The Matinee ’20 August 24 edition is filled with pleasant surprises. The mini-playlist features songs from longtime favorites, a multi-talented newcomer, and several artists who have long hovered below the radar but are set for major breakthroughs. If there is one thing to take from each of the eight songs, it would be that better days await. We just need to persevere a little longer.
HÆLOS – “Hold On” (London, England)
RIYL: Portishead, Poliça, Hundred Waters
After sharing two gripping singles in “Unknown Melody” and “Perfectly Broken”, trip-hop royalty HÆLOS surely must be preparing a new album. Or maybe Lotti Benardout, Arthur Delaney, Dom Goldsmith, and Daniel Vildosola are using their platform to deliver a message that counters the lies, confusion, and hate being spun by a few. The quartet’s tendency to tackle sensitive and political issues is what sets them apart from other electronic bands. In other words, they’re not only here to entertain but to challenge the forces that aim to divide us while offering us encouragement. Their newest single exemplifies what makes HÆLOS peerless.
In “Hold On”, the band share a stirring anthem for people struggling to make it through the day. As the band explains, the song is for “those who wave the flag for hope and urge people to hold on”. With hypnotic beats, deep bass strikes, and synths and drums that shimmer within the darkness, the music alone is enough to move you to endure these bleak times. If that is not enough, then Benardout’s lush vocals and words will inspire you to believe that better days are coming. She is the beacon of light towards which we walk, which has been the case for years.
The single is out on HÆLOS’ own Æ imprint. Here’s hoping a new album is coming soon.
Maya Hawke – “Generous Heart” (New York City / Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, Lisa Hannigan
On Stranger Things, Maya Hawke plays the quick-talking Robin Buckley, who is a fountain of pop-culture knowledge. Away from the small screen and in front of the microphone, Hawke is a throwback. Her previously released singles, including “So Long” and “By Myself”, echoed the Laurel Canyon-era of the ’60s and ’70s. One doesn’t normally associated a 22 year old’s music with that of legendary singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell or Carole King, but then again Hawke is no ordinary woman. She showcases her immense talents and songwriting chops on her lovely debut album, Blush. It’s a record to be spun in the comforts of your home and surrounded by your loved ones.
To entice you to listen to the record, “Generous Heart” epitomizes its simple beauty and grace. Through a delicate and dreamy indie-folk approach, Hawke’s voice flutters effortlessly over the distant slide guitar, the calm acoustic guitar, and feathery percussion. She sings about all the ways she has loved and been loved – from those who raised her to the one she gave her heart and soul. Her experiences have given her strength as well as weakened her – a story to which we can all relate:
“You’re in my body, in my house, I can
Drag you toward my generous heartland
But I’m spilling out around you, I need
Your help, I can’t last, all in a frenzy”
INSIDEAWAVE – “Tour Guides” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Alt-J, Here We Go Magic
After releasing “Bright Windows in the Night” and “Ivy Honey”, Dublin’s INSIDEAWAVE have established themselves as one of the most exciting new bands to arrive this year. And it’s not really that close. They have the potential to do what Grizzly Bear did about a decade ago – give the music world a shot of adrenaline with their captivating and inventive art rock. If you’re just discovering this talented young group, then let “Tour Guides” be your gateway into their brilliant, sonic world.
The song is a musical extravaganza full of unexpected but exhilarating twists and turns and harmonies that leave you enchanted. The experience is like Alice falling through the rabbit hole and arriving in Wonderland, where each note astounds, amazes, and leaves you wanting more. There are no negative side effects unless you consider constantly hitting repeat to be a problem. For us, we could live in this world for eternity and find something new, exciting, and interesting with each listen. This band is going places.
The self-titled EP from band members Eoghan, Mark, Nick, Sean, and Mat is out now. You can stream it on Spotify.
RIYL: CHAI and Hinds
The weekend may be behind us, but we can still have a good time and smile on a Monday. The weather is still great outside, and we can still get some fresh air – albeit while safely respecting social distancing, wearing a mask, and being respectful of those around us. To help us overcome the Monday blues are two bands who are separated by over 10,700 kilometres (or nearly 6,700 miles) but make ideal collaborators. They are Japan’s CHAI and Spain’s indie stars Hinds.
Both are known for their off-kilter, quirky, yet immensely fun and engaging pop-rock. Some may mistaken their energetic approach as “nonchalant”, but both groups often write empowering and uplifting songs. As the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover, which holds true for their collaborative new single, “UNITED GIRLS OF ROCK’N’ROLL”.
The track is a bubbly, indie pop-rock tune that is exactly what we need today. The harmonies are sweet, the melody will induce involuntary head-swaying, and all the while you’ll be grinning from ear-to-ear. You might also find yourself singing to the catchy chorus and in the process celebrate the talent of female artists everywhere. We’ve said the following since our formation in 2013 – women are making the best and most meaningful music. This song is no exception.
The single is out on Otemoyan Records.
CHAI are sisters Mana and Kana plus Yuuki and Yuna. Hinds are Carlotta Cosials (vocals/guitar), Ana Perrote (vocals/guitar), Ade Martin (bass/backing vocals), and Amber Grimbergen (drums).
