The Matinee ’20 November 2 edition eases you into what should be an interesting week with the US election and more countries going into lockdown. You don’t, however, have to be along and feel lost, as these eight songs from seven artists and bands will blow you away. Several of the songs below are song-of-the-year contenders, and they’ll likely make their way on to our year-end playlist. Stay safe everyone.
Typhoon – “Welcome to the Endgame” (Portland, USA)
RIYL: Phoria, San Fermin, Zola Blood
Two years ago, Typhoon released one of the great albums of the decade with Offerings. It was cinematic brilliance, and one of our 50 favorite LPs of 2018. It marked a shift for the band, away from its folk beginnings into vast, immersive soundscapes and captivating storytelling. Days ahead of the U.S. Election, Typhoon have just released “Welcome to the Endgame”, and it builds on what made Offerings such a noteworthy record.
While Offerings was a tale of a single person, whose memories are fading and facing a crisis of identity, “Welcome to the Endgame” highlights a similar crisis that the US is facing. Backed by a beautiful instrumental of strings, keyboard and occasional guitar, lead singer Kyle Morton paints a bleak picture of where the country is at. It encapsulates the feelings of how the strange has become the normal. From how not-normal the election cycle has become, to the constant need to protest another killing of an innocent person. At one point, a warped version of “America, The Beautiful” plays, driving the point home even harder.
“Welcome to the endgame
Final move’s already been made
Now we’re finding out the hard way
There’s not a savior left in sight”
The single is out now on Roll Call Records. Typhoon are Kyle Morton (lead vocals, piano, guitar); Toby Tanabe (bass, vocals); Dave Hall (guitar, vocals); Shannon Steele (violin, vocals); Jen Hufnagel (violin, vocals); Pieter Hilton (drums, vocals); Alex Fitch (drums, vocals); Tyler Ferrin (horns, guitar, piano, vocals); Ryan McAlpin (trumpet, vocals); Eric Stipe (trumpet, vocals); and Devin Gallagher (percussion, ukulele, vocals). Please let there be a new album coming in 2021.
Balthazar – “Losers” (Kortrijk and Ghent, Belgium)
RIYL: Portugal. The Man, Maribou State, Warhaus
Two more months remain in a forgettable year, but the days, weeks, months, and even years to come could be even more surreal. But first, what else does 2020 have in store for us? It’s a frightening thought that things could become even wackier and that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. On the contrary, things cannot get any worse can they? Our lives must surely only get better soon, and Balthazar give us a reason to believe the best is yet to come with their infectious new single, “Losers”
Disco vibes converge with ’60s film-noir suspense on this groovy single that will have you confidently strutting down the street. It is a song that the late Sean Connery as James Bond would have had spinning as he entered Maximillian Largo’s yacht to even the score. Not a single ounce of concern, fear, nor doubt is visible on his expressionless face. He’s been here before and he’s a master of finishing the job. 007, however, has not encountered an invisible villain like we have. Although the music gives us courage, co-frontmen Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez share their fears in living today, and their concerns are our own:
“The stars are directing the future
What they’re tuning into I can’t say
But I want the universe to love me”
Yet they hold on hope that maybe soon we, losers, can find a way to overcome our own limitations. That we can rise above the moment and succeed. We certainly hope they’re right when they sing, “We are losers on the verge of something great”. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
In addition to Devoldere and Deprez, Balthazar include Simon Casier, Michiel Balcaen, and Tijs Delbeke. Their new album, Sand, arrives January 29th, 2021 via PIAS Recordings.
bakar – “1st Time” (London, England)
RIYL: Gus Dapperton, Alfie Templeton, Remy
Over the past two years, bakar has emerged as a dynamic, global musical force. From producers and rappers who want to collaborate with him to his multi-genre approach that appeals to a wide cross-section of fans, the young Londoner is a star by every variable. His talents, though, extend to his lyrical prowess, as he chronicles life as a Black man in a white world as well as sharing uplifting messages that go beyond the usual lovey-dovey formula. His latest track is more of the latter, as he offers the world a shining beacon in these dark times.
“1st Time” is more than just a sugary ear-worm of resplendent art-pop. It’s a little anthem for the people who brighten our days and give us reason to live. Through the funky guitar riffs and the stammering dance beats, bakar sings about that special someone who has forever changed him. It might be meeting an estranged parent for the first time in years, the person of his dreams, or possibly the birth of his first child.
“The first time
I saw you in the sun, I nearly died
I told myself I’d have to sacrifice
That’s when I fell into you, mmm
You threw me one, but I was out my mind
I’d always come back with another lie
So now I’m tellin’ the truth, yeah”
Whoever this person is, bakar has found his North Star, and with this track he’s given us our own lifeline. The young man is an amazing talent.
The single is out now on Black Butter Records.
Routine – “Cady Road” (Oakland & Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Jay Som, Chastity Belt, Chapterhouse + Big Thief
As much as COVID has disrupted our lives, it has brought some unexpected surprises to the music industry. One is the incredible covers artists and bands have released, as they’ve spent their days at home reinterpreting the classics. Another positive is the number of collaborations that have been formed over the past 10 months. Some have just done one-off songs or covers while a few have opted to start new projects together. One super-collaboration that very few saw coming involves Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Annie Truscott of Chastity Belt, who together are Routine.
