Another week arrives, which means more time practising social distancing and self-quarantine. One great thing about difficult times is that the music tends to be outstanding, and the eight tracks on The Matinee ’20 April 20th edition are evidence of this. Half the songs document the times we live in while the rest offer a reprieve from the madness.

Belako – “All Nerve” (Mungia, Spain)

RIYL: Savages, Wild Flag, Kim Gordon

Hinds has deservedly been recognized as one of Spain’s great indie-rock exports of the past decade. Residing some 415 kilometers to the north of Madrid and on the shores of the Bay of Biscay is the home of Belako, who should not be overlooked. The quartet can create wall-jarring alt-rock, fierce post-punk, or fist-raising, politically-charged power anthems for our times, which is what they did with “The Craft”. The Spaniards, though, are at their best when they opt to blow our minds with an intense rocker, and they’ve done exactly this with “All Nerve.”

In a word, “All Nerve” is awesome. The first half of the track is largely instrumental, as a hypnotic, post-punk bass line draws us in. It ticks like a clock, counting down the seconds until the song combusts. Just as we think an explosion is going to happen, a grizzled guitar enters the fray, further adding to the song’s heat. Then frontwoman Cristina Lizarraga’s assertive vocals arrive, and she sounds like Kim Gordon in her youth. Her voice is forceful, but her words are powerful. She addresses the issue of free will – or the lack of it and how we’re just pawns in a game played by a few. As the track goes from a growl to a full-out howl, she cunningly states:

“Social control, invisible walls
Taking advantage of defenseless souls
Cultural hate, extended hatred
We live in a wreckage of human existence.”

Belako are Cristina Lizarraga (vocals/keys), Lore Nekane Billelabeitia (bass/keys/backing vocals), Josu Ximun Billelabeitia (guitar/keys/bass/backing vocals), and Lander Zalakain Martinez (drums). Their new album, Plastic Drama, will be released in May via German label BMG.

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Bon Iver – “PDLIF (Please Don’t Live in Fear)” (Eau Claire, WI, USA)

RIYL: Bon Iver, of course

Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon has the Midas touch when it comes to crafting soothing sounds. His latest single proves yet again why his talents are so vital to fans. “PDLIF (Please Don’t Live in Fear)” is more than just a lovely song full of his signature lush textures. This nearly three-minute gem is an ode to hope. Bon Iver will donate 100% of all proceeds to Direct Relief, a humanitarian organization working to protect workers and patients during this pandemic. 

Like all of us around the globe, Vernon and his bandmates have been self-isolating. Despite that small hurdle, each layer of the song was recorded and produced in isolation. The band says, “It serves as a subtle reminder that, though apart, we’re never alone; the strength of collaboration and community remains strong as ever.” The same can be said of their sound, which greets listeners here with whispers of reassurance.

Bon Iver is hoping fans will join them in supporting a worthy cause. Direct Relief is coordinating with public health authorities, non-profit organizations, and businesses in the U.S. and worldwide, to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and essential medical items to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can get the song from these purchase and streaming links. It’s out now via Jagjaguwar.

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Chromatics – “Teacher” (Portland, USA)

RIYL: Chromatics

Ask any music fan in any country what they miss most during isolation, and chances are live music will rank high on their list. The resumption of shows is the entertainment feast we dream about now. Until then, we subsist on nibbles of new music from our favorite artists. Chromatics continue to share tracks from their upcoming Dear Tommy album; the latest is the mesmerizing “Teacher.” 

Dark lyrical imagery of poisoned apples play a role in this sleek, synth-driven fairytale. Meanwhile, the beguiling tones of last month’s “Famous Monsters” single echo throughout. Chromatics have not announced a release date for Dear Tommy, so the waiting continues. Fans have been anticipating this album’s arrival for several years now; a few more months ought to be manageable.

We think Andy Warhol missed the mark: “the idea of waiting on something” might make it exciting, but the act of waiting is abysmal. However, tunes as delicious as this do lessen the misery.

The single and Dear Tommy will be released on the excellent label Italians Do It Better.

Chromatics are: Ruth Radelet (vocals/guitar/synths), Adam Miller (guitar), Johnny Jewel (production), and Nat Walker (drums/synths).

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Faye Webster – “In A Good Way” (Atlanta, USA)

RIYL: Molly Burch, Weyes Blood, Natalie Prass

Over the course of three records, Atlanta based yo-yo expert Faye Webster has crafted her own brand of soulful Americana music. On her most recent LP, Atlanta Millionaires Club, Webster got groovy, threw in a ton of pedal steel, and created a highly personal, yet relatable record. Last week, Webster shared her latest single, the enchanting “In a Good Way”.

“In a Good Way” features plenty of the things that made Atlanta Millionaires Club a great record but is undeniably a R&B influenced throwback. It’s lyrically honest, with an absolutely infectious chorus. Webster’s voice floats over a laid-back instrumental that is undeniably groovy. About halfway through, a string section kicks in and “In a Good Way” kicks into another gear.

“I didn’t know that I was capable of being happy right now
But you showed me how
I didn’t know that you were right in front of me
Until I looked out

You make me wanna cry in a good way”

The single is out on Secretly Canadian. Beyond her great tunes and yo-yo expertise, Webster is a fun follow on social media.

