The Matinee ’20 October 14 is a full house of new music. The nine songs have been organized like an ordinary day. It begins quietly, awakening our senses first with soft light, then thunderous energy and blissful sunshine. A touch of twilight and a second wind follow before we settle in for the night. Two longtime favorites bookend the mini-playlist while in-between are several emerging bands destined for greatness.
Julia Jacklin – “to Perth, before the border closes” and “Cry” (Blue Mountains / Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Angel Olsen, Madeline Kenney, Angie McMahon
Few artists can make the classics feel fresh and new, but then again Julia Jacklin is the exception to the rule. From her romanticized collection of alt-country, indie-folk, and indie rock on her brilliant debut album, Don’t Let the Kids Win, to the vulnerable yet empowering follow-up, Crushing, Jacklin has made what was old cool again. Like the artists she listened to as a child, she’s helped make songwriting a valuable artform once again. Given her immense talents, Sub Pop Records asked her to contribute to their Singles Club. But instead of one song, she shared two and both are exquisite.
Like a slow drive in the countryside, “to Perth, before the border closes” is pure elegance, combining the light swagger of a Lucinda Williams’ alt-country tune with the emotional roar of Angel Olsen. The song starts gently and beautifully, as an electric guitar and light rhythms frame Jacklin’s brittle falsetto. She sings about life in a pandemic, where the freedom to travel is now just a fleeting memory. For an artist who toured extensively, a part of her being has been taken away.
“Cry”, meanwhile, recalls the light-hearted, fluttering, country-pop of her debut but with a touch of retro soul. As the song gently sways, Jacklin confronts the depression that grabs hold of her. She sings with the warmth of Patsy Cline, but her words are anything but delightful. She explains how she lies to her housemates that she’s going to the store, but she instead heads to the football pitch to “find a quiet corner and cry”. These two songs may not get people moving, but they are ones we need to hear today and be aware of our own and our loved one’s vulnerabilities.
Gustaf – “Mine” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Blondie, Cable Ties, Shopping
We’ve been saying that 2020 is the year of post-punk. The best music created this year has been from this genre, and further proving our point is the arrival of a young band who finally landed a record deal. Although they’re a bit of niche band at the moment, pretty soon the name Gustaf will be firmly entrenched within indie circles because their off-kilter approach to post-punk is bold, clever, and infectious. Their talents are fully displayed on “Mine”.
The newest additions to the Royal Mountain Records family have released a bad-ass single. The track doesn’t explode with the ferocity of IDLES nor pulse through the darkness like Fontaines D.C. It instead channels the disco-punk virtues of Blondie, where the song’s perky aesthetics are easily suitable for the dance floor as they are for dank, gritty dive bar. No matter the setting, the track will get people moving, bopping, or just losing their sensibilities. More importantly, it will give people the confidence to reclaim who they are and what belongs to them while telling the egoists and misogynists to go play in their own sandbox (or to fuck off, if you will).
Gustaf are: Lydia Gammill, Tine Hill, Tarra Thiessen, Angela Tornello, and Vramshabouh Kherlopian. Needless to say we’ll be watching them very closely.
Wings of Desire – “Runnin'” (London, England)
RIYL: James, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Helio Sequence, INHEAVEN
In a cryptic, December 2018 Facebook message, UK indie favorites INHEAVEN announced either they were taking a prolonged hiatus or had broken up. Only the quartet know for sure what is going on, but we’re hoping it’s the former and that in a few years they’ll come back revived like Wolf Parade did a few years ago. In the meantime, they’re pursuing their new endeavors, and this includes James Taylor and Chloe Little’s new project, Wings of Desire. We’re not sure if the project’s name is taken from the acclaimed 1987 German film, but the duo’s debut single shares similarities to it, specifically that the post-modern present has stifled our growth as humans. Now strap in and get ready to be taken to the stratosphere with “Runnin'”.