Rebecka Reinhard – “Quit Your Day Job” (London, England via Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Pip Blom, Madeline Kenney, Sarah Bethe Nelson
Listen beyond the Top 40 music stations and you will discover an era of outstanding indie music. We’ve long commented on how many outstanding young singer-songwriters have emerged over the past decade, and the list is growing. Earlier this year, Rebecka Reinhard was added when she displayed a Courtney Barnett-like wit and guitar wizardry on “Whale” and “No Release”. People can judge whether the Swedish singer-songwriter is worthy of such comparisons, as her debut EP, Whale, is out on Crowds And Power. If you need some encouragement to check out this excellent little record, then take a listen to “Quit Your Day Job”.
The track starts off gently enough with just a delicate guitar line and Reinhard’s intimate vocals. The approach allows you to focus on her words as she describes different individuals’ unhappiness with their situations and occupations. They are stuck in a mundane life with nowhere to go, and all they desire is to have and to do some nice things. Here the intensity picks up and we find Reinhard and other companions trying to find a way out of their predicament. As they fumble through their lives, Reinhard’s inner Barnett gets unleashed, and the song features not one but two awesome guitar solos. Whether or not our heroes have found happiness is unknown, but we have learned something – Reinhard has all the talent to quit her day job and become one of indie’s leading artists for a long time to come.
Lone Kodiak – “Make It a Weapon” (Los Angeles and Portland, USA)
RIYL: We Were Promised Jetpacks, Kasabian, The Kills
In the face of tragedy, we often have two choices: to succumb to the grief or to use it as motivation to start a new chapter. For vocalist/guitarist Dainéal Parker, bassist Daniel Alden, and drummer Josh Harris, they have opted for the latter. Parker and Alden once performed in Portland-based band emberghost, but the group disbanded following vocalist and keyboardist Sarah Jennings’ passing from brain cancer.
Instead of continuing with the band, they decided it was best to start anew as Lone Kodiak. Their late friend, though, would still be part of this new project, motivating this new-ish outfit to step outside their comfort zones and not be confined to any specific label or genre. They would instead just play and see what happens. One of the byproducts of their experimentation is “Make It a Weapon”.
Echoing the UK alt-rock scene of the mid-’00s, “Make It a Weapon” is an intense, roaring anthem. From the start, it wails with the desperation of an individual about to lose everything. Through the emotionally-charged melody that is driven by Alden’s fantastic bass line and Harris’ pummeling drums, Parker’s voice yearns for forgiveness from those he holds dear:
“Hopefully, you’ll forgive me
And let this slide into the past
Forget you were mad at me
And burn the memory
I feel for you, brother
I’m sad for you, sister
But I’ll take your pain and make it a weapon”
In this day and age, forgiveness is the most powerful weapon we have to yield.
This song is available now on Bandcamp.
LANNDS – “O.O.W.” (Jacksonville, USA)
RIYL: BROODS, Sylvan Esso, Hundred Waters
With the plethora of electronic groups, much of the music being produced sounds the same. Very little separates bands these days. As such, it’s refreshing to discover an outfit who offer something a touch refreshing in their approach – not just musically but also in the lyrical content. With that, open your ears to Rania Woodard and Brian Squillace’s project LANNDS, who will tantalize your soul while open your mind with “O.O.W.”
Describing the Jacksonville-based duo an electronic band would be underscoring their talents. Maybe early in their careers they were (Woodard and Squillace have been making music together for nearly three years), but this latest track sees them dipping into trip-hop and downtempo approaches. The result is a soundscape that is simultaneously dark yet sultry, engrossing yet slightly suspenseful. It’s like walking into a steamy jungle at dusk, where the environment is exotic yet fear lurks in every shadow.
Woodard’s lyrics, too, give a sense of uneasiness as she tries to determine her place in this messed-up world. She convinces herself that she must make amends and take the blame, but this only leads to her feeling more vulnerable and less valued. Her struggles are further compounded as a queer, Black woman living in a conservative part of Florida, where the opportunities for her to succeed and flourish are reduced. But maybe by sharing her story through Squillace’s engrossing production, she can make this world a better place for further generations.
Empress Carnelian – “The Only Human in the Room” (Sweden)
RIYL: The Cranberries, Beach House, Dolly Valentine
Musicians are some of the most resilient people on the planet. Only a handful are able to turn their first love into a self-sustaining career; even fewer become stars. The vast majority continue working second or third jobs while they write and perform music at their own expense. They do this not because they hope to be discovered, but rather to share their art and hopefully inspire others. This is the case for Empress Carnelian, who has been releasing songs and even albums for over five years. Their music cannot be pigeon-holed, as they’ve delved into everything from hip hop to prog-rock to experimental electronica. Despite their obscurity, Carnelian continues to persevere. They might, however, finally have achieved their first mini-breakthrough now that they have been signed by Montreal-based boutique label Blanket Fort. Their next break comes in the form of “The Only Human in the Room”.
The song is a dazzling display of dream-pop. It recalls The Cranberries in their early days, and the song would be perfect alongside “Dreams” from the legends’ debut LP. The light melody is so intoxicating, it may cause listeners to temporarily lose consciousness. Carnelian’s vocals are also enchanting, resembling the soft delivery of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. Their lyrics, meanwhile, echo the ’90s, when artists like Kurt Cobain and Alanis Morissette shared the loneliness, anxiety, and depression that lingered deep inside them. Despite the song’s external beauty, deep inside a sadness exists that needs release. It needs to relinquished so that our full potential can be realized. And in the case of Empress Carnelian, maybe then the world will recognize their immense potential.
“The Only Human in the Room” is available from these streaming and purchase links.
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