First, we would like to extend our gratitude to all the women and men who have served our countries throughout the years and for all the sacrifices you have made so that we can live freely. We can only hope that people around the world, including those holding the highest offices in their nations, will also understand what it means to put country first before self.
The Matinee ’20 November 11 features ten songs from nine artists and bands. Each of them offers a reminder of what our lives could and should be, and that we must persevere if we are to change ourselves and the world. Most of the songs below are on our November playlist, which is available on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Pearl Charles – “Imposter” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Carole King, Carly Simon, Jenny Lewis
In another era, Pearl Charles would be a superstar. She would have followed in the footsteps of Dolly Parton, who she looked up to as she shared in our recent The Artists Speak feature, and would have been a household name when turned 17 years old. For now, though, the young Los Angeles resident is a favorite of indie music connoisseurs across the world, who gravitate to her lush voice, old-school charm, and ’60s and ’70s leanings. She’s a throwback to a time when every song heard on the radio was genuine and came from the heart, and she reminds of what those days were like with “Imposter”.
With the grace of Carole King and the hip modernity of Jenny Lewis, Charles delivers a sublime and stunning piece of ’70s soft rock etched with traces of cosmic country. The song is like a summertime wander through their forest, where one can drown in her dreams while basking in the beauty that surrounds her. It is a moment of true self-bliss and elation. In true Charles fashion, however, her words are not light, airy, nor dreamy. They are not the words of a young woman leading a carefree life. Charles instead shares with us her constant contemplation of who she is and whether she has been true to herself. Her words, though, are not just for her but us, too:
“Now you’re off in the ether
I still project your entanglement
Funny how you can still be
And be somewhere else instead
And I am the imposter
I already lost her
I keep looking for myself”
Small Black – “Tampa” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Washed Out, Wild Nothing
We try not to get too ahead of ourselves when it comes to upcoming releases. There’s a fine line between being excited about a band’s new album and being tortured by the indefinite wait for its release. When the endlessly brilliant Brooklyn indie outfit Small Black shared their new single, we presumed a full album was imminent. While the band will keep us waiting a bit for the follow-up to their 2015 album Best Blues, they give fans plenty to swoon over on “Tampa.”
The lush hues of this track take you to a place of ’80s-inspired retro bliss. But a keen ear will discern a crack in that idyllic façade. Beneath the rosy colors lies the truth of its message: not even a change of scenery lets you outrun your problems. So while you may take a holiday to a tropical destination, the issues you faced back home stowed away in your luggage. Small Black have delivered yet another dazzling gem.
Small Black are: Josh Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums).
Yung – “Above Water” (Aarhus, Denmark)
RIYL: Cloud Nothings, Japandroids, Fuzz
Not every band can just load up music onto YouTube and become instant stars. Some take time to percolate and gradually grow before they get noticed. For Danish quartet Yung, their breakthrough has been over five years in the making. In 2015, they released a couple of songs, including the dreamy, fuzzy “Blue Uniforms”. Earlier this year, they shared a double A-side single that included the throbbing “Progress”. This band has been on our radar screen during this half-decade, and this year they finally signed with one of the best indie labels in Europe. And their partnership with PNKSLM Recordings will see them release a new album, Ongoing Dispute, on January 22nd, 2021. The LP’s lead single is one that not only is a great re-introduction to Mikkel Holm Silkjær, Tobias Guldborg Tarp, Frederik Nybo Veile, and Emil Zethsen’s immense talents, but it is a timely track, too.
According to the band, “Above Water” started off as an ode to the great Yo La Tengo. The end product, though, is a sheer force of indie-rock awesomeness that combines Cloud Nothings’ grittiness, Japandroids’ garage-rock intensity, and Ty Segall’s fuzzy trippiness. The military-like percussion that drives the track is genius, as it perfectly complements Shord’s politically-charged lyrics. He sings about one young girl taking a stand against the authoritarianism that has grown in her community and country. She is the Joan of Arc who is going to sacrifice herself for the greater good. We sure could use such a hero now. Actually, she is around us today. We see them in the faces of our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our grandmothers, our partners, and our daughters. We see them in the Malala Yousafzais and Greta Thunbergs of the world. Now, we have a song to salute them.
