Take a musical holiday this weekend with The Matinee April 17 edition, which features 8 songs that will take you away to exhilarating sonic wonderlands. This mini-playlist is the perfect escape.
Badlands – “Fantasma I+II” (Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: I Break Horses, M83, ‘Violator’-era Depeche Mode
Ten-minute songs can be laborious undertakings. For that matter, some people struggle to get through a four-track EP, let alone a complete album. Then an artist comes around and releases companion tracks that makes 10 minutes fly by because we feel like we are living within their wall of sound. This is what producer and multi-instrumentalist Catharina Jaunviksna, who goes by the moniker Badlands, has achieved with “Fantasma I+II.”
The Swedish native caught our attention back in 2016, and she’s gradually released music since then. In these two songs, she crafts an expansive sonic wonderland. The first half is astral in tone, where Jaunviksna uses soft, scintillating synths and soothing beats to create the feeling of drifting through the cosmos. Her artistry approaches the deep galaxy sounds of M83 and her contemporaries, I Break Horses.
The track’s second half enters a black hole where the environment is darker yet still hypnotic. Depeche Mode-esque electronica echoes through the latter half. Like the legendary group’s music, these final five minutes linger with you well after the song reaches its conclusion. And it’s not just the pulsating rhythms, as Jaunviksna’s effected vocals and words, “I saw you,” are tattooed into your subconscious. These two tracks are simply unforgettable.
Car Seat Headrest – “Hollywood” (Seattle via Leesburg, VA, USA)
RIYL: Beck with Fucked Up
Last month when Will Toledo (a.k.a. Car Seat Headrest) released “Martin”, we compared his career to that of the great Beck. The similarities are astounding – from how their careers started, the musical approaches, and their immensely intelligent songwriting. The comparisons are further cemented with CSH’s latest tune “Hollywood”.
Like a young Beck mixed with the assertiveness of another great band, Fucked Up, “Hollywood” is one emphatic, in-your-face attitude. Musically, it’s a head-noddling, gritty indie-rocker, featuring an outstanding, infectious rhythm section and a truly gnarly guitar riff (sorry our youthful days of the ’90s are showing). The interplay between Toledo and guitarist Ethan Ives, though, is what makes the track. Toledo’s delivery is calm and nonchalant. Every word from Ives, on the other hand, is biting and fierce, resembling the hoarse and assertive tone of Fucked Up’s Damien Abraham. Despite the contrasting styles, the two use Hollywood to represent the ills affecting American life. Sex, drugs, lies, violence, greed – they permeate anywhere. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, we all can agree that our priorities are messed up.
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 via Matador Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Ela Minus – “they told us it was hard, but they were wrong.” (Brooklyn, USA via Bogotà, Colombia)
RIYL: Austra, Grimes, Electric Youth
Gabriela Jimeno has been creating truly interesting music as Ela Minus for the past few years. With a background in percussion and a love for analog synthesizers, Jimeno has created a sound that she has described in the past as “tiny dance”. It’s a fitting description for her music, as layered synthesizers, infectious beats, and her understated vocal delivery come together to create something moving, yet minimalist on the surface.
“they told us it was hard, but they were wrong.” is Ela Minus’s latest single, and it’s everything that makes Ela Minus such an exciting artist. From its incredibly catchy bass line to its intricate synth work, it builds and flows, and Gimeno’s lyrics are on point from delivery to content. In its opening moments, Gimeno sings
“We always know
Within the first minute or so
If something’s worth staying for.”
It’s a bold statement to start off a song, but it’s so good. It makes us know it’ll be worth staying to see what follows now that she has signed with the excellent Domino Recording Co.
FEVA – “I Wanna Know” (Newcastle, England)
RIYL: Foals, The Music, Highly Suspect
To no music fan’s surprise, another great alt-rock band emerges from jolly old England. Newcastle quartet FEVA have been around several three years, but 2019 saw Sam Reynolds (vocals/guitar), James Gibbons (guitar), Thomas Errington (bass), and Danny Castro (drums) begin to earn praise and notoriety. Now 2020 could be the year they truly take off – or maybe 2021, because their anthemic indie rock must be heard live. Then everyone will understand why FEVA could become the next Foals or be the long-awaited heir to The Music‘s throne. To demonstrate why they deserve such accolades, they’ve unleashed one ferocious tune.
“I Wanna Know” should be heard with the volume dialed way, way up. Let everyone in your neighborhood hear this track, so they, too, can rock out like they’re attending a massive gig at the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Then they’ll know they’ve just discovered the future of UK rock. The heavy rhythms will cause uncontrollable head-bobbing while the searing guitar will cause eyes to bulge, as if one was staring down an enemy. Pulses will quicken as the blood and adrenaline flood through your veins as Reynolds hollers after the person who has stolen his life and has taken away his soul. This song, though, will make you want to recapture what you’ve lost. It also might have you exclaiming, “Fuck yeah!”
