After a long week, get your pick-me-up with the The Matinee ’20 November 6 edition. Ten songs from nine artists occupy this mini-playlist. There are some deep, thoughtful numbers and entertaining yet clever tunes. These songs should be enough to keep you busy for a day. For weekend entertainment, spin this month’s playlist that features the songs that are tickling us pink in this first week of November. Find it on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Iska Dhaaf – “If You Want It” & “Unheard Choir” (Brooklyn & Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
This first week of November has been fraught with plenty of anxious, election-related stress eating. While the political landscape remains stormy, one of our favorite bands is doing their part to settle our frayed nerves. Indie duo Iska Dhaaf has released a new EP that despite its brevity still provides an immersive escape.
Up is a collection of five songs, including “Crying in Your Sleep” and “Frida Kahlo”, recorded for a planned full-length album. But as we all know, 2020 has turned “plan” into the ultimate four-letter word. Thankfully, nothing deters Nathan Quiroga and Benjamin Verdoes from sharing their creative vision. “If You Want It” and “Unheard Choir” are additional gems in the album’s crown. They shine alongside the other EP songs we have previously shared (“Crying in Your Sleep” and “Frida Kahlo” ), radiating a calm glow so desperately needed right now.
Start your day with the energizing “If You Want It” for its Sufjan Stevens-esque brightness that provides an organic rush. Then unwind in the evening as the lush “Unheard Choir” dissipates your stress. These two songs alone are all the proof you need that Iska Dhaaf excel at making brilliant indie music. The rest of the EP proves why it’s one of the year’s best releases.
The Parson Red Heads – “Coming Along” (Portland, OR USA)
RIYL: The Jayhawks, Wilco, Golden Smog
Three years ago this Portland band sang the line “Every day I wake up sane” on their Blurred Harmony album. Sanity is no longer a familiar concept for the rest of us, especially those most impacted by the American political circus. The last few years have been anything but sane. Fortunately for our collective mental health, that same band has new music to help soothe our minds. The Parson Red Heads picked a perfect time to deliver more of their cosmic Americana brilliance.
“Coming Along” is the reward for patient fans who have been jonesing for some sonic bliss. It may also serve as an introduction to listeners who are only now discovering the band. If you fall into the latter category, may we suggest getting comfy in your favorite music-listening spot. You will want to park yourself there for a good long while as you become immersed in these rich tones. “Coming Along” offers the best of indie Americana: warm harmonies, vibrant instrumentation, and plenty of dynamic layers that put you right inside each note. The gentle psychedelic flourishes greet your ears softly then keep you listening for the variations to come.
The Parson Red Heads – which currently includes Evan Way, Brette Marie Way, Raymond Richards, Robbie Augspurger, and Jake Smith – have a timeless sound you will want to keep in heavy rotation. We aren’t saying this song is better than therapy, but its euphoric effects don’t require a prescription or an appointment. It has us excited to hear what other delights await on the new album.
Oxen – “Indie Dreams” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Honey Lung, Damen
The last time we heard from Erik Hases and Stefan Söderqvist, the longtime friends behind Oxen, was back in May when they shared the indie treat, “Dark And Depressive” (although they did share the clever “Buy a Dog” a month ago). The song was a reminder of why we thought they could end up being one of Sweden’s great bands for the next decade or more. We still believe that because the duo’s approach is thoughtful and considerate, where their songs always captured not just the times but the exact moment. They do this again with “Indie Dreams.”
Be prepared to believe it’s late summer again because “Indie Dreams” is a jangle-pop delight that will have you waving your head from side to side and walking down the street with a smile on your face. It’s blissful and uplifting in its sonic delivery. The duo’s story, however, is one that conveys a different reality. They share their desire to start all over again and find meaning in life again. To find happiness and hope.
“Don’t know if this year might bring a change
But we do it again and hope for the best
Staring into dead eyes
Walking in the daylight
Searching for something real
Going to the ocean
I want to see an ending
Searching for something new.”
Let’s hope 2021 will bring us something new.
The single is out on Harmoni while the new album once again drops next Friday, November 13th.
LINN – “Happy Metal” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation, Leftfield, Earth and Fire
For all the musicians out there, we have a challenge for you: create a catchy but inventive song using children’s toys. Jimmy Fallon and The Roots use kids’ instruments to recreate popular tunes, but we’re talking actual toys that are tossed around, dunked in the tub, and used as battering rams. Hmm… this would be a cool competition to hold, especially with so many countries around the world in lockdown. If someone held such a contest, LINN would have an edge with her new single, “Happy Metal.”
Sampling some of her daughter’s toys, the Copenhagen-based artist has crafted a swirling and intoxicating piece of lo-fi psych-pop. It is old-school with its hazy vibes and minimalist effects, yet it is modern in its creativity and multifaceted nature in that the song can be spun in a crowded club or in the seclusion of your bedroom. It is one awesome trip that gets stuck in your head the more times you listen to it.
The single is from LINN’s forthcoming debut EP, Happy Metal, which arrives Friday, November 13th. Before you go to the next track, try to guess the toys used in the song.
Ellie Bleach – “I Thought I Saw You Last Night” (London, England)
RIYL: Eleanor Friedberger, Faye Webster, Molly Burch
Ellie Bleach is quickly carving a space for herself as one of the most interesting songwriters coming out of England. With a sharp wit and catchy tunes, Bleach’s brand of pop dives into some unique (and at times dark) subjects. Earlier this year she shared “He Bought Me Nikes”, which uses imagery from Christian death cults to describe a certain type of guy while keeping it tongue in cheek.
