We’re changing up The Matinee ’20 October 21 edition. Today’s playlist is a mix of upbeat and even quirky numbers along with more introspective tracks. Six of the artists/bands listed are familiar names while two are making their debut in this space. We start things off with a most promising and poetic artist who is destined for greatness.
Arlo Parks – “Green Eyes” (London, England)
RIYL: Lauryn Hill, Janelle Monae, India.Arie, Connie Constance
When 2020 finally ends, the world will utter a collective sigh of relief. We are ready to look ahead towards the new year and its promise of clean slates and fresh music. One particular album has our hearts aflutter: Collapsed in Sunbeams, the debut LP from London musician/poet Arlo Parks. The soulful, breezy tones of “Green Eyes” is a delicious teaser of what promises to be a highlight album of next year.
“Green Eyes” reminds listeners why Parks is such a stunning artist. The effortless charm that infuses every note is undeniable; the confidence of her delivery signals her destiny as a future star. So what makes this song so special you may wonder? Parks is an emerging artist, yes, though her meteoric rise comes as no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention from the start. The acclaimed singer from west London with Nigerian, Chadian, and French heritage has critics in the UK raving. Soon the rest of the world will join in.
On this tune she channels Lauryn Hill and Janelle Monae in one breath and evokes Portishead and Julien Baker in the next. Find out why Arlo Parks is the artist you need in your life right now. Dive deep into “Green Eyes” and bask in the lushness she has created.
Sam Himself – “Cry” (Switzerland & Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Matt Berninger, The National, Gang of Youths
Sooner or later, the world will take notice of Sam Himself‘s immense talent. His bristling baritone possesses the same awe-inspiring power of Matt Berninger, and his songwriting, too, matches The National frontman’s ability to make little moments seem monumental. Few artists can consistently do this, but the Swiss-born singer-songwriter proves this with songs like “Slow Drugs” and “Nobody”. He may have just written his masterpiece with “Cry”.
This little anthem might have you sobbing, or at least sitting in contemplation. It is an eloquent ode to a time of pure innocence and bliss – something that has vanished in this global pandemic. Specifically for Sam, the song documents the day he learned he would not be able to return to his home in Brooklyn and that a relationship had come to an end. In a matter of hours his world was turned upside down, yet he still found a way to transform this painful time into something stunning and beautifully poetic:
“You know you’ve got to get lost
Might as well be tonight
There’s no way back from where you’re going
No one’ll come find you this time
Bleed your heart dry”
Sam Himself’s long-awaited debut album is expected early in 2021. In the meantime, explore his Bandcamp page to hear and purchase this song and his previous EP, Slow Drugs.
Ela Minus – “dominique” (Brooklyn, USA via Bogotà, Colombia)
RIYL: Alice Glass, Health, Grimes
Ela Minus is starting a musical rebellion. So far the songs that project mastermind Gabriela Jimeno has shared from her upcoming acts of rebellion record have leaned towards political uprising. Jimeno described one of the previously released songs as a mix between electronic music and punk. However, beyond those big acts of rebellion there are smaller ones.
On “dominique”, Jimeno breaks from a standard schedule and finds power and her identity. Jimeno sings about waking up at 7 p.m. and falling asleep at 7 a.m. It’s a familiar feeling in these current times: maintaining strange schedules, not leaving the house for days, and keeping to one’s self. However, Jimeno embraces it singing in Spanish, “I don’t want to sleep until sunrise / I can’t sleep until sunrise”, and then “I never feel more like myself when it’s dark.”
The music of Ela Minus has been described as a few different things by Jimeno. “Tinydance” for its fairly simple yet infectiously danceable layered synths and drum machines, as well as “bright music for dark times”, music to soothe and comfort even in the darkness. Minus finds strength in combatting the darkness, literally and figuratively, on “dominique”.
Laura Jinn – “I’m driving to Target” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Computer Magic, The Japanese House, Nitejewel
The best way to beat the mid-week blues is with a tune that not only gets your heart pumping but also makes you giggle. It might also stimulate to go shopping – with a mask on and practising proper social distancing and hygiene practices, of course. So with this, limber up and get ready to shop with Laura Jinn‘s rambunctious techno-pop / synthwave number, “I’m driving to Target”.
The song title is arguably the year’s best. Better yet, it describes what the song is about – a trip to the better version of Wal-Mart. But you probably never shopped there like you were doing a 100-metre dash, which is what this adrenaline-inducing track does. The synths and 808s pop off the bat then accelerates to its frenzied, manic climax. The approach perfectly mimics Jinn’s tongue-in-cheek lyrics about shopping, or more accurately about the compulsive tendencies that overwhelm us and how we try to find comfort in the material things. As Jinn clever sings:
“I’m driving to Target on a summer day
I’m driving to Target, I want to get away
And I walk in the lights are blinding
The cameras are turning, the cashiers are smiling
There’s nothing inside me that could have used replacing
I’m going to take this lipstick and that’s just the beginning”
The track is from Jinn’s forthcoming debut EP, Sick!, which is coming soon. In the meantime, grab this single and the record’s title track over on Bandcamp.
