As we celebrate the dawn of a new era in the US and hopefully the start of a bright new chapter for the world as a whole, the six songs on The Matinee ’21 v. 009 offer inspiration of a different sort. Some offer an escape, others help us to move forward from the past, and a couple make us feel like we’re attending a live show for the first time in months. We kick things off with a couple who have long enlivened our souls.
Mint Julep – “Black Maps” (Portland, OR USA)
RIYL: Still Corners, Chromatics, Slowdive
The secret to a successful partnership lies in movement: whether subtle or swift, constant movement prevents stagnation. Consider the partnership of the band Mint Julep for example. Married artists Keith and Hollie Kenniff create a gently whirling vortex of dreamy tones on their newest single.
“Black Maps” from their forthcoming In a Deep & Dreamless Sleep album is a breathtaking dose of hazy dream-pop that perfectly suits this new era. Listeners will want to swim amid the fluid fusion of Hollie’s vocals and lyrics with Keith’s rich instrumentation. Fans of Keith’s solo projects (Goldmund, Helios) who are used to his ambient style have much to savor here. Their movement here brims with vitality in every note. While these dreamy textures may evoke Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine, the song is far more sun-kissed.
Kenniff explains that the song’s dream-like “stream of consciousness” was the result of dense layers:
“After coming up with the initial cord progression, Hollie’s lyrics came together and ended up being very evocative and poetic… so we reflected that with the rest of the music. We used a lot of gritty, old tape-ish processing and lots of heavily reverb/delayed synths to help propel an overall wash of tonalities.”
The result is more sonic bliss from one of music’s most talented collaborators. We are excited to hear what other gems are in store on the new album.
Wy – “Come Here” (Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Mojave 3, Miya Folick, Eliza Shaddad
Five years ago, a little duo from Sweden left us speechless with their low-key dream-pop that fans of ’90s music would have considered to be sadcore. Whatever one wishes to categorize Ebba and Michel Gustafsson Ågren’s project, Wy, as, all could agree their music is beautifully vulnerable. Their 2017 debut album, Okay, was a stunning achievement while 2019’s Softie was equally lush and memorable. The duo are now preparing for the release of their third record, and the lead single builds on their emotional, throwback approach.
“Come Here” is another melancholic breath-taker from the Malmö-based couple. As Michel’s guitar shreds a weeping melody, Ebba’s stirring voice occasionally breaks as she reveals her struggles with her mental health while trying to keep her marriage together. She is afraid that everything will come crashing down. She is afraid that the one person she should confide in may not be able to help her or she may drive him away. Ebba’s openness and vulnerability are two reasons why we adore the band, as her stories make us feel that we are not alone in feeling afraid.
“‘Of what?’ you ask, and I say
It’s such a long time since I cried
I’m scared of talking
I just want to be right
My brain is fried
I can smell it burning
And I ask you as nice as I can
To put it out”
Yard Act – “Dark Days” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: The Clockworks, Blur, Arctic Monkeys
When live shows return to the entire world, especially in North America and across Europe, we want to descend upon an underground venue and throw ourselves into a crowd of jumping, sweaty, frenzied music fanatics. On stage would be a young, hungry, and intelligent band like Yard Act, whose punk-infused Brit-pop incite one frenetic dance party or mosh pit. With that, clear the living room, bedroom, office, or wherever you may be and lose your marbles with “Dark Days”.
Combining the off-kilter, buzzing Brit-pop of Blur; the fiery, clever lyricism of post-punk bands like Fontaines D.C. and The Clockworks; and the dance-rock fury of a wide-eyed Arctic Monkeys, the Leeds quartet have delivered an adrenaline-inducing, mind-churning number. Or more concise, this song is simply awesome! As great as the music is, front-man James Smith’s lyrics are cunning and relevant. It’s one part political commentary, another part an espionage thriller, and then partially introspective. The track is filled with literary delights, such as:
“Near mint condition from Selfridges mate
I see arsonists with business rates etched on the back of empty match boxes
Police officers getting their truncheons polished off in the bushes
Wondering what all the fuss is about And what I’m looking at”
Yard Act are James Smith (vocals/guitar), Ryan Needham (bass), George Townend (drums), and Sammy Robinson (guitar). They could potentially be the band that fills the enormous gap left by Eagulls’ absence.
