On this first day of the work week, The Matinee ’21 v. 011 offers a kaleidoscope of new music to suit every mood. There are some bangers, one heartfelt number, some hazy and shimmering tunes, and a bit of enchantment. The mini-playlist might actually fit every emotion you’ll experience today, so take a listen.
Valerie June – “Call Me a Fool” (Memphis, USA)
RIYL: Adia Victoria, Rhiannon Giddens, Gillian Welch
A new year with stories unwritten is full of hope. It’s natural to feel excited about the possibilities of what lies ahead, whether those unknowns include the release of new albums or the pursuit of unfulfilled dreams. Indie folk/soul artist Valerie June knows those feelings well and channels them in her first new music since 2017. “Call Me A Fool” features legendary Stax artist Carla Thomas (aka “The Queen of Memphis Soul”) on backing vocals. Together they stir hearts and souls on this track from June’s forthcoming third studio album, The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers.
“Thought I had it under control
But it shook me, gripped me, grabbed my soul
Heard it pound, it knocking on the door…
…this new love is so strong that
It’s a power keeps me holding on”
These lyrics about being moved by a force are applicable not just to love but also hope. Seeds of hope have been planted in young girls who watched two women of color – the USA’s first female vice president and the country’s youngest Poet Laureate – make history on a stage last week in Washington, DC. This song is a reminder that being called a fool for having dreams is often the best fuel for perseverance. Hearing an artist like Valerie June deliver such inspiring words with her powerful vocals will surely keep future history makers holding on.
Anorak Patch – “Irate” (Colchester, England)
RIYL: The Joy Formidable, Queens of the Stone Age, Blood Red Shoes
Anorak Patch are one of the youngest acts we’ve ever covered. The Colchester-based four-piece is a group of high school friends, including a 14-year old drummer. While they’re young, they draw influence from some great bands, and they have already put together some really great tracks, including the immensely danceable indie-rocker “6 Week Party”, and their latest shredder, “Irate”.
“Irate” starts out with heavy riffs and some really incredible drumming. The guitar roars through the track, and Effie Lawrence’s voice cuts trough it with undeniable power. There’s a bridge section that adds just the right amount of tension before a big release before it ends. Lyrically, they offer a unique perspective on “Irate”. It was written during the first UK lockdown, and the confusion and disruption it caused, from going to school to playing shows. While they’re just high school students, they don’t sound like it. Their sound is refined, and their lyrics are focused. They sound like a band that’s been around for longer than any of them have been alive!
Anorak Patch are Effie Lawrence (vocals & keyboards), Eleanor Helliwell (bass), Oscar Ryland (guitar), and Luca Ryland (drums).
Lower Myth – “Mercy” (Manila, Philippines)
RIYL: Yumi Zouma, Men I Trust, Beach House
It’s not often we sent our sights in Asia’s direction for new music. Part of the reason is the explosion of K-pop and J-pop, which has overwhelmed the burgeoning indie scene on the continent. Most of the indie bands that have achieved success reside in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, but now we look in the direction of the Philippines and a young artist who made us go, “Ooh”, with her newest single.
Her name is Andrea Ramos, and her project is Lower Myth. One listen to her newest single, “Mercy”, would not give any indication she recorded it in the small confines of her bedroom. With its smooth production and cool, sultry, synth-pop approach that echoes Yumi Zouma, “Mercy” sounds like it was taped in a Sony Music studio. The synths and 808s coolly shimmer in the background, creating a hazy atmosphere. The dreamy soundscape feels like we’ve been transported back to the ’80s and into the disco halls of New York City and San Francisco. Ramos’ lush vocals, meanwhile, unleash a spell of calm and awe, and each word is enchanting. Despite the feel-good sensation of the track, Ramos’ lyrics address the anxiety that eats away at here each day.
“I’ll sleep it off, I’ll come undone
Until I’m finally numb
I want this mercy
Some stillness in me
I want so badly to have control”
We may have found our first Hidden Gem of 2021. We’ll be watching her closely.
“Mercy” is available on Bandcamp.
Cassandra Jenkins – “Hard Drive” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Phoebe Bridgers, The National, The Weather Station
On her last single, “Michelangelo”, we described the music of Cassandra Jenkins as having an “understated power behind each word“. Not that her words have minimal impact, but that the laid-back nature in the way they’re delivered add even more power. No song by Jenkins embodies this more than her recently released “Hard Drive“, the second single off of her upcoming record, An Overview on Phenomenal Nature.
“Hard Drive” takes place in a month between tours for Jenkins, she was supposed to embark on a tour with Purple Mountains, and was set to go on the road opening for Craig Finn. Much of the song is in a spoken-word tone with Jenkins recalling the events of the month, including a conversation with a bookkeeper, her driving instructor, and a psychic. It’s wrapped up in a simple but gorgeous musical package of delicately picked guitar and piano. There are moments of the surreal, moments of frustration, and moments of hope. And while 2020 didn’t end up being the “good one” foretold by the psychic, it feels like we’ve turned a corner when we entered 2021 when the US inaugurated a new president, and that makes “Hard Drive” quite a relevant track on its own.
“She said, “Oh, dear, I can see you’ve had a rough few months
But this year
It’s gonna be a good one
I’ll count to three and tap your shoulder
We’re gonna put your heart back together”
THE ACTIONS – “Flourish” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Massive Attack, Portishead, Hundred Waters
Dim the lights, close your eyes, and listen. Listen closely to the entrancing synth echoes, the throbbing beats, and the aural hypnotism of Marta Argenio’s voice. Then let your mind run wild, as the haunting trip-hop of THE ACTIONS‘ new single, “Flourish”, plays in the background. As the song progresses, the slight tremble of Mo Stellato’s crystalline guitar occasionally flashes like lightning electrifying the still, black night. Forget about falling into the rabbit hole. This song is the rabbit hole, and it is broodingly enrapturing and brilliant.
For those being introduced to the veteran duo’s music for the first time, Argenio and Stellato are long-time masters of creating spine-tingling, mind-altering songs. With “Flourish”, however, they get a little bit wider screen and more cinematic, sonically and lyrically. While the song feels like we’re tumbling through one dimension after another, Argenio describes how one can overcome anything and flourish. How we can overcome the pending gloom with the belief we can persevere and succeed. THE ACTIONS are living proof of this philosophy.
Royal Blood – “Typhoons” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: The Black Keys, Highly Suspect, QOTSA,
Brighton-based Royal Blood have announced a new album for 2021, which is super exciting as their last release was back in 2017. They came back strong with “Trouble’s Coming” last year and follow that up with “Typhoons”, which is the title track from their upcoming album.
The great thing about their newest track is that they are definitely evolving their sound. We can always count on strong and dirty bass riffs from guitarist/singer Mike Kerr (yes that is a bass only killing it every time), but we hear some awesome additional elements. This time their new offering has a bit of an electronic vibe weaved in addition to the usual killer shreds from Mike and the pounding percussion from Ben Thatcher. It’s a perfect match – they still display their gritty and raw sound but with pop heavy melodies that are perfectly poised to shoot right to the top of the radio charts.
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