate Bush.
Her ethereal vocals soar over bright synth tones. The desperation in her tone highlights an urgency to escape a situation. She wants, as many of us do, to reunite with the stronger self we once were. The lines “This isn’t what you do / this isn’t who I am” send chills, though the chorus offers a truly euphoric rush that will haunt you for weeks to come:
“What if we don’t
And the world keeps turning anyways
The flowers come up anyways
The mountains rise up anyways”
Even the video for “Anywayz” is stunning.
The Blowies – “AK” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Ramones
Punk is the one genre that consistently produces politically-charged songs. The year and decade do not matter – there’s an old band or a new one that is diving head-first into the ills that plague our society. What makes punk so great (when it’s done correctly) is that the music is fun and energetic while the lyrics are blunt and often sarcastic. The Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols were experts at this; now Austin duo The Blowies follow suit with their “AK” single.
Just like the punk of the ’70s, the track is a tight two minutes of rapid-fire, sweat-inducing punk-pop. Tucker Jameson and Samuel Thompson hammer catchy guitar riffs and buzz-saw rhythms. The best part, however, is the lyrics, as the duo address American gun culture. They’re not advocating for more guns; rather they cleverly mock proponents who think guns will keep them safe:
“I need a gun to make me feel safe
I need a gun just in case
that’s why I pray to the NRA
so the Dems don’t take my guns away
I need an AK!”
“I need an uzi to defend my flag
it’s my goddamn right and I’m goddamn mad
no opinion trumps the one I have
plus my bible group says I need to prove that I’m no f–
I need an AK!”
Chromatics – “Famous Monsters” (Portland, OR, USA)
RIYL: Blondie meets Berlin
Everything old is new again, as the adage goes. The “Famous Monsters” that Chromatics sing about on their new single may be hanging out in cemeteries now, but that’s not the whole story. Close your eyes to visualize imagine their original haunts: underground discos of the early ’80s. This is where they laid the foundation upon which we dance today. And what a deliriously groovy anthem this one is!
“Famous Monsters” evokes the stylish disco swagger of Deborah Harry with the danceable modern allure of Lady Gaga, although far more mellow. Frontwoman Ruth Radelet delivers spoken lyrics with cool detachment over a slick, synth-driven riff. The words reveal more about these monsters and their intentions:
“Famous monsters drive alone
cruising the hills
they come alive in black and white
meet you in the cemetery
We love dancing and violence
beneath dirt below earth
make no mistake / we never wake
we are your dream / we never die”
Chromatics are: Ruth Radelet (vocals/guitar/synths), Adam Miller (guitar), Johnny Jewel (production), and Nat Walker (drums/synths).
Courtney Marie Andrews – “If I Told” (Phoenix, USA)
RIYL: Civil Wars, Brandi Carlile, Dori Freeman
Courtney Marie Andrews personifies resilience and perseverance. In a career that spans more than a dozen years and includes six full-length albums, she has lived in her van for months, traversed the globe on countless occasions, and performed in every venue imaginable. Despite joining Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World on two covers in 2009 and playing in Damien Jurado’s backing band, success eluded the Phoenix-born artist. Her mini-breakthrough happened in 2016 and 2017 with the critically-acclaimed Honest Life, which made Andrews a must-see artist in Europe. Success in North America, however, varied, but after the success of May Your Kindness Remain she received invitations to perform at Newport Folk Festival, among others. Album number seven is now on the horizon, and it could truly be the record that catapults Andrews into the mindset of every music fan.
The lead single from Old Flowers, will be released June 5th on Fat Possum Records, is one that should be heard sitting down. “If I Told” should be heard with the lights dimmed, a fire gently roaring nearby, and your favorite person sitting next to you. This song is simply gorgeous. It is breathtaking in its low-key but stirring arrangements and devastatingly beautiful and vulnerable in its words. Listen closely and recall the bumpy paths you and your partner have experienced, and then think about all that Andrews has done to get to this point.
Pre-oder Old Flowers on Bandcamp and support this incredible artist.
Drens – “A Very Sunny Day” (Dortmund, Germany)
RIYL: Fidlar, Wavves, Surf Rock Is Dead
Spring cannot come soon enough for many people across the globe, as the winter has been fairly unusual. Soon, though, the cold will go away and people will be decked out in t-shirts, shorts, and Birkenstocks. But until those days arrive, flip on “A Very Sunny Day”, which might bring you some warmth and joy on this day.