On her newest single, “I Thought I Saw You Last Night”, she keeps that sharp lyricism and pairs it with a fun bit of energy. It’s a foot-stomper with infectious piano work and a great bass line. Bleach paints a picture of walking past a dive bar and hearing a song that’s reminiscent of an ex. It goes through the memories and thoughts that come with that feeling, from the failings and regret to crashing their future wedding. Bleach sings “I never thought a major chord could make me want to die” over upbeat, almost cheerful backing instrumentation that makes that line hit even harder.
“I Thought I Saw You Last Night” is available to purchase on Bandcamp.
Oscar Lang – “Antidote to Being Bored” (London, England)
RIYL: Mikal Cronin, DIIV, Ron Gallo
Earlier this year Brit-pop rocker Oscar Lang released the energetic EP, Hand Over Your Head. The little record was entertaining to the core, as the Londoner knows how to not only unleash catchy riffs but also craft clever, insightful stories. Despite his youth, he personifies what a great artist should be. If you missed out on the EP, you don’t want to overlook his newest single.
With “Antidote to Being Bored”, Lang delivers a late-season treat will get your adrenaline rushing and fists pumping while the air guitar enthusiasts flash their best poses. The song is meant to be heard in a stadium full of fans, but for now we’ll just turn up the volume and dance. But if you’re the mellower type, you can listen to Lang’s outstanding songwriting, as he witnesses the life of an active, independent, young woman suddenly falling apart through her own indiscretions. Her life is a train wreck from which Lang cannot avert his gaze. She is his “antidote to being bored.” She is a symbol of self-inflicted pain that we, as humans, are causing to one another and the planet as the whole.
The song is out on the excellent label Dirty Hit, that will also release the Antidote to Being Bored EP on December 4th.
Good Morning TV – “Insomniac” (Paris, France)
RIYL: Wet, Men I Trust, Melody’s Echo Chamber
It doesn’t get much dreamier than the music of Bérénice Deloire, aka Good Morning TV. Deloire released a fuzzed-out EP, Ordinary People, in 2016. It was fairly lo-fi and psychedelic and incredibly easy to get immersed in.
Deloire is back with a new single, “Insomniac”, which builds on the dreaminess established on that debut EP but takes it to new heights. The production is pristine: listeners are greeted with an intentionally wobbly electric piano before some guitar kicks in. It’s a slow build, but once Deloire’s voice comes in, it’s joined by bass and a great percussion. It keeps building and introduces a layer of fuzz that fits “Insomniac” quite nicely, this time brought on by synths instead of guitar effects. The result is a track that is absolutely stunning, and even a bit strange. It’s accompanied by a video which matches that vibe.
Lowertown – “Best Person You Know” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Soccer Mommy, Snail Mail, Faye Webster
Lowertown is the name of the Atlanta-based duo of Olivia Osby and Avsha Weinberg. They’re two friends creating music together, and their first EP, Friends, was about the people in their lives. It’s a pretty laid-back affair with emotionally-driven lyricism and lo-fi instrumentals.
“Best Person You Know” is the duo’s newest single and continues to showcase their potential for greatness. Osby’s lyrics pack a punch with every word, and her delivery is incredible. It’s a song about toxic friendships, described by the band as representing “the conflicting emotions and how quickly things change.” It’s a song full of abrupt change and bubbling distortion. Hearing the acoustic guitar give way to a wall of sound is one of the song’s most satisfying moments.
“Best Person You Know” is accompanied by a quirky, horror inspired music video in which Weinberg is murdered a few times. Despite its gruesome nature, it’s a fun ride that also fits the song’s changing nature quite well.
Courting – “Popshop!” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Blur, Parquet Courts, Ought
We called Courting “a band to watch” after they released the incredibly entertaining and clever “David Byrne’s Badside.” A few months since that introduction, our opinion has not changed. If anything, the quartet have cemented our belief that they are going very far. We’re not talking about regular airplay on BBC Radio but placements in some of the world’s biggest festivals (once they resume) and likely opening for some big bands in the near future. We wouldn’t be surprised, for instance, if they got a call from Blur if the legendary band do another reunion tour. In the meantime, Courting are growing their own legend with “Popshop!”
Part ’80s Brit-pop in the aforementioned Blur style and part 2010s indie-rock in the sly style of Parquet Courts, the song is one racket of a track. It is quirky and fun, amusing yet intelligent, and just awesome. As the rhythms bubble and cause listeners to bob their heads and the jangly guitar gets toes and hips shaking, frontman Sean Murphy-O’Neill delivers a biting critique of the music industry and the shortcuts artists will take to be stars. In other words, they’re taking on the sellouts who sacrifice their art for money:
“Major contract, signee enables
Content shitty, income stabled
Terms and conditions, work for exposure
Exclusive access, no rights to your rights
Telling you where to go, won’t put you up for the night”
We doubt this band of Sean Murphy-O’Neill (guitar/vocals/cowbell), Sean Thomas (drums/vocals), Michael Downes (guitar), and Sam Brennan (bass) will sell out anytime soon. The band’s debut EP, Grand National, will be released in the spring of 2021 on super boutique label Nice Swan Records.
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