Their split 7″ double-A side single is out now. Get it on Bandcamp.
Nana Yamato – “Do You Wanna” (Tokyo, Japan)
RIYL: Steady Holiday, Ela Minus, gobbinjr
Nana Yamato’s path to her debut record has been anything but straightforward. The 20-year old from Japan has a few releases to her credit, under the name ANNA, relatively lo-fi, but enough creativity to attract the attention of A. Savage of Parquet Courts’ Dull Tools label. Yamato released a fantastic single last year, “If”, and she is back with another, “Do You Wanna”.
Where Yamato’s first single was more guitar driven, “Do You Wanna” is a fairly low-key electronic affair. Driven by synth loops and a drum machine, as well as Yamato’s whispery voice, it has a dreamy quality to it. Yamato describes “Do You Wanna” as “a song about self-transformation, what I felt in the process. When I was younger I thought I was an independent person, but in fact, I was selfish and left it all to others.” It’s a relatable topic, and one that many people, much older than Yamato stuggle with. “Do You Wanna” is also accompanied by a music video that was also directed and edited by Yamato, featuring heavy video effects that make the song seem even more dreamy.
Juan Wauters – “Presentation” (with Nick Hakim & Benamin) (New York City, USA)
RIYL: The Growlers, Tijuana Panthers, Walter TV
Juan Wauters‘ early career was intrinsically linked to Mac DeMarco. The two were roommates, toured together, shared a common interest in creating moody, lo-fi indie rock, and signed with the same label. Now after spending months in lockdown, the Queens, NY resident is turning over a new leaf and going wider screen. He’s, in other words, going from indie to Marvel blockbuster with “Presentation”.
Featuring his pals and fellow musicians Nick Hakim and Benamin, Wauters amps up the tempo and fun factor. Latin textures intersect with pop, rock, hip hop, and even a touch of funk on this anthem made for spinning in the heat of summer, at a time when the barbecues are sparked and the beaches are overwhelmed with bathers. Like the scintillating vibes that emanate from this cool track, Wauters’ lyrics, too, refer to renewal and rebirth.
“Nothing new but more due bills to pay.
Let me say,
Got caught up in the system,
Got fed up and I dissed them
Now they’re on their knees
I’m about to say peace
There must be lights shining brighter somewhere.”
If Wauters continues down this path, his words, “This Latin is going platinum”, might come to fruition. We believe he can do it.
Alexander Biggs – “I’ve Been Holding Onto You For Way Too Long” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Riley Pearce, Patrick Watson, Hovvdy
For five years, Alexander Biggs has mastered the craft of cinematic dream-folk and, in the process, has positioned himself as one of Australia’s finest singer-songwriters. Given that he’s been on our radar since 2015, we were shocked to learn that the Melbourne-based artist still had yet to release an album. This changes, however, in two weeks when his long-awaited debut LP, Hit or Miss, will be revealed to the world. At the end of 2020, Biggs offered a taste of what is to come with the crippling “Low”. With his latest single, “I’ve Been Holding Onto You For Way Too Long”, the comparisons to Sufjan Stevens will only intensify.
Like his idol, Biggs has created a stunning and exquisite piece of dream-folk. In addition, he beautifully captures the resilience of the human spirit with subtlety and simplicity. There are no special bells and whistles, just an immaculately arranged song where every element quietly comes together to create an emotional surge. The lithe piano touches, the gently strums of the guitars, the light pulses of the drums and bass, and a solemn hum of brass are all wonderfully executed, and they provide the canvas to Biggs’ intimate falsetto and story of trying to move on from someone he’s lost. He’s trying to separate himself from the past and step into the future, but tomorrow feels like a lifetime away.
“I’ve been holding onto you for way too long
I’ve been tryna give myself
A shot at moving on
I’ve been keeping out of sight,
Just hiding in the dark
I’ve been trying to keep my mind
From running circles all night long”
Pre-order Hit or Miss on Bandcamp and support this incredibly gifted individual.
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