The Matinee ’20 May 18 is a celebration. Specifically, the mini-playlist is filled with artists and bands who have wowed us in the recent and distant past. There are two “newcomers” to the list, although we have privately spun their music.

Arre! Arre! – “Ravenous Girl” (Malmö, Sweden)

RIYL: The Donnas, Gossip, Belako

Bikini Kill. L7. Sleater Kinney. The Donnas. Those are the superstars of the female punk band scene. The one band missing from that list – Arre! Arre! – is excluded only because of geography and time. If this Swedish outfit had been part of the American “Riot Grrrl” scene of the ’90s, they would be global sensations now. Instead, Arre! Arre! has been building a fan base in Scandinavia since releasing their debut LP in 2015. Now it’s time for the rest of the world to take notice. The band’s latest single is the kind of tune that will place them someday alongside their trailblazing sisters in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

What’s so special about “Ravenous Girl”? If you love songs with raw power, tight hooks, and lyrics you can growl with sassy fervor like Gossip’s Beth Ditto, then this is your new anthem. This tune starts out fully amped and never lets up. Lines like “whip me good” will prompt you to pump your fists in ecstasy, propelled by the scorching guitars and blazing percussion. It’s an exhilarating rush.

“Ravenous Girl” is from the band’s forthcoming EP,  Heavy Breathing. It’s due in August via PNKSLM Recordings with pre-orders here. Their previous releases are available on Bandcamp.

Arre! Arre! are Anna Palmer, Katja Nielsen, Matilda (Mattis) Årestad, and Totta Edlund. Their new EP, Heavy Breathing, arrives in August via PNKSLM Recordings. Pre-orders are available at the label’s store.

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Bjorn Rydhog – “Escape” (Malmö, Sweden)

RIYL: Alexi Murdoch, José González, Ray LaMontagne

Another Swedish artist we can’t get enough of is Bjorn Rydhog, a singer-songwriter who is also based in Malmö. Fans of mellow indie folk-pop, listen up: his is a voice you need to know immediately. As the world emerges from extended isolation, music like his is the perfect soundtrack for that transition. One spin of “Escape” proves that good things have indeed come from this year’s madness.

The first thing you notice about Rydhog is the warmth of his sound – from the rich vocals and dreamy harmonies to the delicate string-driven instrumentation. “Escape” is a song that invites you to relax in its calming embrace. Much like his modern folk contemporaries (Alexi Murdoch, José González), Bjorn Rydhog delivers intimacy that often becomes therapeutic. Listening becomes an act of surrender and relocation to a dream place as his lyrics describe:

“And in the night, we go away
And we dream of our escape
Lifting the mask from the boulevard
Seeing diamonds in the rain
Finding the light in the local yard
Buying flowers all in vain
Floating upstream into our escape”

This song is featured on Rydhog’s newly released Give Me Sunshine EP. It is streaming on Spotify, Soundcloud, and YouTube.

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Blondfire – “Climb” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: HAERTS, Ladyhawke, Little Daylight

It’s been a hot minute since we’ve heard from Blondfire. The indie-pop band fronted by Erica Driscoll has been quiet for about two years. “Climb” is just the song we all need to hear right now, as Blondfire present intriguing dream-pop in a sweet yet serene package. With “Climb”, they offer hope and optimism with Erica’s ethereal vocals and soothing melodies.

The lyrics speak about climbing toward the light and changing the outcome that could have been fairly bleak. You can view the lyric video here.

“When it’s getting really hard to breathe, we can run away in make-believe.
There’s no end the world is in your mind,
And you want to leave it all behind.
Who says these walls here are real?
Feeling whatever you feel.
We can escape anytime,
So we climb over the hills
Into the light, where no one can hurt you now.
High over their heads into the clouds where nobody’s looking down.”

We are not sure if more is to come from Blondfire in 2020, but it was a super nice surprise to hear this gem of a track.

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Fantastic Negrito – “How Long?” (Oakland, USA)

RIYL: Gary Clark Jr., Michael Franti, Algiers

Xavier Dphrepaulezz – aka Fantastic Negrito – has an impossibly irresistible aura. Raw honesty and charisma radiate from every note he sings, so it’s no wonder fans continue to be drawn to his brand of funky, soulful blues-rock. The world needs a focal point on which we can affix our hearts and hopes, and Fantastic Negrito is doing his part to provide it. Last month we shared his uplifting and hopeful “Chocolate Samurai”. Now the Bay Area artist serves up another red-hot dose of reality with his “How Long?” single.

The refrain of this bluesy, slow-burning scorcher is a powerful message for the times: “What have we become?” It’s a question that seems rhetorical as he sings about people “out there screaming all alone” and “lynch mobs ready to kill you”. The frustration is palpable, and understandably so. These days stories of innocent victims lost to “accidental” shootings dominate news cycles. So artists arm themselves with their own weapons – instruments and microphones – to help combat the epidemic of hate. In this song, the verses and choruses prepare you for battle. But the climax comes midway with a blazing guitar solo. With the intensity of a five-alarm fire this section smolders and burns, its flames fanned by gospel choir backing harmonies. Imagine if Gary Clark, Jr. teamed up with Algiers for a church service: Fantastic Negrito is the minister urging us all to wake up. Keep this Song of the Year contender on repeat.

