From gritty tunes, breathtaking numbers, and a song that will make you smile, The Matinee ’20 April 6 edition will help you get the week started on the right foot.

Alex the Astronaut – “Split The Sky” (Sydney, Australia)

RIYL: Stella Donnelly, Basia Bulat, Jack River

For four years, Alex Lynn has been putting smiles on our face through her project, Alex the Astronaut. Regardless of the times or her own personal struggles, she finds optimism in every thing. We can only imagine that she lights up every room she enters with her big smile and warm disposition. Until we get the opportunity to personally meet her, we and everyone else can just spin her songs like “Split the Sky” to feel her radiance.

If you’re down in the dumps, “Split the Sky” will pick you up and get you on your feet. Like so many people today, Lynn describes her own struggles to find the sunshine in the blue sky let alone get out of bed. From “working in sales”, constantly busking to be heard, serving tables, and “the cowboys who threw up in Texas”, she’s been disparaged, treated rudely, and experienced tremendous lows. And yet through the jittery folk-pop approach, she still proclaims, “Tell all my friends I’ll be all right!” These words are ones we should all exclaim today. This song is exactly what we need today.

The single is out via Nettwerk Music Group. It’s about time a label is taking a chance on this gifted, young artist.

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Grace Joyner – “Hung The Moon” (Charleston, SC, USA)

RIYL: Weyes Blood, Wet, Sorcha Richardson

After a four-year hiatus, singer-songwriter Grace Joyner returned with aplomb on “Fake Girlfriend”. The song revealed a new approach for the South Carolina resident, who dazzled us in 2016 with her intimate, indie-rock style. Now, like Sharon Van Etten and TORRES before her, she’s turned in her guitar for keys and synths to create music that still dazzles and is emotionally striking yet more widescreen.

“Hung The Moon” is extravagant synth-pop. Joyner and her bandmates masterfully reign in the theatrics and the noise, keeping things subtle and airy with the occasional euphoric burst. When the song does hit these emotional heights, Joyner doesn’t blow you away with overproduced beats or electronics. Instead, these melancholic moments are awe-inspiring, where your eyes get wider, you mouth is left agape, and your heart skips a beat. Her words, likewise, will pull at your heartstrings, as she sings about a love so grand that one would do anything to keep it alive. It is about sacrificing oneself for another even if it means changing who we are.

Joyner’s sophomore album, Settle In, is expected in late May. It could be the surprise record of the year.

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Hannah Cameron – “Backsliding” (Melbourne, Australia)

RIYL: Nadine Shah, early TORRES, Jen Cloher

Over the past four years, Australia has introduced the world to Julia Jacklin, Stella Donnelly, Alex Lahey, and other outstanding singer-songwriters. Could 2020 be the year the world scrambles onto Hannah Cameron‘s bandwagon? If we were betting folks, we would predict a label will sign her by the end of the year at least. Her breakthrough will then follow shortly thereafter – or maybe it starts now with “Backsliding.”

Sit back, take a deep breath, and follow into the sparse, chilling, alt-folk world of “Backsliding.” Nothing is rushed, yet the song burns with from start to finish. Only a a stark guitar, a brooding bass line, and a feathery drum roll at first accompany Cameron’s stirring vocals, who describes her and another repeating the same mistakes and, thus, always falling into oblivion. She coolly says:

“You want to be the teacher
Be prepared to learn
You want to start a fire
Be prepared to burn
You want to know the answer
Got to face the facts.”

Strings join the band on the song’s final minute, leading to a stunning, awestruck moment reminiscent of the orchestral folk-rock of PJ Harvey and Nadine Shah. It’s a thing of artistic beauty, demonstrating why Cameron is an artist who should be celebrated by all.

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Iceage – “Lockdown Blues” (Copenhagen, Denmark)

RIYL: Iceage (of course)… if pressed, a young U2, Protomartyr, Ty Segall

Leave it to a global crisis to get arguably the best post-punk band today – i.e., Iceage – to share their first new song since 2018’s outstanding Beyondless album, which was one of our favorite LPs of that year. Yeah, “Lockdown Blues” deals with the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the world, but the track isn’t like most of the songs you hear out there. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (vocals/lyrics), Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass), Johan Wieth (guitar), and Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums) aren’t criticizing governments nor speaking about their own experiences. Instead, as they usually do, they’ve taken a much broader, global view and the effects on the vulnerable.

