Talented “newcomers” and long-time favorites, including one we have not heard from in years, occupy The Matinee ’20 August 31 edition. It might be the last day of August, but today feels like Christmas with these wonderful, sonic gifts.

 

Adia Victoria – “South Gotta Change” (Nashville, USA)

RIYL: Valerie June, Yola, Frances Quinlan

The state of the world today cannot be changed by one person. But just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, singer Adia Victoria knows that change begins at home. This is why the focus of her new single is her own proverbial back yard. The Nashville-based gothic Americana artist issues a clarion call for reform on “South Gotta Change.”

This warm, ambling song is inspired by the passing of Civil Rights icon and southern statesman Senator John Lewis. The video opens with the quote, “The Deep South may be wretched, but it can howl,” and leads viewers through back roads of her adopted home state of Tennessee. Indeed the southern U.S. has a wretched past, though the song offers advice for its future instead:

“Listen closely when I say
That the truth would set you free
And if you’re tired of walking
Let the children lead the way…
Come what may 
We’re gonna find a way”

Adia Victoria has delivered the song of 2020 with “South Gotta Change.” Hopefully the rest of the world will soon wake up and heed her call. You can download or stream the song, out now via Atlantic Records, from these links.

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Spacemoth – “Asking For You” (San Francisco, USA)

RIYL: Chromatics, Still Corners, Nite Jewel

In the middle of last week, one of us pondered, “What happened to Maryam Qudus and her project Doe Eye, who first grabbed our attention with her single, “I Hate You”, and later had us in awe with her 2014 debut LP, Television. We weren’t the first ones to notice her talents, as her music was featured on MTV. Up until 2017, she would occasionally release new music, but her energies were focused elsewhere, which included getting married to her longtime collaborator, Beau Sorensen, and becoming a high-in-demand producer.

The creative allure of releasing new music, though, evidently was too much for Qudus to resist because on Friday she unveiled her new project, Spacemoth. She could have kept her previous moniker, but every chapter requires a new title to represent what is to come. And what awaits is something awe-inspiring. Something that is beautifully cosmic. Buckle in, take a deep breath, and soar through the stratosphere and beyond with “Asking For You”.

But wear a helmet, too, because Qudus’ lyrics are heavy-hitting and torrential. Musically, Spacemoth’s debut hovers within the graceful, breathtaking synth-pop landscapes of Chromatics and Still Corners. Qudus’ voice, meanwhile, is gentle and endearing, and she feels like she’s lying next to us as she whisper each word. Her words at first seem seductive, but delve deeper into the track this isn’t a song about love. It is, though, about lust. Specifically, she addresses men’s unwanted obsession and their desire to control and treat women as nothing more than a sexual being. So while her voice seems tender at first, it slowly turns vulnerable and an ache can be heard in each word. At this point, the song intensifies and delirium sets in with the weeping guitar front and centre. All the while, Qudus sings:

“Draped like a chain around your shoulder
Nothing to say, nothing to offer
A hollow shell made to dismantle
Using me gives you power
Strolling down a dark road
I am asking for you
Strolling down a dark road
I am asking for you”

What Qudus will release next is unknown to us, but her continued transformation will be wonderful to watch.

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Iska Dhaaf – “Crying In Your Sleep” (Brooklyn & Seattle, USA)

RIYL: The XX, The Antlers, Volcano Choir

Don’t let anyone tell you adults aren’t soothed by lullabies at bedtime. No matter our age, we all crave peaceful rest that allows us to wake refreshed. Instead, most of us have been enduring 2020 with anxious days and restless, sleepless nights. Even the strongest among us have had tear-stained pillows, whether from world weariness or personal struggles. Enter the indie duo Iska Dhaaf: their newest single offers the mental escape you need.

“Crying In Your Sleep” envelops your ears with its dreamy melodies. After the lullaby vibes of the intro pass, you are treated to softly pulsing synths from Nathan Quiroga and the warm vocals of Benjamin Verdoes. Despite the danceable tempo, the song still exudes calm. As he sings, “It’s not like we can see the future / It’s not like I believe in fate / Oh you’ve been crying in your sleep… again,” the words offer something more akin to solidarity than reassurance. This song isn’t trying to sell the preposterous notion that everything will be alright. Instead, you are encouraged to release your anxiety. “No one knows what’s in your soul / So try to let it go,” may be the best advice for surviving this year.

“Crying in Your Sleep” is available now from Bandcamp.

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Bryony Williams – “Knockin'” (Wolverhampton, England)

RIYL: Lucy Dacus, Madeline Kenney, Julia Jacklin

COVID-19 has halted numerous things on this planet. Festivals have been cancelled, airlines have been grounded, and even major sports leagues had to suspend play and eventually returned to fan-less venues. The virus, however, has not stopped one thing – the surge of incredibly-gifted, female singer-songwriters. The latest to pique our attention is Bryony Williams, who already has two EPs under her belt with a third one coming in two months time. For the late risers like us, her latest track will awaken your senses to her talents.

