Gentle breezes, charming tunes, and powerful stories comprise The Matinee ’20 August 5th edition. We kick things off with the return of a long-time favorite.
Radical Face – “The Missing Road” (Jacksonville, Florida)
RIYL: Bon Iver, Manchester Orchestra, Iron & Wine
Good songwriters plumb the depths of your emotions. The best songwriters do the same while also offering you a hand of rescue on the way back up. The latter are rare these days, which is why artists like Ben Cooper – aka Radical Face – have earned such a devoted following. His latest single is another warm embrace from the Florida artist.
“The Missing Road” is a sunset-hued exploration of roads not taken. Its ambling tempo beckons you to sit and reflect on the what-if moments of your life. Its rich textures and mellow instrumentation reward you with calming tones worthy of a film score. But the tenderest moments come from Ben Cooper’s earnest delivery of lyrics so pure you feel as though you are eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. The line “I sometimes wonder if you still think of me” is relatable and tugs at your heartstrings just as much as these:
“I never meant to fade away
It’s just the way I’m made
I hope if you ever hear my name
That it doesn’t bring you pain
And just know that I know…
That those days were gold
And a heart always holds
Onto missing roads”
“The Missing Road” is simply stunning. It is available from his monthly mailed called “Hidden Hollow.” You can find the treasure trove of the Radical Face back catalog on Bandcamp. Trust us when we tell you there are riches galore to be discovered there.
Zoey Lily – “The End” (London, England)
RIYL: Billie Eilish, Nilufer Yanya, Girlpool
Maybe in another reality Zoey Lily would be a Grammy Award-winning artist like Billie Eilish is today. Five years ago (before lo-fi bedroom pop became popularized), the London-based singer-songwriter stunned with her demo for “Edges”. Over the past half-decade, she’s dabbled in cinematic pop, electro-pop, and R&B, so the young woman should be a household name by now. Fortunately, time is still on her side as she’s still in her early twenties. While she is still young, we have watched her grow into a mature, intelligent, and compassionate artist. Now people get to see and hear all these traits in Lily’s sublime and powerful new single, “The End”.
With just a piano and a melody that moves between scenes from a fairy tale to post-apocalyptic, Lily emotionally sings about the destruction of the planet at the hands of humanity even as humans are destroying each other. Her final words brilliantly capture the song’s soul: “We’ve killed you, paradise”, which has real-world and religious connotations. Instead of us explaining the meaning of the song, watch the video above. Please note, however, that some of the images depicted are very disturbing. Alternatively, you can view the lyric video, which is safe to share with children (and we recommend they, too, listen to the track).
Sad13 – “Oops…!” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Palehound, Speedy Ortiz, St. Vincent
Speedy Ortiz frontwoman Sadie Dupuis’ second solo record as Sad13 is shaping up nicely. Over the past few months, Dupuis has shared two very different tracks: the rocker “WTD” and the poppy “Ghost (of a Good Time)”. This week, she has shared “Oops…!”, which falls somewhere in the middle. “Oops…!” was recorded at New Monkey Studios, which was Elliot Smith’s studio.
From its opening moments, “Oops…!” is driven by its intricate drum beat, supplied by Zoë Brecher. It supplies a great foundation for Dupuis to build upon. Dupuis adds some guitar to cut through, as well as a really catchy keyboard part. Towards the end, Dupuis kicks it into another gear as she cuts a rippin’ solo over an already loud track, and the result just kicks ass. Dupuis confronts toxic masculinity in the lyrics and uses some supernatural imagery to do so. She’s never been shy to call out important things, and it’s part of what makes her music and lyrics so relevant today.
Sad13’s sophomore album, Haunted Painting, is out September 25th on Wax Nine Records.
Oscar Lang – “Get Out” (London, England)
RIYL: Mikal Cronin, Temples, Gold Star
Sporting baggy jeans, scraggly hair, and a baby face, Oscar Lang sure looks the part of a modern teenager. When he picks up the guitar and starts singing, he sounds like a rock star from the ’60s and ’70s. The last guy to make such an impression was Ty Segall, and Lang bares a striking resemblance to the elder Californian. Whether this young Londoner can achieve similar heights remains to be seen, but he sure has the potential if “Get Out” is any indication.
The single is bright, booming, and infectious summertime psychedelic pop-rock. It’s the ideal tune to play with the top down while cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, where the only thing more breezy and sunny is an August afternoon in Los Angeles. As you pass by the beachgoers, heads will swing in your direction as everyone wants to hear what you’re spinning. The track, in other words, is a party starter encapsulated in under 3.5 minutes. Heck, Lang’s lyrics encourage us to stand up, open the doors, and live our lives – safely, of course – but the gist is that we can still be engaged and active even in the midst of a pandemic. The young man is wise beyond his years.
Goldmund – “Day In, Day Out” (Portland, Oregon USA)
RIYL: Balmorhea, Hauschka, Helios, Ólafur Arnalds
Any time we review music from American composer Keith Kenniff, we silently apologize for not finding better terms to describe the beauty of his work. Words like dazzling, evocative, and soothing barely scratch the surface, so we continue seeking just as he continues creating the lush soundscapes we love. His most recent work is under his ambient piano project, Goldmund. You have probably heard his work featured in film and television projects. Now you can pair a name with the artist behind those sounds.