Well, musically, anyway, the Drens will bring you joy. The tune mixes the rambunctious punk-pop of Fidlar with the jangly, surf-rock notes of Surf Rock Is Dead. As a result, the song bops and shimmers in its quieter moments while becomes mosh pit-worthy at its most explosive peaks.
If you ignored the lyrics, you might feel overjoyed with adrenaline coursing through your veins. But if you listen closely, the song is quite present, as the German foursome address one person’s experience with COVID-19 – a.k.a. coronavirus – on his birthday. He’s self-isolating at home, and the only gifts he receives are the sunshine and a phone call. By being stuck at home, he fears he’s been forgotten and become obsolete. But he then tells himself, “it’s not the end”, realizing he’s at least alive and will have future birthdays to celebrate. So live today like there is no tomorrow and just rock out to this awesome little tune.
Drens are Fabian Livrée, Arno Augustin, Patrick Uitz-Blickling, and Joël Brüning. Their new EP is coming in May.
Nation of Language – “Tournament” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Flock of Seagulls & OMD meets Future Islands, Operators
We all have obsessed over bands and artists, and in some cases we just might be that band’s #1 fan. For at least three years, Stereogum features writer Ryan Leas has been obsessing with Nation of Language. Two years ago, he wrote a lengthy and terrific piece about their formation and how he essentially stalked them (actually he just attended every gig in and around New York City). If we were paying closer attention or following in the lead of KEXP, we would have shared their music sooner and similarly been obsessing. This is band that has taken the music of our childhoods and turned it into an astonishing, awe-inspiring, dazzling spectacle. The zenith of their craft just might be “Tournament”.
You have to be seated when hearing “Tournament” because you just might pass out hearing it. It is incredibly sensational. Incredibly gawd-smacking gorgeous. It is synth-pop dialed down in order to cast a spell on its listeners. What’s even more impressive is that the band only features a synth (by “synth queen” Aidan Noéll) and a bass (Michael Sue-Poi). There’s no guitar nor drums and with just those two instruments they’re still able to create something majestic.
Through the haze, Ian Devaney’s ghostly vocals shine through, as he confesses to constantly searching for meaning in his life. His words hit hard because we can all understand the journey he’s been through, and we repeat with him, “I’ve been waiting for a long, long time”. And we’ve been waiting a long, long time for a song like this. An end-of-the-year / favorite-song-of-2020 candidate? You better believe it.
Sun Shy Boy – “Color Of Home” (Utrecht, Netherlands)
RIYL: Gotye, Chris Isaak, Bibio
Nine years ago, some guy named Gotye became a global sensation by producing a low-key, groovy, hypnotic number that went on to win multiple awards and recognized as the best song of 2011. This isn’t to say that Dutch producer and multi-instrumentalist Sun Shy Boy has released the song of the year. Rather, all we’re saying is if he continues to create spellbinding numbers like “Color Of Home”, he could one day achieve worldwide acclaim for his art like Gotye did.
Similar to “Somebody I Used to Know”, “Color Of Home” possesses a calm, cool smokiness. But within the hypnotic, downtempo features, a darkness lingers. SSB opens up about the demons that reside within him and how he is haunted by the image of one. This person reveals herself in the form of an unnamed female vocalist, whose calm, sultry approach complements the slight panic in SSB’s delivery. Whether they are speaking to each other or addressing one another through different dimensions is unknown, but there is an undeniable history between them. One that is full of love but also filled with pain.
Thrillhouse – “Lesser” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: The War On Drugs, Menomena, Gang of Youths
It wasn’t long ago when Brighton’s Thrillhouse intrigued us when they released the Daft Punk-esque “One of These Days”. Our heads continue to spin in all directions with their second single, “Lesser”.
While their debut was one that got people dancing, the more melodic and laid-back “Lesser” feels like The War On Drugs or Kurt Vile experimented with ’80s-inspired synth or Gang of Youths going retro. It feels like a slice of summer, where you want to spin this track with the top down as you drive along a coastal highway with little care in the world. But this journey is one of discovery, as we race towards the hills to face our insecurities.
“Have you ever lied for no reason at all?
Just to make yourself seem a little bigger
Some of us are made from stone
Others are born a broken man
Somehow, I’ve always known
I’ll carry it alone”
Thrillhouse are Sam Strawberry, Alistair Scott and Jackie B. Nielsen. They are a band we will be watching evolve throughout 2020.
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