Halloween is tomorrow, so The Matinee ’20 October 30th playlist sets the tone for the weekend. Some of these songs are spine-tingling in their approach, others are eerie for what they say, and a few tackle the surrealism that exists today. Listen to the end because the last two are absolute rockers.
Black Honey – “I Like the Way You Die” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Wolf Alice, YONAKA, Warpaint
While 2020 has been one big trick, earlier this month one of our longtime favorite bands gave us a treat. Izzy B Phillips, Chris Ostler, Tommy Taylor, and Tom Dewhurst – the foursome behind Black Honey – announced the arrival of their sophomore album, Written & Directed, set for January 29, 2021. Woohoo!!! (Yes, we’re doing a jig at this news.) The band already teased what is to come with “Run for Cover”, and this week they shared the record’s second single. Unsurprisingly, it’s another banger that arrives just in time for this spooky holiday.
Warn your neighbors that it is about to get loud because “I Like the Way You Die” must be heard with the speakers cranked to max volume. Play this in the open for all to hear since it requires the full attention and participation of everyone to mimic the song’s anthemic quality. Each element ignites as if their intention is to not just shake us to the core but to literally blow our minds. The only thing more explosive than the pounding rhythms and soaring guitars is Phillips’ take-no-prisoners lyrics. Her intention isn’t to make friends, for she’s a femme fatale – or maybe a vampire – seeking revenge on the real monsters that haunt her life. Black Honey may have given us a treat, but they’ve saved their tricks for a specific few.
Ariel Pink – “Burned Out Love” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
“Burned Out Love” certainly sounds like a real-life horror story. Who better to bring that nightmare scenario to life than Ariel Pink? The Los Angeles-based project of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg has been delighting fans for two decades with vivid art-pop/rock creations. His latest release offers plenty of sonic thrills for the season.
You hear echoes of Ariel Pink’s myriad influences here, from Bauhaus and My Bloody Valentine to Lou Reed and The Cure. From its synth-driven foundation rises an hypnotic blend of lush, ’80s-era tones with truly poetic lyrical imagery:
“Pale clouds glitter in the veil of grey skies
Hold me back, the black hole comes
Outside the fauna cries from ashes craving further supply wood”
The only thing we are craving is more musical lushness like this. Fortunately the wait won’t be long: the newest installment of unreleased archived material arrives in January.
The Paranoyds – “Pet Cemetery” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: L.A. Witch, Death Valley Girls, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Anyone who has read Stephen King’s Pet Semetary would agree it’s one of his most disturbing books. If you have not read it and you have pets, you might view your furry friend(s) and the elderly people in your life a bit differently. The film adaptations (the 1989 original and the 2019 remake) aren’t that great since they don’t capture the dark creepiness of King’s writing. Leave it to The Paranoyds to create the eerie mood the two films lacked with their bleak rendition of “Pet Cemetery.”
The spelling of Semetary / Cemetery are different, but there’s no doubt the tune is inspired by the great horror writer’s imagination. A grimy, stark, witch-rock vibe descends upon the piercing guitar and harrowing rhythms. Through the darkness comes Staz Lindes’ and Lexi Funston’s darkly seductive voices. They’ve been resurrected from the graves and attempt to entice wanderers to enter their realm, forever pledging their love to them “until death us do part.” Well, in this case, love is eternal even in the afterlife. The song is wickedly fun yet entertainingly creepy. It’s the perfect song to sing on Halloween night, whether you’re hosting a small gathering, handing out candy, or chilling with family. Be sure to wear something unholy for the occasion.
Pixey – “Free to Live in Colour” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Tame Impala, Psychic Ills
Not every Halloween tune has to be eerie in its sonic delivery. It can still be spooky in its tone and storyline, especially when the terror is something real. This is what Pixey has achieved with “Free to Live in Colour”.
The project of Liverpudlian Lizzie Hillesdon, Pixey first dazzled us with her neo-psychedelic, disco-pop fervor, “Just Move.” Where that tune got people moving, her latest is a more seductive, suspenseful affair. Neo-psychedelic tones still swirl in the air, though they now exude a film-noir approach. It’s as if we’re in a ’50-era Paris scene awash in pastels instead of black, white, and grey hues.
Behind each corner lurks a menace to our being and humanity. This entity is not an individual but the system. It wants to control us and make us as static and rigid as the first television sets. To make us another obedient cog in the bigger machine, living forever “in an apocalyptic haze.” Through her imaginative lyrics, Hillesdon describes her daily struggle to be herself and to be liberated, just like her mother and father during their carefree, youthful days. She desires the freedom and simplicity they had instead of being confined to a life of pre-defined expectations.
The single is out on Chess Club Records.
Mogwai – “Dry Fantasy” (Glasgow, Scotland)
Somehow in the midst of the epic dumpster fire of 2020 comes good news. The arrival of a new Mogwai tune is always cause for celebration. The only thing that can eclipse the joy of a new single is details of a full album. This week the Scottish rock legends announced their tenth studio album, As The Love Continues, which is due for release in January. Its lead single is everything fans love about Mogwai. “Dry Fantasy” delivers more than just dynamic soundscapes: these lush tones are the portal to a world of escape at a time when we all desperately need one.
