The songs on The Matinee ’21 v. 006 may be blissful and dreamy, but beneath the lush layers are stories of vulnerability, perseverance, and unexpected solitude. These tunes should be heard in a quiet place to fully experience their brilliance.

Jaguar Jonze – “Astronaut” (Brisbane, Australia via Yokohama, Japan)

RIYL: Lana Del Rey, Kate Bush, Regina Spektor

Over the past year, Deena Lynch has continued to amaze us with her cinematic, film-noir and espionage thriller-esque music she makes under the pseudonym Jaguar Jonze. Every time she releases a new single, we expect to it to be powerful and action-packed like “Murder” and “DEADALIVE”. There is so much more to Lynch’s craft, however, that we have yet to hear, which makes her one of Australia’s most exciting young talents. She peels away a layer and reveals one of these sides with “Astronaut”.

The song is arguably Lynch’s most beautiful and intimate release of her short career. It is part post-rock, part orchestral-pop, part darkwave, and completely fascinating. The slow build of the strings create the feeling of levitation, as if we’re drifting in space and allowing this world of zero gravity take us to the nearest planet or to another solar system. “Astronaut”, however, hold much deeper meaning for Lynch. The song’s title is an analogy for feeling lost in a boundary-less place, whose darkness overwhelms and eventually swallows you. This space is the anxiety that Lynch has battled all her life, which started when she immigrated alone to Australia as a child. Despite the gorgeous arrangement, pain and perseverance seep in every lyric:

“I close my eyes
And try to wear myself down
But why am I floating?
Why am I drifting off?
An endless world
My hands reach out for anything”

Jaguar Jonze’s new EP, Anti-Hero, will be released April 17th via Nettwerk Music Group.

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Hiss Golden Messenger – “Sanctuary” (Durham, NC USA)

RIYL: Drive-By Truckers, The Band, Phosphorescent

To say the last few years has been a tumultuous time for America would be a huge understatement. M.C. Taylor, through the music of Hiss Golden Messenger, has been an advocate for change, progress, and doing what’s right in these challenging times. Each song is made even more stirring by his exceptional storytelling ability. From “I Need a Teacher”, advocating for public education, to “When The Wall Comes Down”, about removing arbitrary man-made boundaries, Taylor always finds ways to shed light on complex issues and feelings.

On “Sanctuary”, Taylor once again dives into the difficult political realm. A cover image emblazoned with an upside-down American flag, the song is about doing what’s right, to live honestly and gracefully, even when it’s difficult. It’s about finding sanctuary in “good news”, how “bad news” is “part of the show”. It’s about real people, and real life situations. It’s accompanied by a beautiful video, as well, featuring a diverse cast of kids, produced by KidEthnic. Both the song and the video paint a picture of the real America that people need to fight for.

“Ragged people, hard times
And the lightning strikes the poorhouse
Rich man cries like a crocodile
Salvation, despair
But the game that they taught me
Sometimes it feels like it just ain’t fair”

The single is out on Merge Records.

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Spunsugar – “(You Never) Turn Around” (Malmö, Sweden)

RIYL: Lush, Chromatics, Electric Youth

One of the most exciting Swedish bands to emerge last year was Spunsugar. Elin Ramstedt, Cordelia Moreau, and Felix Sjöström, however, aren’t your typical Scandi band. They weren’t following in the footsteps of Amason, Dungen, or The Cardigans. Instead, their debut album, Drive-Through Chapel, which was one of 2020’s most underrated and overlooked records, fused’90s shoegaze with ’80s darkwave to startling effect. If  it wasn’t for a pandemic, the trio likely would have toured across the continent and ended up being one of the most buzzworthy outfits from Europe. Maybe 2021 will be the year that sees more people proclaim their fandom for them with “(You Never) Turn Around” being the gateway in Spunsugar’s world.

Whereas most of the tracks on Drive-Through Chapel featured thunderous shoegaze and post-punk, the Malmö-based three-piece delve more in the synth-pop world with their newest track. The outcome is a dazzling tune that sounds like it could have been created specifically for a late-’80s coming-of-age film. Shoegaze elements still remain, but the reverb-drenched guitar takes a back seat the scintillating synth work. Ramstedt’s hallow vocals, meanwhile, have a spiritual effect, as she spins a tale about moving on following the abrupt end to a relationship. It’s about not turning around to take that one last look and have regret linger. Instead, it’s time to start anew, which Spunsugar seems to be doing for 2021.