“Day In, Day Out” takes listeners to a place of serenity. In its passages Kenniff delivers an escape from life’s disquieting chaos. The tone here is set by the intro’s three-chord repeated refrain. This tempers your breathing and centers your focus, preparing you for what follows. The crescendo into kaleidoscopic tones conjures images of natural wonder. Perhaps you will visualize flowers blossoming or comets streaking across the night sky. Anything is possible as these textures contain multitudes. “Day In, Day Out” is a portal to a place of exquisite beauty.
Darren Jessee – “Cape Elizabeth” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Ben Folds, Carl Broemel, Gregory Alan Isakov
Darren Jessee is perhaps one of indie’s most underappreciated talents. From his role as co-founder and drummer for alt-pop legends Ben Folds Five, to being a touring member of Hiss Golden Messenger and Sharon Van Etten’s band, his mark on the scene has been undeniable. It’s always a treat to hear Jessee step out of the shadows with his own music, be that under his own name, or as his project Hotel Lights. Late last week, Jessee announced he will be releasing a new album, Remover. It’s his second record under his name.
Along with the announcement of Remover comes the atmospheric “Cape Elizabeth”. It’s a gorgeous track, building on just an acoustic guitar and Jessee’s voice. Strings join, and that leads to a beautiful instrumental section that builds until a full band joins in before the close. It’s an incredible moment once everything comes together. Jessee paints a vivid picture of Cape Elizabeth, Maine – a place as beautiful as this track.
Max Helgemo – “Uncovered” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Kevin Morby, Midlake, Phosphorescent
Nashville may be home to many country stars, but plenty of indie singer-songwriters are based in Music City these days. Back when live music was a constant in our lives, you could easily catch rising stars playing open mics or house shows. With that element on hold, it’s harder to discover the next big thing. Fortunately, one talent is making a name for himself in spite of it all. Say hello to Max Helgemo.
This transplanted Floridian moved to Nashville just months before the world shut down – not exactly an ideal way to make a big splash in a new city. The silver lining to that storm cloud is the music he has created during isolation. “Uncovered” is quite an introduction to a name everyone will know soon.
Its mellow tones greet you with equal parts of nostalgia and bittersweet longing. Helgemo’s style evokes ’70s-era AM radio one moment and modern indie Americana the next. Fans of mellower indie folk (Midlake, Fleet Foxes, Phosphorescent) will bask in the soaring vocals and rich instrumentation. In these days when good news is rare, discovering an artist like Max Helgemo restores your hope. He may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, but his golden voice sure will help you forget yours.
This song is available now from these streaming and purchase links. Hopefully the next time we write about this guy, he will have news of an indie label releasing his full-length album.
Bendrix Littleton – “Smoke” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Florist, Mutual Benefit
Bendrix Littleton is the project of Nashville-via-Dallas artist Bennet Littlejohn (formerly of Bent Denim). The name – borrowed from Graham Greene’s novel “The End of the Affair” – is fitting for the project, drawing connections to a post-war Europe to the South. He recently shared the stunning, solitary “Deep Dark South“, the title track for his upcoming record. This week, Bendrix Littleton goes deeper with “Smoke”.
“Smoke” more beautiful than eerie, and arguably the opposite of “Deep Dark South.” Absent is the fiddling with effects and tempo like on the previous track. This features mostly Littlejohn and his fingerpicked guitar. A little bit of electronics provides bass, with just a hint of what may be violin as well. Littlejohn’s voice barely rises above a whisper, yet it creates an intentionally smoky atmosphere.
Demeter – “Joanie” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple, Patti Smith
Even in these days of restrictions, you can still walk down a street in New York and hear great music emanating from a cafe, an apartment, or a park. There is no shortage of great musicians, which means many fly under the radar. One such band is Demeter, although to be fair this quartet only released its debut EP last week. But why would a new band unveil its first record during a pandemic? The answer is simple: to offer the world some much-needed escapism.
The EP is filled with memorable tunes, but its penultimate track is the highlight. “Joanie” is a dark, mesmerizing, Americana indie-rocker that sounds like it was forged in the laboratory occupied Drs. Harvey, Apple, and Smith. Like every successful experiment, patience is required before the payoff is reached. The first two minutes are the trickles in the pond that swell into a tidal wave of stark noise. Through it all, frontwoman Kate Rivera’s rich voice stays calm as she tells the story through the lens of two people. One is the friend who asks Joanie to stay with her and not return home to the drunken, abusive husband. The other is the antagonist himself, who is a man of authority:
“Joanie, open the door
I told you once, don’t ask for more
I know I hit that pretty head
Don’t be mad, let’s go to bed
Joanie, don’t go home
You’re better off living alone
You shot him once, he wouldn’t die
A nasty drunk will always lie
Joanie, don’t go home
Your broken bones, your broken bones
Stay with me, don’t disappear
That badge he’s got fills me with fear”
You can find “Joanie” on Demeter’s debut EP, The Year of Goodbye. It is available on Bandcamp.
Demeter are Kate Rivera, Ian McNally, Dan Bloch, Tim Bustle and John Mason.
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