Lea Porcelain – “Choirs to Heaven” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Foals, Youth Lagoon, Mormor
We dare you to find one perfect word to summarize the breathtaking qualities of “Choirs to Heaven” from Lea Porcelain. We could scour every thesaurus in multiple languages but will never find a single term that captures the euphoric rush this song provides. Perhaps the Berlin-based dream rock outfit simply operate at a higher frequency where emotion transcends language? That is our best guess, because each spin of this song takes you to unexpected heights.
“Choirs to Heaven” follows the band’s usual style. The seamless fusion of dream-pop tones and warm vocals are instantly hypnotic. The first notes tranquilize your senses. Soon you feel swept away into the night, lost in a fever dream. Don’t be surprised if you feel powerless to move while the verses and chorus keep you transfixed. You may even need to remind yourself to breathe. This is one dream you won’t want to wake from.
This song is streaming now from these links. Look for the album of the same name to arrive sometime in 2021.
Famous Letter Writer – “All In My Head” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: The Flaming Lips, Eels, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
For many Americans, the past four years was more than just a challenging time. The days, weeks, and months brought plenty of strife, conflict, and even separation of friends and family, as individuals argued about what was true and false and how they saw the world. All of this happened because one many completely distorted reality, destroyed the concept of fact, and made tens of millions of people believe a single individual was greater than the whole. Should he eventually concede the election results, his mark will last years if not generations, and the divisions created between once inseparable siblings and best mates may be irreparable. That is his legacy, which may have the most lasting impact. Documenting this divide are Famous Letter Writer, the New York City outfit who are quickly making a name for themselves with their imaginative and provocative art-rock.
Through a slow yet rapturous groove that is reminiscent of The Flaming Lips’ most toned-down tracks (and front man M.I. Devine sounds like a young Wayne Coyne), the quintet tell several stories of loss and separation on “All In My Head”. Some of the tales involve seeing a friend drowning into depths of the dark web while others reflect his own inner turmoil.
“And a kid just googled
Is God really dead?
O Siri, can you tell me
Is it all in my head?”
As the song’s tempo picks up and turns into a late-summer delight, Devine hollers, “Don‘t tell me any lies!” This is his reckoning with the untruth. His reckoning with the state of his life, his reality, his country. Maybe the man who caused such trauma will awaken to his own reckoning soon.
Famous Letter Writer include M.I. Devine (vocals/guitar), Ru Devine (synth/keys), Keith Zarriello (guitar), Ari Folman-Cohen (bass), and Aynsley Powell (drums). Their debut album, W̶A̶R̶H̶O̶L̶A̶ , is out today on Big Deep Records. Get it here.
Bandanna – “Ghost Home” & “Sleepy Eyes” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Mothers, Big Thief, Valley Queen
A Bandanna is not just a cool thing to wear on your head, spelled slightly wrong. Rather, it’s a band featuring an Anna. Origin story aside, Bandanna has grown from being just the project of singer/songwriter Anna Griffith, as she’s added drummer Nick Bell, bassist Tim Holder, and keyboardist Mason Palanti. The four combined in 2019 to release the gorgeous folk-pop track, “Fire Escape” , and they’ve just released two more tracks, “Ghost Home” and “Sleepy Eyes”.
“Ghost Home” welcomes the listener in with a guitar hook that’s reminiscent of Big Thief. It builds into a stunner of a track, Griffith’s voice is wonderful throughout, especially with just a bit of piano and keyboard underneath. About halfway through, it kicks into another gear, with some heavy drums and distorted guitar, before it all falls apart and gives way to some infectious guitar chords and more of Griffith’s floating vocals.
On “Sleepy Eyes”, Griffith’s vocal ability is on full display. It also has this infectious guitar part, and delectably intricate drum beat. Add in a haunting layer of harmonies and synth, it really fits title. The track comes to an end quite intensely, with these amazing drum fills and a huge atmospheric shift.
“Ghost Home” and “Sleepy Eyes” are on uncertain/ty, Bandanna’s upcoming record, out this Friday, November 13 on Cat Family Records.