With the candidness of Julia Jacklin and the rollicking edge and poignancy of Lucy Dacus, the Wolverhampton-based artist delivers a boisterous, personal anthem in “Knockin'”. The track roars with the intensity of an individual wanting to be heard, but who has been condemned to a lifetime of silence. For Williams, it is the depression that imprisons her and confines her to a self-imposed isolation. Through the gritty yet anthemic approach, she delivers one lyrical gem after another. The one set of lyrics that encapsulates the entire song, though, is the following:

“Engulfed by depression
It knows me better than my friends and family
Oh it’s clever, it hits me whenever”

The UK has yet another great artist within its borders.

Williams’ forthcoming EP, State I’m In, is out October 30th via Beth Shalom Records. Get it on Bandcamp.

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GOLDEN – “Hate” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Feist, Arlo Parks, Clairo

And speaking of a young woman to watch closely over the coming weeks, months, and years, keep two eyes transfixed on GOLDEN, which is the project of Brooklyn-based Bailey Cooke. Like Billie Eilish and Maggie Rogers before her, Cooke is completely a DIY, bedroom-pop artist – that is until Pharrell Williams exalts her talents or a label signs her. An artist this talented should not hover under the radar that long, and maybe “Hate” is the blip by which she’s discovered.

“Hate” draws you in with its lo-fi but intimate and stunning electro-pop approach. Whereas similar artists attempt to build drama through overproduction, Cooke embraces subtlety and simplicity, and she masterfully executes both. Through the hypnotic soundscape, Cooke’s stirring and calm vocals, which has a touch of Josh Stone’s smokiness, effortlessly hover. While her voice elicits images of places of serenity and even paradise, her words depict a much more disheartening place. It is the world that we know today, one what is quickly crumbling as chaos reigns. What’s brilliant about Cooke’s songwriting is that she approaches a sensitive subject matter through the eyes of someone who has been manipulated as well as one who is losing hope.

“Scared you’re losing time
Gotta get what’s mine
You got a righteous rage
Just like a servant of virtue
You don’t let it both you
Even the mountains will burn and disintegrate
And all I wanna do is hate”

The ’60s, NASA-inspired video is worth checking out on YouTube. GOLDEN is an artist to keep tabs on for a very long time.

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Such Small Hands – “Carousel” (Brighton, England)

RIYL: Ane Brun, Sharon Van Etten, Anohni, Portishead

When an artist steps out of the shadows of her more popular band, the question is always can she distinguish herself and carve out her own niche. In some cases, the solo project sounds like an extension of what we knew (e.g., Belinda Carlisle) while others have forged their own paths (e.g., Feist). Melanie Howard, who has been the bassist and vocalist for UK legends The Wedding Present since 2018, is doing the latter. Instead of the jangly, anthemic indie rock of her main band, she’s delving into darker, starker, and more intimate spaces as Such Small Hands. The lasting impression of her music is not the sweat trickling down your back but the goosebumps that cover your skins. This is the effect of “Carousel”.

Hardly a calming and joyous experience, “Carousel” is a haunting and quietly harrowing number. The song does not easily reside in any single genre. Instead, it is a combination of influences – the startling poignancy of Sharon Van Etten, the dark dimensions of Anohni, the brittle cinema of Ane Brun, and the otherworldly trip-hop of Portishead. Like all these artists, “Carousel” is unforgettable. As the lingering guitar and stuttering rhythms slowly build, she tells us that she is “ready to disintegrate” with “silence on her side”. She is expressing as loud as she can that she is trapped within a world that has long manipulated her and led her to live a life of servitude. But she’s ready to more forcefully express herself, ready to be freed, and ready for everyone to hear what she has said.

The date of Howard’s metamorphosis is September 18th, which is when her debut album, Carousel, is released on her own Such Small Records. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.

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London Grammar – “Baby It’s You” (London, England)

RIYL: Bat For Lashes, Bonobo, Broods

We end this mini-playlist on a massive high.

Morning people know the invigorating feeling of greeting the sunrise: those warming rays instill a sense of energetic optimism. You feel inspired, ready to tackle the day. Those of us who aren’t morning people will have to keep the latest from London Grammar on repeat to approximate a similar rush.

“Baby It’s You” is the percolating jolt of rosy-hued synths you need to kick off every day. This trio of Hannah Reid, Dan Rothman, and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major have been creating crowd-pleasing, hypnotically addicting music for more than a decade. With each release, their sound takes on additional levels of lushness. Here, listeners are launched into a state of focused bliss courtesy of Reid’s vocals and the rich instrumentation. The combination is like feeling the first rays of sun glistening on your face, offering warmth and hope.

For Reid, though, that sun is the sight of a loved one. It might be her partner or a child or even a pet. It is whatever brings you joy in this world, and we surely could use plenty of it today. We sure need this world to come out of the depths and achieve a collective high.

This song is streaming now on Apple Music and Spotify.

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