Their track is more restrained than most Iceage tunes, yet it still retains the band’s trademark throbbing urgency. At the forefront is Rønnenfelt’s vocals and hammering lyrics. He addresses everything from the ignorant partygoers who accelerate the spread of the virus, panic buying, and the people who have lost their jobs and, thus, their ability to survive. “Lockdown Blues” isn’t so much a political track. Rather, it’s a vital recording for the history books, articulating the surrealism that we once thought only existed in books and films. Once again, Iceage have delivered pure brilliance.

The single is out on Matador Records. All profits from Bandcamp will directly benefit Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

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Mayflower Madame – “Goldmine” (Oslo, Norway)

RIYL: The Black Angels, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Night Beats

When 2020 began, none of us could have predicted current events. It’s safe to say that no one was prepared for a nightmare of quarantine – and yet, here we are. During this time of uncertainty, certain music seems appropriate, especially the dark psych-noir post-punk of Mayflower Madame. We have been fans of this Swedish group since we first heard their “Lovesick” single in 2015. 

Mayflower Madame have picked the perfect time to release a new album, appropriately titled Prepared for a Nightmare. The track “Goldmine” is a nearly four-minute sojourn into a delirious world you will never want to leave. The swirling guitars call to mind the trippy tones of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Black Angels. The lyrical message also fits nicely with the brooding instrumentation:

“In the middle of the night
It’s all too real, it’s too intense
That’s why I’m leaving you behind
I caught you stealing from my goldmine”

Prepared for a Nightmare is available now via Only Lovers Records on Bandcamp.

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Sam Valdez – “Toothache” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Hope Sandoval, Pearl Charles, Gabriella Cohen

Sam Valdez possesses a voice and style we have not forgotten since first hearing her back in 2017. Her 2018 EP, Mirage, was sheer beauty, and it was unsurprisingly one of the year’s best mini-records. The young woman based in Los Angeles is a throw-back to the days of Laurel Canyon at its height. How she continues to fly under the radar is a mystery that needs to be solved immediately because such a talent should be heard in every household across the globe. As evidence of her artistic beauty, she presents “Toothache”.

Like her previous songs, “Toothache” is a breezy, breathtaking, dreamy Americana number that makes every part of your body relax while your mind becomes paralyzed. Her soothing, angelic vocals possesses the same alluring power of Hope Sandoval, and her storytelling matches the great Mazzy Star front-woman. As the crystalline, shoegaze guitar fills the air, Valdez takes us on a trip to recapture her identity while leaving the past in her wake.

“I miss my body
Not being haunted
I crave that feeling
I’m not being haunted
Don’t you leave me haunted.”

“Toothache” is from Valdez’s forthcoming, debut album, which is expected later this year.

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Sweet Whirl – “Sweetness” (Melbourne, Australia)

RIYL: Tracey Thorn, Eleanor Friedberger, Half Waif

Esther Edquist is an emerging talent who belongs on your radar. It took us approximately three seconds to become enchanted with her project Sweet Whirl. One spin of her “Sweetness” single will likely have the exact same effect on you. 

Her smoky alto vocals are part of that mesmerizing equation: intimate and warm, you cannot resist the inviting nature of each note. Equally irresistible is the brightly hued but languid dream-pop instrumentation. You won’t expect to go weak in the knees when she sings, “Don’t tell me baby that your feelings have changed / You are my weakness,” but you probably will. That’s the allure of her sophisticated charm. Sweet Whirl is this generation’s Everything But The Girl. Her sound appeals to a wide spectrum of music fans, so get to know her now. It won’t be long before Sweet Whirl achieves global recognition.

Her full-length debut album, How Much Works, arrives May 29th via Chapter Music with pre-orders from these links.

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