The Matinee ’20 October 19 is another musical journey. Some tunes will take you back to famous neighborhoods and others to a dream-like state. A few will have you whirling inside your own mind while another will have you on the streets and participating in a movement. The mini-playlist ends with a cover from one of music’s finest guitarists and vocalists.
Pearl Charles – “Take Your Time” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Mary Chapin Carpenter, June Carter, Jenny Lewis
In her young career, Pearl Charles has demonstrated that the classics can still be refreshing, inspiring, and forward-looking. Most importantly (especially in these days), her music possesses a carefree, graceful disposition reminiscent of the Laurel Canyon sound of the late ’60s and early ’70s. That is, her music is timeless, and it leaves everyone revitalized. Her 2018 album, Sleepless Dreamer, and eponymous debut EP showcased the L.A.-based artist’s ability to make the old sound new while also creating stories that stir every possible emotion. If we were living in the ’70s, Charles would have been a frequent guest on The Johnny Cash Show. Imagine the magic she and June Carter could make. While we may never get to hear this dream collaboration, we get a sense of what it could be like with “Take Your Time”.
Charles has once created pure dreamy with this psychedelic-tinged, country-folk tune. It is a song that June Carter would have made if she had the chance to live in the famed LA neighborhood and worked with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, The Byrds, Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, etc. The song exudes blissful sunshine, warming your soul with its dreamy tones and Charles’ stunning vocals. Her lyrics are also uplifting as she reminds us to take a breath and live:
“Take your time time
You’re all right
It’s going to be just fine”.
These are words to live by in these strange times. Charles will share more of her stories and messages plus her dazzling music when her new album, Magic Mirror, is released next January 15th on Kanine Records. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
Simen Mitlid – “Grateful Dead” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Gregory Alan Isakov, Callum Pitt
Continuing with young artists who have hearts of gold, Simen Mitlid has been crafting stunning folktronica for more than half a decade. While he has yet to garner the acclaim that Sufjan Stevens or Justin Vernon, he possesses a similar talent in that he makes simplicity sound extraordinary. He’s a young talent ready to be discovered, which hopefully will happen soon. On October 30th, Mitlid’s new album, Birds; or, Stories from Charlie B’s Travels From Grønland to the Sun, and Back Again, arrives. The Oslo-based singer-songwriter has already shared a few songs from the record. One track that captures the LP’s beauty is “Grateful Dead”.
Settle in and grab your favorite beverage while he takes you a dazzling trip into a world of wonder. The light finger-plucking of the guitar, the feathery rhythms, and the subtle beats create a calming soundscape that puts you into a dream-like state. Mitlid’s reassuring vocals also tell us that life will get better. He specifically tells someone that they “will love again”. But this individual is a ghost who is seeking to forever rest in peace. She is a restless soul,with whom Mitlid communicates. He reaches out as if he is her friend, providing her with a sense of belonging that everyone wishes to have these days. This ability to connect within anyone and everyone is what makes Mitlid a truly special and supernatural talent.
Watch Mitlid’s Bandcamp page for details on how to purchase the album.
Phillip-Michael Scales – “Tell Me How I Sound Again” (Nashville via Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Michael Kiwanuka, Gary Clark, Jr., Algiers
Every year new, powerful voices emerge to speak on behalf of those who cannot – those who have been silenced for way too long. In the past decade we have witnessed the rise of Michael Kiwanuka, Gary Clark Jr., Leon Bridges, Yola, Algiers, Curtis Harding, Valerie June, and Samm Henshaw, who have shared provocative songs about resistance, inequality, servitude, and “Being a Black Man in a White World”. This year’s addition is Phillip-Michael Scales, who shared the soulful rocker, “Find a Way”. The nephew of B.B. King (yes, the late, legendary blues icon is his uncle), Scales is making a name for himself as an artist to watch, as his new single proves.
In the midst of a social reckoning and awakening, inequality, racism, and xenophobia still run rampant. Scales reminds us to not forget this on “Tell Me How I Sound Again”. As his guitar weeps and the song builds to a rhythm-led march, he articulates the many ways his voice continues to be drowned out and how people – including those who mean to do good – suppress him. This is the America that he has come to know, and one that sees him more as a threat than an equal citizen:
“Ain’t shit romantic bout
The antebellum south
I say bite the hand that feeds you
When it slaps you in the mouth
It’s the American fever dream
Where I have to know what you mean
My anger is a threat
But you’re just blowing off steam”
A powerful, new voice has emerged. You can get this song from these sources.
mr. Gnome – “Be Here Now” (Cleveland, USA)
RIYL: Portugal. The Man, Danger Mouse, alt-J
Cleveland may be home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but the city isn’t known as a music mecca. Most American bands head to NYC, Nashville, Chicago, Austin, L.A. or Seattle to launch their careers. These cities, after all, are home to some of the country’s most influential labels and tastemakers. So what does a band do when it opts to stay in its beloved hometown yet wants the world to listen to what it has to share? They establish their own label, of course, which is what Nicole Barille and Sam Meister, the masterminds behind mr. Gnome, have done.
The married couple founded El Marko Records, which will also support local artists expand their base. Record label or none at all, music won’t be heard unless it captures listeners’ imaginations and either makes them experience a wave of emotions or takes them on a trip to somewhere unknown yet exhilarating. The duo accomplish both and then some on “Be Here Now”.
The song is a sonic wonderland. It reverberates with the hallucinating, euphoric revelry of Portugal. The Man during their creative peak, where the song weaves together tapestries of neo-psychedelia, art-rock, and electronica. Barille’s stirring vocals loop through Meister’s patient production work, as the track starts off with a sinister patience. It then grows into a kaleidoscope of sound, which creates the feeling we are spinning down a wormhole and into a different dimension. This place, however, isn’t in the far reaches of our galaxy. We are instead spinning down the vortex that exists in our mind and drowning in its shadows and despair. Simply awesome.