Whereas INHEAVEN’s indie rock was like a rush of blood to the head, the Madchester sound that filters through “Runnin'” is chest swelling. The lingering, crystalline guitar, the urgent bass line, and scintillating drums and keys create a soundscape that makes you feel you’re floating in the skies or at the very least get you racing down the street. A breathtaking urgency overcomes the track as it builds with Taylor telling us of “a world that serves the richer man” and causes the rest of us to work endless hours to pad their bank accounts. While he argues that our creativity has been stifled, the music offers hope that we can one strive again. That we all can one day, as the individual in the final frame says, enjoy life.
Welcome back, James and Chloe!
The single is out on new-ish boutique label WMD Recordings.
The Vitriots – “Down on My Level” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Oasis, Kasabian, Hives
From northern England we head a little further south for our next song selection. Obviously Australia is much further south, but we’re taking about musical influence, traversing from Manchester to the Brit-pop-rock. Those who grew up in the ’90s will remember when Oasis went from trying to be the next Beatles to an arena-rock band. To help you recall (or even learn about) that era, blast “Down on My Level” from one of Australia’s most underrated bands, The Vitriots.
Whereas Oasis had the Gallagher brothers, Paul Arthurs, Paul McGuigan, and Tony McCarroll, The Vitriots is the brainchild of Brandon Jack, who is supported during live shows by Matt Bilic and Dom O’Connor. To say the young Aussie is a talent would be an understatement, as he not only writes a fiery, catchy hook but he pairs the intensity of the music with cutting lyricism.
On “Down on My Level”, he has crafted a song that would not only fill up Sydney’s ANZ Stadium; it could also shake the Sydney Harbour Bridge some 20 kilometers away. Through the searing guitar riffs and the pulsating rhythm section, Jack’s lyrics add more fuel to this nitro-infused number. He describes one person’s struggles to find sanity in this world. It’s not just his mind swirling, but everything around him has turned upside-down. The world is our reality and the only things that can keep us feeling alive are songs that awaken all our senses.
The single is out on Sureshaker Music. Australia has another star in its midst.
Mid City – “Liar Liar” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Bloc Party, Foals, The Killers
Staying south yet inspired once again by the great British invasion is another song that is intended to be heard at full blast. It’s also a tune that must be heard in the largest stadiums of the world and included in every energizing playlist. During these unsettling times where we could use every little bit of stimulus to get us moving, Mid City arrives with the ideal latest single.
“Liar Liar” is anthemic indie rock perfection. It is the standard against which all similar songs should be judged, as it is like 10 tonnes of TNT igniting inside your mind. The intensity is explosive, the instrumentation roars with urgency of a people with nothing to lose, while the storyline captures the feeling of an entire population.
As the rhythms pummel like sledgehammers and the guitar fires sonic missiles every second, front-man Joel Griffith slickly expresses the torment of a people who have been misunderstood, taken advantage, and asked to stay silent. To say nothing and accept the lies as our truths. These are “strange days” where we’re asked to just “dream on, dream on” and pretend everything is okay. Griffith (vocals), Ben Woodmason (guitar), James Campbell (bass), and Tim Woodmason (drums) refuse to be quiet. Instead they demand to be heard and loudly so, and we applaud them for it.
PYNKIE – “Vacation” (New Jersey, USA)
RIYL: Liz Phair, Soccer Mommy
What advice you might give your younger self? Would you suggest making different choices? Maybe you’d offer a warning about not falling for the wrong person. If you’re anything like emerging indie star Lindsey Radice – aka PYNKIE – you might suggest letting go of unhealthy relationships. On the latest single from her upcoming sophomore album, #37, the New Jersey-based artist pairs great advice with sun-kissed vibes.
“Vacation” weaves wisdom into its layers of DIY pop-rock. With the edgy charm of Liz Phair and Soccer Mommy, this 26-year-old talent sets clear boundaries. She will waste exactly zero time crying over someone who isn’t reciprocating her affections:
“And I’m tellin’ myself on this new vacation
to deliver my head from back in the day
And I’m tellin’ myself on this new vacation
That the minute I feel you slippin’ away
I’ll only give you the green light”
This year has given us enough drama and anxiety. What we need now is music that returns us to our carefree days. PYNKIE is just the artist to fill that need. Perhaps her day job as a nurse explains her music’s therapeutic powers? Her sound (which includes support from John Messina on keys and Josh Bartsch on drums) is an instant mood boost. “Vacation” gives listeners immediate results with no side effects.
