The Matinee ’20 June 24 edition is a soothing collection of nine outstanding songs. As always, multiple genres are featured, from wistful dream-pop to buzzing deep house and even a mystical, folk lullaby. There’s also an old-school Americana-rock ballad, some synth-pop, and art-rock to round things off. So get through the dreaded Wednesday with the mini-playlist.
Widowspeak – “Money” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: La Sera, Blouse, Joni Mitchell
Add the end of May, one of our collective favorites returned with the intelligent yet sweeping single, “Breadwinner”. The song validated Widowspeak as one of, if not the, pre-eminent dream-pop / dream-folk bands on the planet. Their music is late-’60s / late-’70s Laurel Canyon brought to the modern age, where every song leaves you feeling warm, a bit stunned, and even breathless. But like the music of that era, there is much more to singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton and guitarist Robert Earl Thomas’ sound. As they’ve gotten older, their songs have increasingly become quiet protests. “Breadwinner” targeted the entrapment of the mundane 9-to-5 job, and how the office has stifled millions of people’s dreams. Their latest single goes even further to tear down capitalism’s bars.
“Money” is a gorgeous yet powerful ballad. The duo’s breezy, summery dream-pop is on full display, and its effortless nature creates the feeling one is gliding in the jet stream with the birds. Beneath the chest-swelling melody and Hamilton’s stirring vocals reside Hamilton’s sharp lyrics. With the deftness of Joni Mitchell, she immediately asks, “Will you get back what you put in?”. She knows full well, however that we take more than we contribute. While we all know that “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, we won’t stop taking and consuming because one’s greed has no limits.
Fenne Lily – “Alapathy” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Marika Hackman, Saintseneca, Lucy Dacus
We’ve been on the Fenne Lily bandwagon for some time, beginning with her jaw-dropping debut, “Top to Toe”. Her debut album, On Hold, was tender, hopeful, and golden. Anyone who was exposed to her stunning voice and intimate style at the time knew she would become an indie star, and sure enough the find folks at Dead Oceans signed her. On September 18th, she will release her sophomore LP and label debut, BREACH, on September 18th, which seems like an eternity. Fortunately, she’s helping us pass the time with singles “Hypochondriac”, “To Be A Woman Pt. 2”, and now “Alapathy”.
In a word, “Alapathy” is sensational. Very few artists can make an indie rocker sound dreamy, intoxicating, and alluring. Lily, though, is no ordinary artist. Her angelic voice is like staring at pocket watch swing from side-to-side, and hypnosis immediately sets in. All your worries disappear and your mind lingers to another peaceful place. What keeps you alert, however, is the urgent, driving rock approach. So while your head may be drifting elsewhere, your toes are tapping and your fingers are playing the drums on your knees.
Like everything Lily has done, there is more to the song than what it seems. Her lyrics are sharp and honest, as she describes her experience with taking drugs to improve her mental health. Her situation didn’t improve, so she started to smoke weed to “switch off her brain”. Thus, the word “Alapathy” was created, which combines “apathy” and “allopathic” (as in Westernized medicine). But for us, Lily is our physician, and her voice and music are our medicine. We look forward to being revitalized in four months.
Land of Talk – “Footnotes” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Sarah Harmer, Stevie Nicks
Some artists have that “je ne sais quoi” quality, where people gravitate to their songs. Elizabeth Powell undoubtedly has it, which was demonstrated when scores of music reviewers, magazines, and websites celebrated the return of Land of Talk in 2017 after a seven-year hiatus. They and her legion of fans are once again anxiously awaiting July 31st. This is when her new album, Indistinct Conversations, will be unveiled, and it’s shaping to be a great one. Powell and her band mates have already shared “Diaphanous”, “Weight of That Weekend”, and “Compelled”, and they were all magnetic. To further whet our appetites, they share another sublime tune.
“Footnotes” is a ravishing folk-rock tune. It echoes of the decade that first brought us Fleetwood Mac and then Stevie Nicks. In other words, the song is a like warm blanket, which embraces every inch of your body and brings you warmth. Although the dreamy melody relaxes, Powell’s lyrics are what stirs the soul. In a time where many of us face the days alone and in isolation, she reaches out to keep us company. She tells us that even through difficult moments, she will always be around.