Fruit Bats – “Shane” (Portland, OR via Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Bonny Light Horseman, Kevin Morby, BNQT
Now may be the season of our quarantined discontent, but that isn’t keeping our favorite musicians from sharing treasures from their vaults. Last month saw the release of a timely track from Chicago legends Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy. Now another Chicago native has followed suit, delivering an unreleased B-side that fits the times we’re living in now.
Fruit Bats frontman Eric D. Johnson (also of new supergroup Bonny Light Horseman) recorded “Shane” during the sessions for his 2019 album, Gold Past Life. This upbeat folk-pop tune is sure to bring some brightness to your weekend. Its sun-kissed melody is accented by a ’70s-era AM radio haziness that will sound especially good on your next road trip. While we can’t predict when that might happen, we can guarantee your mood will improve by having this tune in heavy rotation in the meantime. Johnson admits the timing of its release is deliberate:
“It feels oddly timely at this exact horrible moment we’re having. Like a lot of my songs, it’s about self-love and care in the face of darkness and uncertainty.”
The Mowgli’s – “Vacation” (Venice Beach, California USA)
RIYL: American Authors, Bad Suns, The Griswolds
It’s Friday (isn’t it?) and many of us around the world are dreaming of going some place different, somewhere (anywhere) and taking a break from our current routine. “Vacation” is just the track we all need to hear right now. We can start dreaming about where we will go when restrictions are lifted and a beautiful beach is ready and waiting for us.
“Can’t keep repeating this routine for my whole life.”
That lyric is super relatable to many of us at this point in time. While most of us are staying at home almost every single day, The Mowgli’s are the perfect go-to if you are looking for an instant uplift in mood. “Vacation” is packed full of feel-good vibes and gets us ready for those upcoming warm, breezy summer days.
The Mowgli’s are Joshua Hogan (vocals/guitar), Katie Jayne Earl (vocals), Matthew Di Panni (bass), David Appelbaum (keys), and Andy Warren (drums). You can also check out their quarantine edition video here.
Muzz – “Red Western Sky” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Interpol, The Walkmen, Bonny Light Horseman
Last month we predicted that new indie supergroup Muzz would deliver new music soon. We had no idea how right we were. Nor were we prepared for just how much “Red Western Sky” would wow us. Sure, their lead single (“Bad Feeling”) did whet our appetites and offered a promising tease of what Paul Banks (Interpol), Matt Barrick (The Walkmen), and John Kaufman (Bonny Light Horseman) have been concocting. But holy wow, this one is a slow-burning gem of understated indie-rock perfection. Reservedly brooding in tone, the music quickly grabs and holds your attention while the video – well, just watch it unless you have an aversion to clowns.
Simple piano and crisp, Calexico-esque horns accentuate Banks’s vocals. Yet again the trio tease listeners by revealing a track that seems to have its momentum restrained. This, of course, only heightens our anticipation for their self-titled debut album. Until it arrives, we will devour every note as we try to decipher these cryptic lyrics:
“Red western sky show me what to do
Give me time to cry, give me long night through
All the great ones change, and the feet still bleed
What’s forsaken fate in this token secret”
Nation of Language – “Friend Machine” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: early Depeche Mode, Talk Talk, OMD
We thoroughly expected to be writing about Nation of Language‘s debut album, Introduction, Presence, at this moment. Due to the events consuming the world, they’ve delayed its release a second time. The record will now arrive on May 22nd with pre-orders here. Although Ian Devaney (lead vocals), Aidan Noéll (synths), and Michael Sue-Poi (bass) could have waited for that day to arrive since they’ve already shared three outstanding songs, they decided to further whet our appetites with a fourth single. A good thing they did because they show a different side to their ’80s complexion.
Whereas the original tracks were synth-pop numbers worthy of placement in a John Hughes’ film, “Friend Machine” resides in the draughty, underground clubs of London, Berlin, and Munich of the ’80s. New wave and krautrock intersect on this dark yet hypnotic track. Noéll’s synth work is sublime, as she essentially orchestrates a complex mixture of sound and textures on a couple of instruments. Devaney’s vocals and delivery are spellbinding and ghostly, sounding like he’s trapped in another dimension. In actuality, he’s a prisoner in his own mind, and he’s searching for someone, anyone to listen. To help him conquer his inner ghosts.
“It’s just an itch
There in the bottom of the mind
Come out with it
You make me wonder all the time
Are you listening, friend?”
To repeat, Introduction, Presence, is out May 22nd. Everyone should be listening to this great band.
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