The Matinee ’20 September 21 edition moves from the graceful to the imaginative to the explosive. The mini-playlist is a roller coaster of sound that reflects our topsy-turvy world, and a few of the tunes are song-of-the-year contenders, including the few first three you will hear. There’s also a cover-of-the-year candidate.
SAULT – “Free” and “Wildfires” (somewhere in the UK)
RIYL: Jungle, Michael Kiwanuka, Young Fathers
SAULT remain one of the biggest mysteries of 2020: who are these artists who keep sharing highly addictive grooves? We know as much now as we did when their two albums dropped last year – that is, not much. What the band withholds in background info they more than supplement with supremely delicious beats.
“Free” is the latest from their powerful, new album, UNTITLED (Rise). And like their earlier singles, each minute of this tune is an expression of sultry warmth. The world music elements are seamlessly fused. Between the soulful R&B vocals, Afrobeat rhythms, and jazzy riffs, the song defies genre labels. But who needs labels when the music sounds this good? Lose yourself in its melodies. Let its pulses sync with your own heartbeat. Feel its carefree magic flow around you as the refrain of “I can’t make it on my own” transports you to a stress-free place. This song captures what they do best: they conjure the winds that get your listless craft sailing again.
We would also be remiss if we didn’t share “Wildfires”, which they released three months ago. Through the hypnotic trip-hop pulses rises the voice of an angel, but her message is not one of idyllic bliss. Instead, she weeps at the sight of too many innocent black people being killed. Her words are poignant, they are knee-buckling, and they are real.
“Thief in the night
Tell the truth
You should be ashamed
The bloodshed on your hands
Take off your badge
We all know it was murder”
Bluephox – “Paul’s Boutique” (Los Angeles, USA via Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Bonnie Tyler, Kim Carnes, Stevie Nicks with Future Islands
It takes an extremely special song to elicit the words, “My gosh” and “Wow!” It takes an even rare one to have us repeatedly spin, occupying a good half-hour to an hour of our time. To be honest, it has been some time since we’ve obsessed over a song, and that is until we heard Bluephox‘s new single, “Paul’s Boutique”.
The project of Swedish expat Philippa Magnussen, thesong that can only be described as sensational. “Paul’s Boutique” is the reinvention of ’80s dark synth-pop that Bonnie Tyler once reigned alone, but no longer. The synths are beautifully stark, the guitar is hauntingly shallow, while the trembling 808s create a hypnotic groove. Together they create a soundscape that could be spun in LA’s grandest disco club or Tokyo’s most exclusive and intimate club. It is also ideal for a lonely late-night drive or laying in bed and trying to forget about the past.
Magnussen’s art, though, extends to her imaginative songwriting. Part autobiographical and part political commentary, Paul’s boutique is an analogy for how lies and disinformation are now freely sold and consumed. Once upon a time, they existed in the minds of conspiracy theorists. Now, they have become a part of our daily lives, just like the neighborhood convenience store. And hopefully in the case of Bluephox, this is the just the beginning of her ascent into our everyday lives.
Lo Tom – “Outta Here” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: David Bazan, Pedro the Lion, Starflyer59
Sure, it’s only September, but we can already predict some albums that will top our Best of 2020 lists. The sophomore release from Lo Tom – the aptly titled LP2 – will rank high for one clear reason: it reminds us that scorching indie rock can also be a healing salve in dark times.
Last month their “Start Payin'” single seared its convicting hooks onto our hearts. Now the supergroup that features members of Pedro the Lion and Starflyer59 up the ante with “Outta Here.” The lyrics are another wake-up call, reminding listeners that there is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or seeking help:
“Oh please get me outta here
I don’t want to be a ship without a rudder anymore
Out here turning circles trying to find the shore
I hear that foghorn blow
But I don’t know where I’m going
I don’t want to do this anymore”
The underlying theme of strength is in itself reassuring. But what Lo Tom presents here (both on this song and others on the album) is a message of growth through adversity. Lo Tom have delivered a perfect album for this year. It should be played loud and often.
LP2 is available now on Bandcamp.
Lo Tom are: David Bazan (vocals, bass), Jason Martin (guitar), TW Walsh (guitar, synths, backing vocals), and Trey Many (drums).
Oliver Wood – “The Battle Is Over (But the War Goes On)” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: The Wood Brothers
Raise your hand if you feel like a storm-tossed hull of a shipwreck, battered by the storms of 2020. Every week more news headlines try to chip away at our collective hope, making it harder to remain optimistic. The passing of American judicial icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg was another painful loss in a battle that seems never-ending. This is why music remains the one constant in our lives. Songs of protest are the rallying cries that inspire us to fight anew each day. One timely anthem from an established Americana artist is the exact tune we all need right now.
Music fans, rejoice: Oliver Wood – better known as the lead singer of indie folk trio The Wood Brothers – has a new solo project that features his stirring version of “The Battle Is Over (But the War Goes On”). While older fans may recall Levon Helm’s rendition of the 1973 original from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, there is a new generation who will have never heard this classic. It’s fitting that Wood has revived it at a crucial chapter in history. His delivery is impassioned, highlighted by a lonesome harmonica that really drives home the message: “But it’s only true love that keeps this world alive.”