“I love it how you know my pain
In around I’ve been around the sad
And stopped to know you still
Come on, tell me your psychotic thoughts
Calm you down you know I will
Night after night
I’ll be there”
CRi – “Never Really Get There” (feat. Jesse Mac Cormack) (Montréal, Canada)
RIYL: Zola Blood, Mt. Wolf, Maribou State
What do you get when two of Montréal’s under-the-radar stars collaborate on a song? Obviously, the result is something extraordinary that highlights each artist’s talents, and the song becomes the standard on which all future collaboration will be judged. Truly, “Never Really Get There” (releaed on Anjunadeep) from producer CRi and singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jesse Mac Cormack is exquisite, which we often don’t say when describing an electronic / deep house track.
Unlike a lot of young producers today who want to create festival-sized, EDM anthems, Christophe Dubé, who is the man behind CRi, is focused on making the genre cinematic and symphonic. Mac Cormack, meanwhile, is among a generation of gifted artists (which includes Leif Vollebekk and Jesse Marchant) who write enrapturing and stirring art-rock / cinematic folk-rock tunes. So when two individuals who aim to make art come together, their efforts will yield something that leaves listeners entranced, aghast, and in utter awe. They are bound to create an experience akin to dancing in the most sensational oasis on the planet.
As sparse beats give way to a shimmering, dreamy disco vibe, Mac Cormack’s vocals remind us that we have so much more left to achieve. He reminds us that we need to get eliminate our skepticism, nihilism, and defeatism to make this world as remarkable as this song. Hopefully young people are listening intently and moving forward and not just on the dancefloor as they listen to this song.
Love Fame Tragedy – “5150” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: The Wombats, Bastille, Two Door Cinema Club
Love Fame Tragedy returns with a smooth track that explores modern-day escapism. Matthew “Murph” Murphy (The Wombats) has been releasing solid alt-pop tunes for the past year under his solo project. While England is home, he looks well across the pond to his second home for inspiration.
Murphy’s new single, “5150”, refers to the California law code for individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness. Although the song’s smooth and sultry vibe creates the feeling of beach party at Venice Beach, Murphy’s lyrics depict an individual trying to press forward and overcome the darkness that envelops him everyone he goes. Whether it’s Phoenix or Paris, he can’t shake the feeling of:
“Sorry, but some days aren’t so pretty
I wanna hit the brakes but I hit the gas
I go 5150
Sometimes you wanna change when you know you can’t”
If you know a friend in need, lend a hand. If you’re the one who needs to be heard, reach out to someone. People are waiting to listen.
Jess Chalker – “West Hollywood” (London, England via Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: HAIM, Hannah Georgas, Christine and the Queens
What’s better than a road-trip song? The answer is obvious: a song that revolves around a road trip. When the tune is one that could be spun in the car or in a little club so people can dance, then you know the single is pretty special. This is what London-via-Sydney artist Jess Chalker has done with “West Hollywood”.
Back in March, she shared the irresistible indie-pop gem, “Secrets”, which gave listeners a bit of escapism. This time around, she takes our hand and leads us out of our little bubble and into her virtual car. She is our guide in this new reality, and she provides us with a wee bit of hope that the past isn’t history. As we get into the passenger seat, she calms our nerves with her sensual voice and fills the car speakers with a bubbling yet intimate pop melody. It’s like HAIM being the Queens to Héloïse Adelaïde Letissier (a.k.a. Christine), and all we can do is smile at the thought.
Along the journey, she tells us a story that makes us realize we’re not the only ones longing to reconnect with those we love and see familiar places. She makes us realize that better days are ahead and we can recapture the magic of our lives. As she succinctly tells us:
“Back to a time you and me were on the open road
Singing songs just because
I just can’t wait to get back home
Because you give me that same old feeling.”