The single is out now on Adrian Recordings. Support this great, young band if you can by purchasing the single on Bandcamp.

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Isadora Eden – “Ghosts” (Denver, USA)

RIYL: Daughter, Fenne Lily, Elena Tonra

Our favorite lists to prepare and read are the Ones to Watch or Artists to Watch because we get to see if other curators, magazines, and influencers share our excitement for the same musicians and bands or whether we’ve really mined deep for those hidden gems. One artist we strongly considered but were glad to see on 303 Magazine’s 19 Denver Musicians to Watch in 2021′ was Isadora Eden. Her debut EP, Quick to Burn, was intimate indie-folk in the Tiny Ruins mould. Like many people, however, Eden is using 2021 to start a new chapter in her music career and, consequently, force more people to take notice.

And notice they will with “Ghosts”. The intimacy remains, but Eden takes her sound to ethereal heights. With a full band behind her, Eden has crafted a breathtaking number that is akin to the beautifully foreboding soundscapes of Daughter. Through the trembling arrangements, Eden’s lush and intoxicating vocals shine through. She shares with the world the demons that lurk deep inside her mind and how loneliness continues to haunt her.

“So I wrote these chords out on the back of a therapy worksheet
I know it’s better now but I hope it’s not the ceiling
Humming melodies I haven’t heard in years
I found an old song whose only line was fuck this feeling”

Eden’s new EP, All Night, is out February 5th. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.

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TOLEDO – “Dog Has Its Day” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: My Morning Jacket (‘Tennessee Fire’ era) Trace Mountains, Real Estate

We might be in the deep throes of winter with much of North America covered in snow (it even snowed in Texas last week!), but we all could use a tune that reminds of us of lazy nights on the patio and spending a weekend camping with close friends. Or in other words, songs like TOLEDO‘s “Dog Has Its Day” to come around and warm our souls.

Daniel Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz, the men behind TOLEDO, have already demonstrated that they can create sweet and lovely melodies, as they did on the single “Challenger” and pretty much every song they’ve written to date. On their latest track, however, they strip back the arrangements to create a more intimate and engrossing number. It is a song that would be perfect for performing around the campfire, where the flickering flames provide the backdrop to the Brooklyn duo’s hypnotic powers. Their lush falsettos are stunning, and the lithe melodies soothing. Despite the song’s prettiness, the tale is one of heartbreak and despair. It is a song for the lonely heart navigating once again through the uncertain waters of solitude, and a song that will help all of us get through the tumultuous times.

TOLEDO’s new EP, Jockeys of Love, arrives January 29th. It promises to be as lovely and serene as the band’s past efforts.

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Silver Strands – “We Could Be Love” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: The War on Drugs, Lord Huron, Strand of Oaks

As you listen to this new song from Silver Strands, do yourself a favor: close your eyes and picture yourself by a lake on a summer’s day. The lushness of these tones pairs perfectly with a setting of serene warmth. “We Could Be Love” is a seamless fusion of The War on Drugs and Lord Huron – meaning its textures are timeless – but there is something magical in the build-up here that draws you closer. Frontman Nathan Beale’s dreamy vocals are inviting enough on their own. He wowed us late last year with his debut EP which features the outstanding title track “Born to Lose” and “When The Lighthouse Fades”, the latter which was included on The Mega, Mega Playlist of 2020. Now the Los Angeles-based artist gets 2021 off to a brilliant start with this stunner that evokes a dive into sunlit waters. 

The languid intro quickly reveals a hypnotizing bass line and a driving tempo. As the title repeats in a dizzying mantra, you may feel a bit breathless. There is no reprieve at the bridge when he sings, “I’ll pretend not to notice / if you’ll pretend not to care.” This is the point when breathing may become increasingly difficult, because you can’t inhale once you plunge into the depths of this tune. You simply have to resurface, take another deep breath, and dive again. It is one of the year’s best songs and well worth many repeated spins. 

The Silver Strands EP Born to Lose is out now on Bandcamp.

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