Oliver Wood is joined by Phil Cook (harmonica, backing vocals), Ted Pecchio (bass), and Jano Rix (drums).
Gidge – “New Light” (Umeå, Sweden )
RIYL: Leftfield, Enigma, ORB
Electronic music has not been a big emphasis for us since the days of our youth, which explains the RIYL. The songs that we do share from the genre are usually ones that offer something rare and unique beyond the usual EDM, downtempo, garage, and house affairs. Specifically, they offer an experience that transcends our natural order. They take us to places that only the greats like Dali, Picasso, and Da Vinci can perceive. Where we see a clock, they see a reality constrained by time. Where we see a building, they see a voluntary prison of our existence. With “New Light”, Swedish duo Gidge challenge us to go beyond the boundaries of our imaginations.
This six-and-a-half-minute epic is a multi-sensory experience. It traverses landscapes that are both familiar yet distant. In one moment, we are in the deep caverns of the planet, where a tribal ritual is taking place. Then suddenly, we are transported to another world that is aquatic and reinvigorating, where the storms bring life, new life to us. Other worlds are visited in this extravagant, sonic expedition, and each one shares one common trait – liberation. The best way to listen to this song is to close our eyes and let it overwhelm. Let the bubbling beats, the hallow synths, and the incorporeal vocals briefly rule you and, thus, free you.
Gidge are Ludvig Stolterman and Jonatan Nilsson. Their new album, New Light, shines on November 6 via Dutch label Atomnation.
Grace Gillespie – “Hoppers” (London, England)
RIYL: Tiny Ruins, Sarah Harmer, Kate Bush
We’re convinced that Grace Gillespie was a fable writer in a past life. The young artist from Devon is more than just a singer or an artist. She is a magnificent storyteller, who crafts imaginative tales that sound like they came from the Brothers Grimm’s deep collection or from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. One day, and hopefully sooner than later, she’ll be nominated for the Mercury Prize and become adored globally for her gifts. For now, she’s the most discerning music fan’s hidden treasure, which glistens more brightly with “Hoppers”.
The single is an enchanting, post-modern lullaby that evokes conflicting emotions. At times, the song is suspenseful and even slightly eerie, as the simple folk approach turns creepily dark. Then there are moments where it is the most graceful thing you’ve heard in months, as Gillespie’s angelic voice hovers above the instrumentation while the cheery piano is like the sunshine breaking through the menacing clouds. Consequently, you might find yourself smiling yet sagging into your seat like a turtle sinks into its shell. Even Gillespie’s lyrics playfully accentuate these contrasting emotions.
“You were just a hopper, you are too afraid to fly
I thought you were a devil
I thought you were a devil
In my half-light, half-night eyes
We lived by the same lies”
Simply brilliant. “Hoppers” is the second single from Gillespie’s sophomore EP, After the Harvest Moon, which is due November 27th. The first single, “Your God’s Within”, was equally creative.
Django Django – “Spirals” (London, England)
RIYL: Alt-J, DIIV, Jagwar Ma
Most bands embrace the tried and true with their craft. In following the verse-chorus-repeat approach, they take the shortest route from start to finish. While this is a proven formula for pop music, it leaves little room for creative expression. Fortunately for fans of Djanjo Django, they prefer to defy norms, as their newest offering attests.
“Spirals” is the band’s first single since their 2018 EP, Winter’s Beach, and it’s a kaleidoscopic journey of sound. The extended intro finds the London band fusing their usual synth-driven sound with psychedelic elements. The trip continues for five minutes as they lead listeners on a wild ride full of vivid lyrical imagery:
“Back where it all began
Plotting on the drift like a smoke city dream
Every part of the endless season is bleached out
Cast aside, forgotten seeds
Still in the rooms of our realm
Rolling in the ugly thoughts of a soaring flower”
Django Django are: David Maclean, Vincent Neff, Jimmy Dixon, and Tommy Grace.
October Drift – “Like the Snow We Fall” (Taunton, England)
RIYL: Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Orchestra, Stereo Honey
In January of this year October Drift released their outstanding debut album, Forever Whatever. To this day, it remains one of the year’s most outstanding records. During the lockdown, the group comprised of Kiran Roy, Chris Holmes, Alex Bispham, and Daniel Young stripped back some of Forever Whatever‘s tracks into acoustic renditions, and these songs will be featured on the Naked EP, which will be unveiled November 6th on Physical Education Recordings. The record will also feature one new song, which is an absolute stunner.
“Like the Snow We Fall” is a beautifully solemn affair. For the first minute-plus, the song features a strumming guitar and Roy’s stirring voice. He sings about a lost time when we could embrace family and create new memories with friends. Subtle keys join in, followed by strings and percussion that swell to create a breathtaking moment. As stunning as the music is, Roy remains the center of attention. His voice turns desperate and vulnerable, hoping we can return to what we knew before it fades away like snow on a warm day:
“I sailed the seas to get here
I fought disease to reach your shores
Would have given an arm to get here
Only find the closing door
Follow your heart they instruct
Where would you start the construct here
What is the code of conduct
Is there a code to disappear?”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: October Drift are this decade’s Frightened Rabbit, and Roy is Scott Hutchison’s heir. They arrive just in time to fill the void in our lives by that great Scottish band.
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