Hannah’s Little Sister – “Gum” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Guerilla Toss, Rubblebucket, Deerhoof
Speaking of quirky, one of the most interesting (and easily one of the most entertaining) bands to arrive this year are Hannah’s Little Sister. The quartet of Meg Grooters (vocals/guitar/keys), Nina Himmelreich (bass/vocals), Ashley Snook (guitar/vocals), and Will Brown (drums) have thrown out traditional music convention. So if you’re looking for songs with predictable pop arrangements, you better look elsewhere. But if you want to hear some zany, fun, clever tracks, then the Liverpudlians have you covered. Their latest track is another off-the-wall blast.
“Gum” is a song about the chewy confectionery that our parents warned us to not to swallow. Well, that’s partially true. As the various instruments collide and spin in all sorts of directions, the band sings about blowing bubbles and how gum is dependable for its consistency and long-lasting flavor. It is also a metaphor for how the world has become increasingly artificial as people look for shortcuts in their diets (the band ponders if gum has all the nutrients they need) and how people have changed and not always for the better. Instead, they want more material things, looking for satisfaction from the luxurious items. Hannah’s Little Sister, however, will opt for simpler things and enjoying their unique quirks, just like themselves.
Kalbells – “Hump The Beach” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Rubblebucket, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, Tune-Yards
There are few people as creative as Kalmia Traver. Whether solo or part of Rubblebucket, Traver pushes musical and creative norms far beyond their boundaries, and defies to be classified. In 2017 she released a deeply personal yet infectiously groovy record, Ten Flowers. She also released an EP earlier in the year, Mothertime, that truly stands out as one of the year’s best releases.
This week Kalbells shared a new track, “Hump The Beach”. The name itself is silly, and on the surface, the track is quite playful. That playfulness continues with the clever lyrics. “Hump The Beach” is described as a love song for the Earth – literally, as the title suggests an actual physical act.
It’s a refreshing, happy, and sunny track that doesn’t take itself seriously. Instead it sends a fun message that the Earth provides for us, so we should give back. It also switches into French about halfway through, just adding to the quirkiness and absolute joy that this song exudes throughout.
October and The Eyes – “All My Love” (London, England via New Zealand)
RIYL: Karen O, The Kills, Allison Mosshart
At some point in our lives, we must take a stand. We must show that we’re unwilling to give in to other people’s desires and instead seek to make things right for ourselves. This isn’t about power nor domination; it is about control over our decisions and displaying strength and fortitude. More importantly, it’s about taking chances, going out of our comfort zones and doing things that can liberate our souls. In listening to “All My Love” from October and The Eyes, your true selves will be revealed.
With the assertive presence and attitude of a young Karen O filtered through a gritty, reverb-drenched Gothic-pop approach, the New Zealand-born artist delivers an anthem for all those who have been cowered in the shadows for too long. Each rhythmic thrust is the sound of a foot stomping forward, where the individual slowly reveals herself to the light. With each movement, her confidence grows, and she begins to seek what she’s long desired. In this case, as October says in the liner notes, she reveals her lust, her desire for a stranger. She reveals her wish to be devoured inside this individual’s world and, thus, to be unshackled by her own self-imposed prison. Your focus, though, could be anything you want, but the song’s impact will be the same – it will give you the courage to move forward and out of the darkness.
SUUNS – “Pray” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Depeche Mode, The Kills, Zola Jesus
Remember life before 2016? You know, in the days before COVID-19 and global political horror? Yeah, those memories are hazy for us, too. Fortunately we can distract ourselves with a new EP from Montreal’s SUUNS very soon. Fiction arrives next week and features an unreleased gem called “Pray.” The song was recorded in 2015 during the sessions for Hold/Still but never made it onto that album. Its release now coincides perfectly when most of the civilized world is doing a whole lot of praying for good news soon.
The video’s opening scenes of fire are a metaphor for 2020. Its unassuming intro captures your interest and slowly builds for the first two minutes. Those smoldering embers slowly intensify as the pulsing synths blaze. The industrial feel of the percussion is oxygen to those flames, creating a sonic inferno that ends far too soon. Maybe our dissatisfaction with this year explains why we wish this song was twice as long. The only solution is to keep playing these cathartic melodies at full volume on repeat.
FICTION will be released October 30th on Joyful Noise Recordings (US) and Secret City Records (Canada). For the first 48 hours of the EP’s release, all proceeds will be donated to Basmeh and Zeitooneh Relief and Development to support the continuing efforts surrounding the 2020 Beirut explosion. Pre-orders are available here.
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