The Matinee ’20 August 10 includes a nice global fare as we have a mix of eight tracks that hopefully provide something for everyone. We hope you find your new favorite song or band. Happy Monday!

Ólafur Arnalds – “Back To The Sky” feat. JFDR (Reykjavik, Iceland )

RIYL: Massive Attack, Portishead

To call Ólafur Arnalds a musician is an almost criminal understatement of his talents. The Icelandic composer is a master artist whose medium happens to be tones instead of paints or marbles. But perhaps he has the soul of a Renaissance sculptor in his DNA, guiding his hands as he chisels away at a track until it becomes a masterpiece. That term certainly applies to his newest offering, a song featuring the ethereal vocals of fellow Icelandic singer Jófríður Ákadóttir, better known as JFDR.

“Back To The Sky” flies straight to the heart of all who hear it. Pristine and raw in its approach, the song exemplifies what Arnalds does best: he creates moods within the music that transport you to another place. In this case, the location is a windswept seaside. As the video captures, the tones here evoke feelings of solitude and contemplation. But anyone who has listened to Arnalds knows to expect intimate warmth even in the iciest minor keys. This place beckons you to pause, reflect, and bask in the calming scenery. It’s a place we all need in 2020, so hopefully Arnalds will deliver more soothing gems like this before the year ends.

“Back To The Sky” is out on Mercury KX. You can purchase and stream it from these links.

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snny – “Postmodern Black” (Reykjavik, Iceland via Ivory Coast and Boston, USA)

RIYL: Shamir, Blood Orange, Maximum Balloon / David Sitek

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed R&B and soul become reinvented. The genres have been put on their heads with the likes of Frank Ocean, Shamir, Dev Hynes, and many others challenging the conception of what the music of Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Aretha Franklin could sound like. Some have gone extremely experimental, while others have melded pop and rock influences. Another name to add is snny, who has gone in every direction.

The Ivory Coast-born artist has dabbled in Frank Ocean-like experimentalism as well as the buzzing, electrified tones of Shamir and TV On The Radio’s David Sitek. It is the latters’ influences where we find snny and his latest single, which is  one of the year’s highlights.

“Postmodern Black” is one groovy, addictive, and thoughtful single. It’s sun-kissed approach will warm your soul and energize you. It will give you to walk confidently outside and embrace strangers around you (while respecting social distancing practices, of course). With his soft, smooth voice, snny also encourages us to build bridges and peel back the facade around us to unveil a new world. He encourages us to be our best and in the process to find the light within the darkness. His message is that of hope, which we could use in spades.

snny’s debut album is coming soon via his own Radio Silence label.

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KOJ – “Human Love” (Muenster, Germany)

RIYL: Daughter, Hundred Waters, HÆLOS

Since the start of the year, German dark-pop / trip-hop band KOJ have teased the release of their new album, HOME. They started with the immersive “Jenny”, awakened with the eruptive “Thunder”, and then enchanted with “Pamela”. These three songs heightened expectations their LP would cement their status as this decade’s Portishead. Although Alina, Nils, and Simon have yet to formally announce a date for HOME, they have remained busy, working on putting the final touches to what should be their coronation as the next great trip-hop / dark-pop group. To prove they are worthy of such accolades, they have unveiled “Human Love”.

Close your eyes, buckle, and be prepared to be taken to the far reaches of our galaxy because “Human Love” is more than just a song. It is an experience. The dark electronic pulses and Alina’s haunting voice lure us through the darkness of space, and the journey is interrupted occasionally with the light of the distance stars. In this case, it’s the glimmer of the stark guitar. As is the case with any lonesome escapade, we become devoured in our own soul, trying to figure out who we are and who we’ve loved. That is assuming we have loved anyone or just embraced the idea that we could be loved. And in this lonely world, which exists not just in a thought but also around us, this vision is more real than it is conceptual. Simply brilliant.

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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Blondfire – “Fearless (The Spark)” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Hope Sandoval, Freedom Fry, Dolly Valentine

It’s Monday and time to tackle another week. What better way than be motivated by Blondfire (Erica Driscoll) and her newest release “Fearless (The Spark)”.

Set against an acoustic foundation, the track swirls with the perfect blend of guitar and percussion as Driscoll’s vocals flow like the sweetest honey. The cadence and tempo of the track is a perfect one you can use for your cardio playlist or just to put you in a better mood. Beyond the music, Driscoll brings to light the idea that love can conquer all regardless of life’s circumstances.