Sara Rachele – “Still Alive” (Nashville via Decatur, GA, USA)
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Dolly Parton, Hope Sandoval
If an artist is called a “throwback”, is that an insult or a compliment? For some, they wear the term like a badge of honor, and they should. If artist A is deemed the next Nina Simone or Bob Dylan, the statement means they have serious talent, which Sara Rachele has in spades. The singer-songwriter from a small metropolis outside of Atlanta, Rachele can create intimate, seductive songs à la Mazzy Starr and Hope Sandoval, classic country tunes in the mould of Dolly Parton, or gritty indie folk-rock like Angel Olsen. Like these three immensely gifted artists, her honeyed voice is paralyzing, and it leaves you gasping to hear it again and again. So get your index finger ready because her newest single will have you constantly hitting replay.
“Still Alive” is like listening to a mashup of Parton, Sandoval, and Olsen at their most intimate and stunning. If we had to hone in on just a one song, “Still Alive” possesses the emotional power and stripped-back beauty of Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, which Whitney Houston popularised in 1992. Whereas that classic was about enduring love, “Still Alive” is very much the opposite. With her electric guitar quietly weeping, Rachele reveals her broken heart to everyone, and she recounts how she was left behind. Despite the pain that ravages her soul, she is still standing. She refuses to let her ex destroy her, and this is the greatest revenge she can inflict on him. Maybe someone like Adele will cover this song. Nah, it’s already great as it is.
Rachele’s new album, Scorpio Sun, will be released this Friday, June 26th on her own Angrygal Records. Rachele’s lengthy discography, in the meantime, is available on Bandcamp.
Joseph of Mercury – “KYR 1960” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Radical Face + Nick Cave + Conor Oberst
Calling Joseph Salusbury – a.k.a. Joseph of Mercury – a crooner would be too easy and unfair. Sure, he has one of the most extraordinary voices in music, and his early songs were compelling, ’80s power ballads. In 2019, he embarked on a journey of experimentation, trying his hand at different genres while keeping his voice at the centre. His project culminated in the release of his second EP, Waves II, which was released at the end of May. The mini-album contains two versions of “Keep You Around” – a sultry, Sade-like stunner and a ballad from another time, another centry, which is the one we are sharing.
This version is magical and mystical. It is part Irish folklore and another part dark-Americana, sounding like the wishful collaboration between Radical Face, Nick Cave, and Conor Oberst. The orchestration is simple but beautiful with acoustic guitar driving the song at the beginning before strings join the fray. The Camelot-like mood accentuates Salusbury’s voice and story. Don’t, however, think he’s a minstrel, but he’s rather a lonely king pained by the thought he may never see his lover again. Their desperation is not merely caused by distance, but Salusbury’s choices have also widened the gulf between them. There are love songs, and then there are Salusbury love songs. They are engrossing experiences that belong on the big screen (or on Netflix).
Waves II is streaming on Spotify. It’s a must hear.
The Cradle – “End of the Day” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Mount Eerie, Wilco, Mutual Benefit
The Cradle is the project of Paco Cathcart. Cathcart has been involved in a handful of other projects, such as Big Neck Police, Eyes of Love, and Shimmer and engineered for many others. As The Cradle, he has released quite a few different records, ranging from 2018’s stunner Bag of Holding to a mix of energies on 2016’s Layers of Honey. This week, he shares the second track of their upcoming record, Laughing In My Sleep, “End of the Day”.
The acoustic guitar from the opening moments of “End of the Day” is bright, warm and inviting. The track also features Lily Konigsberg of Palberta, who assists with some gorgeous harmonies. Cathcart’s voice is soothing, and is the perfect vehicle for his vivid storytelling. Cathcart wrote most of Laughing in My Sleep in 2017 while touring through the country via Greyhounds and Megabuses. “End of The Day” describes many moments close to home, however. “End of the Day” encapsulates a feeling of life in Brooklyn, from spots in Crown Heights riding the 46 bus down to Dead Horse Bay, a spot where a lot of trash and discarded things end up. Imagery like that helps turn these small moments into something truly beautiful.
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