Juna – “Amanat” (Kazan, Russia)
RIYL: Björk, Cicha & Pałyga, Loma
Great music has no limitations. We don’t need to speak the same language to recognize a truly outstanding tune because the best songs move you in multiple ways that go beyond the words expressed. This is particularly true when a track grabs hold of your mind and causes you to envision places near and faraway and memories of the past and those that are still to be made. This is what Kazan-based collective Juna have achieved with their single, “Amanat”.
Comprised of 10 musicians and with lyrics in Tatar, the band have crafted an experience that personifies the term enchanting. The song feels like it was born out of a 17th Century fairy tale, as a darkness from the rushed strings and percussion enshrouds the stunning mysticism of the innocent vocals and fluttering Crimean guitar. The soundscape is beautiful but haunting, and you’re attention is drawn to it immediately like a fire raging in the still blackness. As the song builds, you might think you are Little Red Riding Hood skipping through the forest on your way to meet destiny or possibly Hansel or Gretel on a voyage to one’s sweet finale. Or maybe you see a bright light that represents the birth of another life, of another chapter about to start for all of us. But is this just the beginning or is it the end?
Let this song be the beginning of your love affair with this talented band from Tatarstan. Juna’s new album, Amanat, is out now. Streaming links are available here or head directly to Bandcamp. By the way, the song is about undying love. Sounds like a fairy tale after all.
Kiwi Jr. – “Cooler Returns” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Parquet Courts, Ought, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
The gents behind Kiwi Jr. might have an identity crisis. Their name obviously is the affectionate moniker by which New Zealanders are known plus that country’s national bird. Even their music would be well placed on the legendary Flying Nun label. Their previous track, the immensely smart and timely “Undecided Voters”, focused on the small group of individuals that would decide who would become the United States’ 46th President. On their newest single, they don’t exactly sweep aside the notion that they would rather be elsewhere, but they sure know how to get a crowd rocking and rolling.
“Cooler Returns” is an umptious sonic experiment of hip-shaking, head-spinning, neck-jerking, quirky guitar pop-rock. It’s the Talking Heads, Parquet Courts, and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever wrapped into one awesome track. As wild, crazy, and infectious the music is, the gents discuss how 2020 has truly screwed up their equilibrium and sense of self. “I’m not an American, but I feel the beat sometimes”, front-man Jeremy Gaudet urgently sings, referencing how one doesn’t need to live stateside to feel the havoc being caused by a few. Even the Super Bowl, which is mentioned right at the start, causes him to feel ill. Granted, the reference is to him puking while playing the Halftime Show, which they recreate on their funny video.
Kiwi Jr. are: Jeremy Gaudet (vocals, guitar, keys), Brian Murphy (guitar, backing vocals), Mike Walker (bass, keys, backing vocals), and Brohan Moore (drums, backing vocals). Their new album, Cooler Returns, drops January 22, 2021 via Sub Pop (global) and their own Kiwi Club imprint. Bandcamp and the label’s store are the places to go to pre-order the record.
Riley Pearce – “Electricity” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: Leif Vollebekk, Angie McMahon, Dave Ramirez
With the world seeming to be in an endless tailspin, it’s easy to forget about the people who have been with you through the good and tough times. We have the tendency to allow all the noise to come between us and eventually divide us. Right now, though, is not one of those times. Instead, set aside all the distractions, grab hold of all your loved ones, and together listen to “Electricity”, the newest song from one of Australia’s finest singer-songwriters, Riley Pearce.
Like everything he has done over the past half-decade, Pearce captures everyone’s hearts with this gorgeous piece of dream-folk. The arrangements are simple, yet they are beautifully serene, intimate, and breathtaking. Pearce’s voice, too, is full of intimacy and emotion, as he paints a picture of two people trying to survive in today’s crumbling world while keeping their integrity and, most importantly, their love for one another.
“Oh, and I don’t care if we never get there
I just want you and you alone
One day things will go our way
Maybe we can build ourselves a home
Oh, I want to be all that you need me to be
Someone who sparks your electricity”
Pearce’s new EP, Love and Other Stuff, is due March 19th, 2021 via Nettwerk Music Group. Stay together and believe in one another.
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