The Matinee ’20 March 27th edition gives us exactly what we all need right now: music to get lost in. So grab your headphones and dive into these sweet sonic distractions.
Car Seat Headrest – “Martin” (Seattle via Leesburg, VA, USA)
RIYL: Beck, Beirut, Soccer Mommy
A remarkable symmetry exists between the careers of Beck and Will Toledo, founder of Car Seat Headrest. They both started creating music in their teens, releasing songs and albums independently and traversing multiple genres to hone their sound. For their first five years, both struggled to be heard, until fortune found them. “Loser” launched Beck into mainstream folklore, and it’s now one of the most popular songs of the past 50 years. For Toledo, it was signing with Matador Records, who released his much-celebrated LPs Teens of Style and Teens of Denial. Now Toledo is considered an indie-rock legend even though he’s still a few years shy of 30, roughly the age Beck solidified artistic fame. With his new single “Martin”, Toledo is step closer to reaching the same lofty heights.
“Martin” is a jangly love letter to late ’90s and early ’00s indie music. It starts off breezy, then briefly becomes a head-shaking rocker. It then morphs into an off-kilter, pop-rock track that is one part Beirut (thanks to the trumpet) and Mutations-era Beck. This topsy-turvy soundscape mirrors Toledo’s lyrics, as the song centers on Martin’s search to find his friend, maybe his brother Justin. The tale describes the unbreakable bond between two people, and how one individual can influence another to achieve greatness. And today, more than any other time in recent history, we surely need to lean on others to persevere.
In addition to Toledo, Car Seat Headrest include Andrew Katz (drums and co-collaborator), Ethan Ives (guitar/backing vocals), and Seth Dalby (bass). Their new album, Making A Door Less Open, is out May 1st on Matador Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Day Wave – “Potions” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: DIIV, Modest Mouse, Wild Nothing
Day Wave – the project of Jackson Phillips – made us fans of his stellar indie fare several years ago. He first hooked us with his 2016 debut, Wasting Time” then mesmerized us with the psychedelic surf rock-tinged “Still Let You Down” of 2018. Now, just when we need it most, the latest Day Wave single renews our appreciation.
“Potions” is a sun-kissed slice of indie dream pop perfection from his upcoming Crush EP. These infectious hooks are as irresistible as “Wasting Time” with the same sparkling result. The upbeat tempo infuses “Potions” with enough vibrance to get you dancing immediately. Lyrically it resonates with anyone who has struggled with a desire for something potentially unhealthy:
“Your potion has got me in over my head
I’m not gonna go with anyone else
If I can’t resist you I’ll end up dead
You make me feel alone”
During this time of social distancing, there is zero chance of you feeling alone with this gem of a tune.
Marlin’s Dreaming – “Outwards Crying” (Dunedin, New Zealand)
RIYL: Spacey Jane, Soaked Oats, Lime Cordiale
The land of the long white cloud has brought us some of the finest artists and bands of the past decade. Lorde comes immediately to mind, but the lengthy list includes Tiny Ruins, Nadia Reid, and Marlon Williams, to name a few. In terms of bands, Marlin’s Dreaming will be near at the top – or should be there. Like many Kiwi artists, the Dunedin-based outfit defy categorization. They’re not exactly heirs to the heralded Dunedin sound, but instead they’ve created their own little kingdom with their multi-genre approach. And their territory is becoming even more vast thanks to the arrival of their latest single.
Blending psychedelic, dream-pop, art-rock, and even a dash of shoegaze, Oscar Johns (bass), Hamish Morgan (percussion), and Semisi Maiai (vocals/guitar) have created a dizzying, delirious masterpiece with “Outwards Crying”. An hallucinogenic effect is created, as the fuzzed-out guitar and the stuttering rhythms coalesce around Maiai’s hushed, effected vocals. He sounds like a man in total gaze, trying to find his way through the dense fog and into the light. “Outwards crying, slowly dying, fade away”, he utters with a slight quiver of panic in his voice. His words, however, aren’t just about the end of life, but also the end of our innocence and our identity. That in these uncertain times, a part of us is fading away and never to return.
Should normalcy eventually return, expect to see Marlin’s Dreaming on festival stages next year because this trio is going places. And yes, they’ll be going upwards and outwards.
Marsicans – “Sunday” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Bastille, Dreamers, Circa Waves
Marsicans have been releasing top notch indie pop for quite a few years now, and 2020 could be their year of worldwide recognition. There’s no doubt they would have been a top buzz band if SXSW had actually happened. Their latest track, “Sunday,” is a super feel-good track that will easily melt your current troubles.
Lyrically, it likens “home” as the place where your favorite person is. The chorus proclaims, “You’re the place I know I wanna go, you’re the place to call home.” It’s a perfect track if you are actually separated from your loved ones during this time of social quarantine. It is also a great one to spin as warmer weather approaches.
The Leeds quartet will release their debut, Ursa Major, on May 22 via Killing Moon. Get your copy from these links. What we have heard so far could easily put the album on our Best Albums of 2020 list.
Marsicans are James Newbigging (lead vocals/guitar), Oli Jameson (guitar), Rob Brander (bass/keys), and Cale McHale (drums).