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Ganser – “Lucky” (Chicago, USA)

RIYL: RIYL: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Deeper, Idles

Music is a great historian. From the great empires that ruled the Earth in the B.C. years to present day, songs have captured the stories and feelings of the times. Chicago post-punk band Ganser are one of today’s great chroniclers, which they have proven with songs like “Bad Form”, “Satsuma”, and “Avoidance”. In three months, they’ll put out a textbook – no encyclopedia of songs that captures the mood of an America governed by a nepotistic, self-absorbed, inept, serial liar as well as being overwhelmed by a pandemic. On July 12th, Just Look At That Sky will be released on on Felte, and one of the chapters will be “Lucky”.

Like everything they’ve written, Alicia Gaines (bass/vocals), Nadia Garofalo (keys/vocals), Brian Cundiff (drums), and Charlie Landsman (guitar) unleashed a dark, heavy, feverish number. Every elements either throbs like a jackhammer, searingly illuminates like lightning in a blacken sky, or explodes with the power of a tonne of dynamite. The song, as a result, is intense, urgent, and absorptive. As it reaches its climax, you might feel like you’re about to combust within the Ganser’s power. Or maybe you might feel like the person Garofalo speaks to – inadequate, unsure, vulnerable, and desperate. Heck, we all feel this way right now, but at least for under four minutes we can joint Ganser and release our tension.

Pre-orders for Just Look At That Sky are available on Bandcamp. This album will be a must-own come the summer.

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Ghostly Kisses – “Barcelona Boy” (Quebec City, Canada)

RIYL: London Grammar, Haux, Novo Amor

For as long as Margaux Sauvé has been releasing music as Ghostly Kisses, her songs have generally been dark, gripping, brooding affairs, yet they’ve all been immensely captivating. They equally belonged in the Guggenheim as they on the airwaves. This is, indeed, a roundabout way to say she is more than just a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, but that she is an artist. Like a great painting or sculpture, her work leaves a lasting impression, where you cannot wait for her next project. Up next for the Quebec City-based Sauvé is another masterpiece in “Barcelona Boy”.

Whereas her previous songs were bordered on minimalist, “Barcelona Boy” is much more textured, layered, and widescreen. Piano, keys, synths, a slight guitar, and percussion converge and form a suspenseful yet deeply intoxicating soundscape. Images of fog-filled alleys in London, Paris, or Berlin may fill your mind with you trying to peer through the white clouds to see who’s on the other side. Or waiting for someone to emerge, but she never does.

“You keep me hanging on, pretending you don’t see
When all you really want is only make-believe
I know that you’re wrong, I don’t want to play no more
I’ll just keep waiting here for you, keep waiting for you.”

The single is out on Akira Records and available for purchase / streaming on Bandcamp. Hopefully, the announcement of a new album accompanies Sauvé’s next song.

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Phillip-Michael Scales – “Find A Way” (Nashville via Chicago, USA)

RIYL: Curtis Harding, Black Pumas, Michael Kiwanuka

Plenty of people, including ourselves, have wondered aloud whether we could hit pause and go back in time. Go back to an era when things were less surreal and bizarre. Since time machines are still largely theoretical (so we think), we can always turn to a great song that rewinds our mental clocks and makes us believe in our world, our people, and ourselves again. Artists like Mavis Staples, Michael Kiwanunka, Curtis Harding, and Black Pumas possess this valuable quality, and joining them is Phillip-Michael Scales. Is it too early to anoint the Chicago native as one of America’s great soul singers? We don’t think so. If anything, we’re too late in making such a pronounced statement because the young man is a talent. As proof, he shares “Find A Way”.

Scales’ newest single reverberates with the scintillating soul of the ’70s. It is cool and vibrant yet emotionally moving, akin to the tunes that Otis Redding, Bill Withers, and Al Green created once upon a time. The track, however, is still contemporary, as blues and indie-rock vibes permeate across the track. Most importantly, though, is what Scales has to say. As so many of us feel lost and anxious, he encourages us to move forward and to “find a way” out of the darkness that has enveloped us. To find the light through the storms all around us.

“I chased the lightning, I got soaked in the rain.
Danced with my demons ’til I couldn’t see straight.
Tried to twist me, but I still won’t break.
I don’t mind.
I’ll find a way.”

Someone sign this young man or call Ms. Staples and ask her to do a duet with him.

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Sandmoon – “Empty” (Beirut, Lebanon)

RIYL: London Grammar, Hundred Waters, Slowdive

Sandmoon is a Lebanese indie-folk outfit fronted by singer-songwriter Sandra Arslanian. “Empty” is their newest offering and it’s an enrapturing mix of dark-folk, shoegaze, and dream-pop. Arslanian’s vocals immediately draws you in. Even though the lyrical content explores the feelings revolving around a break up and the emptiness that accompanies the separation, the track also exudes a sense of hope, for as one door closes future opportunities arise.

The subtle mix of guitar and just a hint of synth creates a smoothness to the melancholy vibe. It’s the perfect track to calm any mood. The video they’ve shared captures the reality in which all artists currently live, playing to a camera as fans watch online.

Sandmoon are Sandra Arslanian (vocals, keys, ukulele, rhythm guitar); Sam Wehbi (guitar); Ribal Kallab (cello); Georgy Flouty (bass/soundscapes); Raja Rahbani/Dani Shukri (drums); and Maen Rajab (guitar).

Sandmoon will be releasing their second album, later this year.

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