The bright intro signals hope. Every note illuminates the path before you. Each passage cues a swelling in your chest that prepares you for the eventual breakthrough moment. Since this is Mogwai, the trek is circuitous and unhurried. With each passing minute the crescendo of deftly woven layers elevates your senses. With closed eyes you can picture a steady climb into the Scottish Highlands. As the song approaches its peak you feel the stress and anxieties of 2020 dissipate. Mogwai once again invite you to journey with them to a better world. In times like these, who doesn’t need some fantasy escapism? Stirring instrumentals like this are the healing tonic our souls crave.
Mogwai are Stuart Braithwaite (guitar), John Cummings (guitar), Barry Burns (guitar/keys), Dominic Aitchison (bass), and Martin Bulloch (drums). The song is out on Temporary Residence Ltd. and Rock Action Records, who will also release As The Love Continues on February 19, 2021. Pre-orders for the album are available here.
Danny Elfman – “Happy” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Oingo Bongo, Halloween movie soundtracks
The name Danny Elfman is synonymous with spine-chilling music. After all, this is the composer best known for his soundtracks to multiple Tim Burton films (like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice) and TV programs (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, The Simpsons). Younger audiences may know him from the screen, but Gen-X fans will forever know him as the voice from ’80s New Wave/art-pop band Oingo Boingo.
Don’t run away – it’s only the first new single in 36 years from the guy who brought you “Dead Man’s Party.” The deliciously dark “Happy” reminds listeners of Elfman’s creative artistry. A brooding, synth-driven intro ushers in these cinematic tones. Your pulse quickens as he sings “Choose your poison” amid a swell of strings and marching band-worthy percussion. Elfman is a master of layering elements that heighten your suspense. But surprises galore await as the song progresses. Whimsy takes an industrial turn at the bridge, prompting listeners to add a menacing snarl to their wacky, spook-inducing dance moves. As Beetlejuice would say, “It’s showtime!”
This single features Elfman on vocals, guitars and synths. He is joined by Nili Brosh (Dethklok) on guitar, Stu Brooks (Dub Trio) on bass, and Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails, The Vandals) on drums.
TV Priest – “Decoration” (London, England)
RIYL: IDLES, Iceage, Protomartyr
Now we come to a song that is simply astounding. It takes literally two seconds of listening to “Decoration” to realize why Sub Pop Records have signed TV Priest, although the super label isn’t the first to discover them. That honor goes to Hand in Hive, who remain the post-punk quartet’s European label. The more support the better so more people can familiarize themselves with the emerging greatness of Charlie Drinkwater (vocals), Alex Sprogis (guitar), Nic Smith (bass, keys), and Ed Kelland (drums).
“Decoration” is an absolute adrenaline rush. The pummeling drums and pulsating bass that open the track will have your eyes popping from their sockets. Sprogis’ off-rhythm guitar strikes, meanwhile, are reminiscent of Protomartyr’s Greg Ahee’s penchant for electrifying the air with a surge of blistering noise. Through the storm comes Drinkwater’s booming baritone. He shares colorful vignettes of our surreal, capitalism-driven world. His first words are, “I have never seen a dog do what that dog does,” referencing a remark from Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent. He then cites smashed avocados, medals adorning chests, another “TV adaptation of the latest book craze,” and someone smashing “the Sky Box Over Big John’s head.” His best observation, though, is:
“Out on the cul-de-sac, 5 boys hit 5 more boys
I stared up a sky of useless stars
I never realized how very small everything was”
TV Priest won’t be small for long because on November 13th their debut album, Uppers, will be released in Europe via Hand in Hive. The North American release is February 5th, 2021 on Sub Pop Records. Pre-order the special vinyl here or Bandcamp. Then check out the colorful video on YouTube.
Deep Sea Diver – “Eyes Are Red (Don’t Be Afraid)” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, St. Vincent, Foals
Deep Sea Diver wrapped up their most recent record as the world around to a halt. Impossible Weight offers plenty of impactful and compelling tracks, including one featuring Sharon Van Etten. But the longest track on the album may be its most enthralling.
“Eyes Are Red (Don’t Be Afraid)” clocks in at over seven minutes. It starts out softly with some underlying synth and lead singer Jessica Dobson’s voice, which becomes ethereal. The track then transforms into something bolder when the bass and drums kick in. What makes it stand out is the last half of the song, an absolutely killer guitar solo soars over an equally killer bass line.
While the message to not be afraid fits the idea of Halloween quite well, it also fits another significant event happening soon: next week’s American election. The world in general (and politics in particular) gives us plenty to be anxious and upset about. We need to find the courage to fight for what we believe is right, and upend the system. Dobson sings:
“Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
Look at my eyеs turning red
Burn this down together
I’m on firе”
This song is the soundtrack of our lives right now.
Deep Sea Diver are: Jessica Dobson (vocals, guitar, keys), Peter Mansen (drums), Garrett Gue (bass), and Elliot Jackson (guitar, synthesizer).
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