Moonspeak – “Exceptions” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Vita Bergen, The War on Drugs, Strand of Oaks, Remy Zero
Raise your hand if you need six minutes of uninterrupted music therapy. Current events have us all seeking new ways to fight anxiety, so music is our best coping mechanism. Fortunately, an emerging Swedish artist has shared a moving new single that meets our needs. Moonspeak – the project of Robert Jallinder (formerly of Vita Bergen) – is here to provide exquisite sonic escape.
“Exceptions” is a cathartic experience. This slow-building ballad begins quietly with an atmospheric intro. The first verse is a red herring, though, leading you to place a singer/songwriter label. You’re not wrong: Jallinder excels at songwriting. He pairs honest lyrics with earnest vocal delivery that is revealing in its emotional vulnerability. But when the chorus arrives, you feel the song’s true depths. Here the soaring hooks evoke ’90s indie cult faves Remy Zero:
“Because I’m prone to make exceptions
When it comes to me and you
It’s the path of least resistance
I never knew what else to do”
The final two minutes is a electrifying shoegaze rush. The swirl of electric guitar and percussion – on par with The War on Drugs or Strand of Oaks – will leave you breathless. We hope to hear more from Moonspeak very soon.
Nation of Language – “September Again” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Flock of Seagulls, Human League, OMD
If someone asked us who are favorite discovery of the year is, we would say Nation of Language. Granted, the Brooklyn-based trio has been around for a couple of years, but this year they’ll be releasing their debut album. So although we’re a little late to jumping on their bandwagon, we’re not that tardy. Plus, it’s better late than never when it comes to music. While we reflect on what could have been, Aidan Noéll (synth), Michael Sue-Poi (bass), and Ian Devaney (lead vocals) bring the past to the present with their glorious synth-pop. If the year was 1982, they would be superstars. In the meantime, they’re introducing a new generation to the music we adored as kids. They are, however, making it modern. Making it all their own.
On “September Again”, they’ve turned ’80s synth-pop into something that sounds fresh, divine, and incredibly awe-inspiring. It is breathtaking yet delirious, intoxicating yet exhilarating. You can simultaneously feel yourself levitating off the ground while you dance within Noéll’s glimmering synths and Sue-Poi’s pulsating. Where Nation of Language stand out from the bands of nearly four decades ago is in Devaney’s songwriting. He’s not telling tales of the usual things. Instead, he’s writing captivating and poignant stories. In this case, it is one seeking faith or losing it.
“So you go back to church to reclaim the feeling
You say you don’t understand why
And you spend extra time standing naked in the mirror
When you wanna wear something nice
And it’s September again!
Flipping through the same old books
But you’re reading less
And it’s September again
I don’t mind.”
The band’s debut album, Introduction, Presence, will now be released on May 8th with pre-orders here. This single is available on Bandcamp. We’re going to say it already, look for Nation of Language to populate all of our year-end lists.
The Voodoo Children – “Caroline” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: The Naked and Famous, Cults, Paper Route
As the vast majority of us are holed up in our homes and our muscles begin the first stages of atrophy, we need some music that gets the heart pumping and the adrenaline rushing. At the same time, it needs to stimulate our minds, too. None of the mind-numbing, repetitive garble for us because we believe in a holistic approach, and the newest song from The Voodoo Children checks all the boxes.
Like the sugar high you get from cotton candy, “Caroline” is a musical rush. Or maybe a more apt description is riding your favorite amusement park roller coaster numerous times and feeling its exhilaration over and over. The track’s calm opening is an illusion of what is to come, which is a wave of blistering, psychedelic heat that morphs into a searing, ’90s-esque alt-rocker. And like being strapped into your seat, you cannot avoid the onslaught of surging, searing guitars and hammering rhythms. But through it all, founder JT Daly and his wife Sad Penny (a.k.a. Jo Meredith of The Saint Johns) anchor us with their gentle vocals. Their lyrics are like the unsteady soundscape – about finding one’s way through the madness that surrounds us.
If this description isn’t enough to convince you how great this song is, any euphoric rock tune that integrates a harmonica might do the trick!
The Voodoo Children’s debut EP, Instant Nostalgia – Side A, arrives April 24th. Get “Caroline” here.
Why Bonnie – “Athlete” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Big Thief, Marika Hackman, Soccer Mommy
In the brief time that Why Bonnie has been performing (only a few years), they’ve quietly developed a reputation as a dream-pop band thanks to their dazzling EP Nightgown. But with their new single, “Athlete”, this characterization can be thrown out the window much like pigeon-holing Daniel Ratcliffe as a bespectacled young wizard or Robert Pattinson as a dreamy vampire.
On “Athlete”, Blair Howerton, Kendall Powell, Mitchell Lamon, ham soudek, and Chance Williams get gritty and demonstrate they can also rock out. Oh, the song starts off with a dreamy vibe, but then it gets rough around the edges before intensifying into a fuzzed-out, melodic thrasher. The guitars grind, the rhythms hammer harder, and Howerton’s vocals holler with more urgency. While most bands would jam for the next two minutes and finish the song with a maddening flurry, the quartet take their foot off the accelerator and ease the track down. Suddenly, delirium sets in, where a levitating, trippy feeling stirs within the listener. All the while, Howerton reflects on being an outsider, wishing she was an athlete and to be on everyone’s team. Soon, however, people will begging to be part of Why Bonnie’s club because this little band from Austin is going places.
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