His new album, Have You Lost Your Mind Yet?, is due July 17th via Cooking Vinyl. Pre-orders are available (including special edition bundles) here.

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Ghostly Kisses – “Where Do Lovers Go?” (Québec City, Canada)

RIYL: Daughter, Fenne Lily, Haux

Via her project Ghostly Kisses, singer-songwriter Margaux Sauvé has already released singles, “Never Let Me Go” and “Barcelona Boy”, earlier this year. Surely an album must be on the way, although the Québec City resident has yet to officially announce anything. In the meantime, we’ll continue to be consumed by whatever she wishes to share with the world, and she’s done exactly this with “Where Do Lovers Go?”.

Although her discography is littered with songs that are beautifully haunting and suffocating (i.e., breathtaking), “Where Do Lovers Go?” is on a completely different level. It is more restrained in its orchestration and production, as a lingering guitar, slight keys, and a looping vocals fill the background. Her enchanting voice, meanwhile, delicately flutters through the notes. She sounds like she exists in another dimension, trying to call out to those who live on the other side. Despite being elsewhere, her love for them endures.

“Meet me where all wrongs turn to right
Meet me where the light greets dark
Where the lovers go when they are tired

Keep me where you hide your second sight
Deep inside where secrets start
Where the lovers go when they are tired”

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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INSIDEAWAVE – “Bright Windows in the Night” (Dublin, Ireland)

RIYL: Grizzly Bear + Keane + Beach House + Volcano Choir + Patrick Watson

We have only heard a couple of songs from Dublin quintet INSIDEAWAVE, but they are fast becoming one of our favorites. They’ll definitely rank high on our favorite discoveries of 2020 list, which we said at the end of March when they released the dreamy, art-rock epic, “Ivy Honey”. That song had major “Wow” factor, but they have outdone themselves with their second single of 2020.

“Bright Windows in the Night” is truly an OMG moment. It is the product of a band that have meticulously taken all the best qualities of indie music’s finest and most creative artists and crafted a song that is dizzily breathtaking and takes you far away from the madness. It is, in other words, a piece of grand, sweeping cinema that you can listen to over and over and again. Like seeing a loved one or your best friend for the first time in weeks or months and feeling elated to reconnect. If you listen closely, the band tells a tale of exactly this – of wanting to re-live the moment when we can reconnect once again.

Speaking of connection, get to know this band. And will a label please sign this band comprised of Eoghan, Mark, Nick, Sean, and Matt (apologies that we don’t know their last names).

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KOJ – “Pamela” (Muenster, Germany)

RIYL: Pumarosa, Portishead, Maribou State

Another band that likely will feature prominently in our year-end lists are KOJ, the German trip-hop trio comprising of Alina, Nils, and Simon. They’ve already startled us with “Jenny” and “Thunder”, and their third song is equally stunning and captivating.

Actually, “Pamela” is immensely mesmerizing. Its foreboding yet engrossing atmosphere is akin to the soundtrack one would hear while walking alone on a fog-filled, deserted alley in the wee hours of the morning. Like the darkness of the confined corridor, the song sends chills down your back with each delicately-placed beat, each deep synth stroke, and every single word uttered from Alina’s haunting voice. Occasionally she takes on the role of the title character and that of the narrator. Her tale of a young woman being lost within the darkness – and being of the darkness – is brilliant because everyday she, like us all, struggle to find the answers and to be whole.

“‘I don’t feel right here in the light,
‘Cause I do belong here with the night.”

The trio’s new album, HOME, is expected this year. Release date TBD as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It will be released on Long Branch Records.

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Oxen – “Dark And Depressive” (Stockholm, Sweden)

RIYL: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Honey Lung, Damen

As we mentioned from the start and repeatedly throughout this mini-playlist, we’re celebrating artists and bands of varying sizes that have won us over with their ingenuity. Swedish duo Oxen first impressed us a couple of years ago with their flawless alt-pop-rock as revealed on “Postpone”. They amp the rock side of the equation on “Dark And Depressive”.

The track actually is as it describes – sonically anyway. It’s not a brooding post-punk number or a sludge metal tune. Instead, it’s a fun and extremely entertaining number. Jangly guitar strikes methodically flow through the track’s melodic first half, but then the duo turn up the noise and rock out. Slight head noodling turn into hip shaking and shoulder shimmying, and by the end of this short track everyone will be shouting out the chorus.

“How is everybody in love?
And everybody is happier when you’re not around!”

There are two ways to look at the track. One is humorously, thinking about the crazy frat-party movies like Animal House where the party only gets started when the downtrodden have left. The other is more seriously, thinking about those who suffer each day with depression and find little optimism. It is possible to think of the track in both lights, which demonstrates just how clever Erik Hases and Stefan Söderqvist are.

The single is out on Harmoni. Maybe a debut album is on the way.

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