Reptaliens – “Taking” (Portland, OR, USA)
RIYL: Chromatics, Still Corners, early Phantogram
From threatening skies to summertime bliss, we now enter twilight. This is the hour that our nocturnal forms reveal themselves and our impulses govern our actions. Like the full moon that brings out the werewolves, Reptaliens‘s latest single, “Taking”, is the stimulus to which we peel off our facades and show the world who we truly are.
Whereas the duo of Bambi and Cole Browning once intoxicated listeners with their alluring brand of bedroom-pop, they now hypnotize with heavy synths and sultry beats. With “Taking”, they have crafted a dark synth-pop reminiscent of the “experimental music” that rang through Berlin’s underground bars of the late ’70s and early ’80s. The music then was the sound of liberation. A younger generation looked to be unshackled from Cold War politics and human rights abuses. Not much has changed since, except people of all ages are searching for answers and the opportunity to be free and whole again. Bambi’s lyrics are succinct as she offers the different ways that make us human. But if we continue on our track of self-destruction, the days we can truly shed our skins instead become fewer. We will become a myth.
The duo’s forthcoming EP, Wrestling, arrives November 6th on Captured Tracks with pre-orders at Bandcamp. The song’s video, which is a journey on the outskirts of the recent raging wildfires of Oregon, is available on YouTube.
Lo Talker – “No Champagne” (Athens, GA, USA)
RIYL: Roadkill Ghost Choir, Futurebirds, BNQT, David Bazan
Be warned before you hit play on this tune: “No Champagne” from Georgia indie rockers Lo Talker has lyrical potency that verges on lethal. The fun, uptempo instrumentation is enough to win you over. But when you stop tapping your feet long enough to really hear the lyrics, you realize this is one of the year’s best songs.
From a lyrical standpoint, this wry take on modern culture has more gems than a jeweler’s case. It’s a sleeper hit from an emerging band of brothers (frontman Andrew Shepard is joined by his sibling and fellow former Roadkill Ghost Choir bandmate, Zach), and three friends whose talents shine in every chord they play. They tackle the insanity of these times with a balance of humor and rockin’ hooks. Lines like “Sharpen your teeth on the stark absurd” and “Brittle brained and snide with a tongue too tied” conjure vivid imagery as does the Clem Snide-esque “The universe will hiss when you lean in for the kiss.” But the verse featuring the song title is the showstopper:
“Set it all on fire just to see a flame
But now you’re bitchin’ and moanin’
Cause there’s no champagne”
A scathing indictment of consumerism and greed never sounded so good! We cannot wait to hear more from these guys. “No Champagne” is out now via Arts & Crafts and available from these links. Their album, A Comedy of Errors, is due soon.
Lo Talker are: Andrew Shepard (vocals, guitar), Zach Shepard (bass), Rhett Fuller (guitar), Alec Stanley (guitar, keys), and Jeremiah Johnson (drums).
Julia Holter – “So Humble The Afternoon” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Agnes Obel, Marissa Nadler, Nite Jewel
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported to another world when listening to Julia Holter‘s music. Its orchestral qualities, always ethereal vocals, either laden with harmonies or just Holter making noise with her voice are truly captivating. Her records are thematic, and each bring a wide range of energy. This week Holter has officially released “So Humble The Afternoon” digitally.
Originally released in 2018 as part of Adult Swim’s Singles Series, “So Humble The Afternoon” features the dreamy, transcendent qualities of Holter’s greatest tracks. A haunting voice, just the right amount of keyboard, and a stunning arrangement of strings create an immersive first half of the song. The song then transforms into an eerie instrumental, with some droney keyboards and otherworldly vocals. The result is a whole, and absolutely compelling piece of art. Holter says, “something about the hazy malaise of this song seems to me to suit this endlessly apocalyptic time.” This could explain why she’s releasing the song now, as its strange qualities truly fit the dread of current times.
The single is out on Domino Recording Co.
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