The band’s double album, The Day You Flew Away, is out now. Get it on Bandcamp.
Rosehip Teahouse – “A Million Times” (Cardiff, Wales)
RIYL: Why Bonnie, Moaning, Alvvays
It seems Wales is experiencing an indie music renaissance. The country that produced the Joy Formidable has had an increase in exciting new bands (we use the term “new” quite loosely). Or maybe we haven’t been paying close enough attention until recently, which is fair. Nonetheless, one group that reflects the burgeoning Welsh music scene are Rosehip Teahouse, whose cool band name matches their breezy brand of guitar-pop. With songs like “A Million Times”, this band will soon become regulars on BBC Radio and beyond.
For fans of more contemporary music, the song possesses the same airy, summery tones of Alvvays and Why Bonnie, where the jangly guitar riffs, stuttering rhythms, and frontwoman Faye Rogers’ vocals produce blissful delirium. Older music connoisseurs, meanwhile, may hear 2020’s version of The Cranberries. The legendary Irish band’s early singles (“Linger” and “Dreams”) songs became permanently etched in our minds because their stories represented the feelings of a younger generation. Likewise, Rogers brilliantly captures feelings of abandonment and isolation, wondering if one has any value or purpose to someone:
“I don’t know what it is that you need
And it scares me to think
That I’d reshape myself a million times to work it out.
Oh I’d love to lose myself.
I doubt you’d change for anyone,
But I still change for everyone.”
Rosehip Teahouse are Faye Rogers (vocals/guitar), Will Dickins (drums), Tony Williams (guitar), Josh Dickins (bass), and Teddy Hunter (keys). Their new EP, Fine, drops December 9th on Big Indie Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Greet the Sea – “Missing Mountains” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab For Cutie, Mimicking Birds
We first became mesmerized by Greet the Sea with the release of their self-titled debut in 2015. The anthemic post-rock textures of their song “Take Shelter” captivated us, creating instant fans after just one listen. But that tune barely scratched the surface of their sonic artistry. Since then the Seattle-based indie group’s sound has become even more dynamic.
Last year they headed back to the studio to create more of that magic. They recorded a full-length album and would have spent this year touring had 2020 played fair. Instead of new fans discovering Greet the Sea at packed indie venues, the old-school audio-only approach remains. The sweeping tones on “Missing Mountains” from their new album, Whatever Intended, showcase the band’s talents. The intro glistens with the brightness of sunrise piercing through fog. The interplay between guitars, bass, and percussion creates an palpable energy. It continues through until the bridge when the forward momentum reaches a dazzling peak. You will want to grab your keys and head out for a drive as you blast this. Feel the cool, autumn breezes on your face while this song elevates your mind.
We can only hope that when live music returns, all of the beloved indie venues in the Pacific Northwest are still around to host bands like this. Greet the Sea’s music will be especially cathartic once we are able to experience concerts together again.
Whatever Intended is out now and available everywhere, including Bandcamp.
Greet the Sea are: Brett Shelton (vocals, guitars), Nik Pfeifer (guitars, vocals), Ross Powell (bass), and Ryan Mulligan (drums).
BYLAND – “Grow Old With Me” (Alberqueque, USA)
RIYL: Dana Falconberry, Cross Record, Liza Anne
One of the most stirring voices we’ve heard this year belongs to Alie Renee Byland, who goes by the name BYLAND. When she released “Believe” in August, she reminded us of a young Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen in her style and power. Two weeks ago, she released her debut album, Gray, which is filled with some of the most stunning, cinematic dream-folk created this year. One of those tracks is “Grow Old With Me”.
A quiet, haunting melody opens the track. It feels like we’ve just stepped foot into the Enchanted Forest, where only faint beams of light penetrate the thick canopy and a stillness reigns over the air. As the guitar softly churns and light percussion taps in the background, BYLAND, through her enchanting voice, tells us to:
“Come with me
I donʼt know where
Itʼs okay that you are scared”.
She understands our trepidation in entering this unknown world because she, too, has experienced this anxiety. She understands that the only way to heal is to take a chance, open one’s mind, and trust someone. This revelation is reflected in the song’s climax, which grows into a bustling wall of gorgeous sound as a lovely string arrangement complements the throbbing percussion. Desperation has never sounded so gorgeous, but BYLAND is not ordinary artist.
M. Ward – “For Heaven’s Sake” (Portland, OR, USA)
RIYL: Jim James, Monsters of Folk, She & Him
Fans of M. Ward know to expect warmth in his music. There is something about the timber of his voice that gives every song an added layer of cozy intimacy. Those campfire tones are heard throughout his album from earlier this year, Migration Stories. But now the Portland-based artist has surprised fans with a new collection of songs that aren’t exactly his own.
“For Heaven’s Sake” is from his upcoming Think of Spring album, a collection of Billie Holiday originals. So why would a folk troubadour attempt to cover Lady Day’s 1958 album, Lady in Satin? The unlikely answer is easy: her voice spoke to him the first time he heard it. Now he has put his own mellow spin on those classics. It’s a thing of beauty to hear and a lovely homage to a timeless artist. He pairs his languid delivery pairs a simple acoustic guitar. This is music for a rainy autumn day that will soothe your soul while helping others: M. Ward has teamed up with PLUS1 for Black Lives, and plans to donate proceeds from album sales to DonorsChoose in Harlem and Inner-City Arts in Los Angeles.
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