The partners’ main bands were supposed to be touring together at this time. In the absence of long road trips and late-night meals, Duterte and Truscott have used their time to create music that deviates from their indie-rock foundations. They’ve instead looked towards the past, namely to the height of the Laurel Canyon neighborhood and traditional country for inspiration. The result is “Cady Road”, which is absolutely stunning. It is a country-tinged, dream-pop tune that sounds like a song Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Willie Nelson, and The Byrds would have concocted while sitting on the balcony in 1971. The banjo chords give the track a splendid southern twang, while Truscott’s voice dreamily drifts through the breathtaking atmosphere. She tells us to “relax, it’s fine, don’t give in”, as a reminder that we are in this thing together. And together we will overcome.
The duo’s debut debut EP, And Other Things, is out November 20th. Pre-order are available here. Dead Oceans will release it as part of their newly-launched “Friends Of” series, which will support “dynamic and innovative collaboration”. Sign us up for this project!
Smut – “Fan Age” (Cincinnati, USA)
RIYL: Veruca Salt, Breeders, Letters to Cleo
Another tune taking us back to our youths comes from a little band who rocked our minds three years ago. In September 2017, Smut raged war on our ears and our addiction to social media on “Video Cell”. The song was Tay Roebuck, Andrew Min, Sam Ruschman, and Bell Cenower’s statement that they were a band on the rise. Fast forward to 2020, and the quartet have signed with the excellent Bayonet Records. Now they are just weeks away from sharing their new EP, Power Fantasy, which officially drops on November 20th. The record will only contain three songs, but if the lead single is any indication it’ll be a memorable one.
“Fan Age” is ’90s grunge-pop reincarnated. It is a time warp, taking us back to the days when Veruca Salt and Breeders piqued ears across the globe with their gritty, slow burning, yet reinvigorating and infectious sound and hard-hitting, no-nonsense lyrics. Like Nina Gordon and Kim Deal before her, Roebuck delivers a brilliant tale of two friends going in different directions – one is living vicariously through his idols and becoming distant from reality while the other is trying to bring him back from the rabbit hole. She comes to a point, however, where she has “to cut the cable” in order to save herself from becoming entangled in this alternative reality. The story is brilliantly conceived and told, and more importantly it is frighteningly real and present.
Pre-order Power Fantasy on Bandcamp and support this talented, young band.
MAWD – “Demons” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Elle King, Wild Belle, Alabama Shakes
Someone needs to explain to us how Madeleine Matthews and her project MAWD are not more well-known, especially since Los Angeles is their base. Like the city that is home to Hollywood, Matthews is a shape-shifting and unpredictable artist. She could be a diva one night and a classic soul singer the next. She can stir emotions with Whitney Houston-like ballads or deliver jarring blues-rock á là Elle King or Joss Stone. Surely there’s a label out there ready to support this burgeoning talent. Hopefully this day will come soon, but in the meantime the most discerning music listeners will known that the City of Angeles has a talent waiting to be discovered. Maybe this happens today or tomorrow with “Demons”.
The track is boisterous blues-rock that will get people of all ages up at their seats and dancing or at least strutting and clapping in time to the throbbing rhythms. The guitar hero types, meanwhile, will be getting out their air guitars and pretending to fire off the electricity that ignites the song. For the rest of us, though, we’ll be shouting along with Matthews during the chorus because we completely understand empathize with the feeling of being haunted by an ex or a stranger who gets permanently etched in our minds. Only an exorcism can rid them from our thoughts. As Matthews tells it:
“Every time I close my eyes
I see your face
The demons take your place
Every time I close my eyes
I can’t see no stars
Demons take your place!”
Someone sign this young talent.
The Nagging Doubts – “Berlin” & “Marine” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: The Cure, Eagulls, The Ninth Wave
When looking for the next, great Gothic post-punk band, one often looks towards the home of the Commonwealth, which gave the world The Cure, Joy Division, Wire, Eagulls, and a host of others. Australia, meanwhile, is often recognized for developing outstanding singer-songwriters and ambitious art-rock and psychedelic bands. The Nagging Doubts, though, are about to change everyone’s perceptions about both of these observations.
The Sydney-based quintet formed in 2018 while in high school. Despite their youth, they sound like they’ve been performing for years together, as their musicianship is stellar and their sound is mature and enrapturing. To demonstrate their immediate brilliance and immense potential, they have shared not one but two singles, and each will blow your mind. Like The Cure at their peak with touches of Joy Division, “Berlin” is the soundtrack for a late-night drive to nowhere. The ringing, dissonant guitars, the Peter Hook-like bass line, and the throbbing drums grab your attention, but front-man Joe Wilks’ deep tenor and spine-tingling story take hold of your mind. You feel like you’re the stranger “selling things t the side road”.
Meanwhile, “Marine” is a slow-building, emotional roller coaster. Wilks’ and bassist Ruby King share lead vocal roles, as they describe how their carefree adolescent days have been swept away like the arrival of high tide. Now they are left adrift on their own to navigate through the uncharted waters of these times. These remarkable singles are song-of-the-year contenders, and they come from a band who just finished high school.
The Nagging Doubts are: Joe Wilks (vocals), Eden Neilson (lead guitar), Ruby King (bass), Gabe Jessop-Smith (rhythm guitar), Tom O’Rourke (drums). This band is going places.
The singles are out on Scenic Drive, who will also release the band’s new EP, Autocalm, in 2021 (date TBC).
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