“When the world just falls apart, We are fearless, we keep shining, let love be the spark”

After a two-year hiatus (much deserved after Driscoll stayed home with her son) and the release of a few singles this year, Blondfire is definitely back.. The new singles are fresh and inspiring, most likely from the changes of becoming a mother and experiencing a different kind of love.

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Ane Brun – “Take Hold of Me” (Stockholm, Sweden via Molde, Norway)

RIYL: Agnes Obel, London Grammar, Röyksopp

Few artists can match the great Ane Brun‘s propensity to make music that dazzles and captivates. She’s not just an entertainer, but she is magician. It seems like everything she releases puts listeners into a spell, as she transports us to another time, dimension, or galaxy. Or in the case of “Take Hold of Me”, she does all three.

With the patience of an astronaut tunneling through the blackness of space, Brun takes us into an ethereal world with her enthralling vocals and theatrical beats. Nothing is rushed. If anything, everything seems hushed yet mesmerizing. All you can do is take a breath and inhale the song’s mysterious, cosmic beauty.

The lyrical content is similarly sublime. Brun’s words re-enforce the importance of self-expression. She quietly hollers at the start, “My existence is screaming / It’s a physical feeling / of missing out on dance and light”. In these times where we can’t even really go to shows or even dance anywhere but at home, discovering who we are has become a daily and often grueling exercise. But then there are moments where we have an epiphany, and our true selves shine. When that happens, a burst of energy emits, much like the song’s transcendent climax.

“Take hold of me
Keep this energy steady

This single is out on Brun’s own label, Balloon Ranger Recordings.

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Told Slant – “Best Dancer Alive” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Cheesy ’80s love songs

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Told Slant. Their 2016 record Going By was an emotional ride, and one of our favorites of the year. We patiently await a new record, which Felix Walworth says they are working on. Last week, Told Slant released “Best Dancer Alive”. It will not be on their upcoming record, but it was a song that was used in a short film called The Rat, which you can check out here.

“Best Dancer Alive” has a wildly different vibe from most Told Slant tracks. It’s upbeat and poppy. It has an ’80s vibe (The Rat was set in that decade), and Walworth describes the track as their “attempt at writing a creepy ’80s ‘love’ song”. It captures that vibe and the scene it was used in perfectly. Lyrically there’s an intentional creepiness as they describe falling in love with someone from across the room. However, even with that huge deviation, it retains the honesty of Walworth’s songwriting.

“Best Dancer Alive” is only available on Bandcamp. Check out the short film The Rat here.

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Byland – “Believe” (Seattle, USA)

RIYL: early Sharon Van Etten, early Angel Olsen, Sunflower Bean

With an appealing and powerful voice, Alie Renee Byland’s music that she releases under the name Byland is captivating from the moment it hits a listener’s ears. Her first record, Desert Days, was a relatively low-key affair, recorded in a home studio with her partner. While it lacked the polish of bigger releases, it shines a bright light on the deep songwriting and immense voice behind Byland. The light shines even brighter now as she gears up to release her second, yet first fully fleshed-out record, GRAY, on October 2nd.

Last week Byland shared “Believe”, the second single from the LPIt’s a culmination of what they have built since their first release. From its pristine production to the vocals sounding even more immense than before, it’s clear GRAY will be a stunner of a record. Byland repeats the lyrics “if you believe in me, maybe I won’t have to“, a statement of finding strength through love. It’s a great track with wonderful composition, tied together by a great guitar solo to close it out. It traverses a few different feelings, from dreamy to triumphant, a complexity that makes it stand out.

GRAY is out October 2nd. Follow them on social media for updates on pre-orders.

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Gallus – “Eye to Eye” (Glasgow, Scotland)

RIYL: Dead Pony, JOHN (TIMES TWO), Metz

Sometimes you just need some awesome punk in your life. Look no further than “Eye to Eye” from Glasgow’s Gallus, and the track will get you you hyped up like a triple espresso. The lyrics cover the perfect state of the world today – about how polarized the world is with injustice, the pandemic and everything else that is going on that is causing such division in the world.

“The virus is spreading, it comes out at night, waits till you’re sleeping and bites”
“One more try and we’ll see eye to eye.”

We can all hope that in the near future 2020 will be but a memory and the pandemic will be a short blimp in our history. One thing is for sure, we’ve got some awesome music to get us through these times, often with artists perfectly projecting what most of us are thinking. Gallus has accomplished just that.

Gallus are Barry Dolan, Craig Durus, Paul Ewins and Eamon Ewins.

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