The return of a great post-punk band and a few newish artists occupy The Matinee ’21 v. 018. While they are each sonically different, they all speak to how we’ve lost something during these surreal past 12 months.
Iceage – “The Holding Hand” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Preoccupations, Fontaines D.C, Savages
YYYEEESSS! That was our reaction when learning that arguably the best post-punk band around, Iceage, shared a new song yesterday. The release was not accompanied by an announcement that a new album was coming, although we think (hope) that bit of information is coming soon. In the meantime, we’ll just have to be satisfied with another gargantuan single from the Danish outfit, as “The Holding Hand” is one dark, menacing affair.
Following their outstanding Beyondless album, which was one of our favorite LPs of 2018, and last year’s one-off single, “Lockdown Blues”, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt (vocals/lyrics), Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass), Johan Wieth (guitar), Casper Morilla (guitar), and Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums) expand their horizons once again. “The Holding Hand” is stark and grimy at first, slowly and methodically pounding like a person creeping through an abandoned, desolate house at 2AM. As the song slowly builds, it becomes more eerie with guest musician Nils Gröndahl’s steely violin piercing through the darkness. This moment represents the gateway into a subterranean world where souls go to perish, and suddenly the instrumentation wails and grinds. Meanwhile, Rønnenfelt’s voice grows more vulnerable and desperate, and he looks to the skies and hollers:
“‘O limp wristed god, limp wristed god
Don’t you know I’m not at a fault in your weakened arms
Knocking on your window is a cavalcade
Pleading for relief, a call to aid”
This track and Rønnenfelt’s words perfectly capture the mood of the past twelve months and beyond. Iceage have captured our personal desolation.
Pixey – “Electric Dream” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Hatchie, Nilüfer Yanya, IAN SWEET
Sia, Robyn, and now Pixey? Yep, we truly believe that Lizzie Hillesdon’s project can indeed be the next great pop mononym to grace this planet, as she was, after all, one of our Artists to Watch in 2021. But unlike her more famous pop contemporaries, the Liverpudlian’s music is much more diverse and creative. She first Dee-lited with her neo-psychedelic, disco-pop fervor, “Just Move”, and then entranced with the spinning “Free to Live in Colour“. Her third single, meanwhile, feels like the onset of summer.
“Electric Dream” is swimmingly blissful. A wave of radiant psychedelic-pop forges from the superbly arranged guitar, synths, keys, and stuttering beats, and we ride this sublime current like a world champion surfer. If surfing isn’t your thing, then just close your eyes and twirl under the spellbinding music and be intoxicated by Hillesdon’s lush voice. Listen intently to what she has to say, as she brilliantly tells a tale of how technology has consumed our lives. We have, in the process, become machines ourselves with “analog souls and digital minds”, but in the end we discover that real life, with all of its imperfections, still cannot be replicated. Without our humanity, we would not be able to appreciate the genius of people like Pixey.
Hillesdon’s new EP, Free to Live in Colour, is due March 24th via Chess Club Records.
Skullcrusher – “Song for Nick Drake” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers,
Skullcrusher‘s Helen Ballentine is not shy about paying tribute to artists that have influenced and inspired her. In October of 2020, she released a cover of Radiohead’s “Lift”. This week, she releases “Song For Nick Drake“, her own homage to Nick Drake, and the effect his music had on Ballentine.
On “Song for Nick Drake”, Ballentine’s voice beautifully soars over guitar and a warm tone from a wonderful mixture of instrumentation. It builds quite nicely, with lush harmonies that overwhelm the track before it breaks and fades. Lyrically, Ballentine describes listening to Nick Drake and finding meaning in his lyrics, and how that moment she was lost inside the song. It fits in nicely with Skullcrusher’s debut EP, which was one of our favorite EPs of 2020. It’s just as relatable, gorgeously composed, and emotionally charged as anything Ballentine has released so far.
“I walked home alone
With your song in my head
Finally understanding something
In what you said
In the moment
How the rain smelled
And I know now”
The single is out now on Secretly Canadian.
Nylophone – “Shy One” (Wicklow, Ireland)
RIYL: Volcano Choir, S. Carey, José González
It’s not every day we write about a song that was released in tribute to W.B. Yeats. Yeats was an incredibly influential figure in 20th-century Irish literature, symbolizing the strength of Ireland throughout his works. Irish songwriter Niall Woods, aka Nylophone, takes inspiration from a Yeats poem, “To an Isle in the Water” on his latest single, “Shy One”.
Musically, it sounds like something fitting of W.B. Yeats’ poetry. Beautiful acoustic and electric guitar parts intertwine throughout. Woods’ voice soothes, floating effortlessly over everything. Every note and word evokes a new feeling. The song builds into something much bigger, and in the end there’s a triumphant release, heralded by horns and strings before it’s just Woods and his guitar. It’s a beautiful journey, and one that’s made even more moving by its pristine production.
Beyond “Shy One”, Nylophone has released a handful of diverse and equally interesting singles, ranging from psychedelic trips to other blissed-out folk. It makes his potential upcoming record something to really look forward to.
Dot Never – “Drill” (London, England)
RIYL: Mt. Wolf, Zola Blood, Burial, Maribou State
Electronic music gets the bad reputation for being static and formulaic. This applies within some genres of the broad category of music, but dive deep into the English, French, German, Austrian, and Scandinavian underground, and one will discover individuals and groups going well beyond the predictable drops and eardrum-shattering bass. What you will find are outfits like Phoria, Maribou State, Zola Blood, Mt. Wolf, and Maribou State creating music that replicates memories, specific moments, or our dreams of other realms and dimensions. Another band to add to this exclusive group are Dot Never.
Dot Never are a musical collective who have done live shows in South London. With their debut single “Drill”, however, they officially enter the indie scene and they do so with aplomb. “Drill” is hypnotically dark yet tantalizing. With its numerous palette changes and spiraling approach, the song takes listeners from the dance floors of the most exclusive clubs to falling down the deepest rabbit holes to rocketing off to the farthest corners of the galaxy. It is, in other words, a multi-sensory experience that coalesces around one emotion – that of exhilaration. And yet this track is less about investigation, discovery, and wonder. It instead concerns the state of our world and the chaos that reigns. “The lunacy you can’t compete is deafening”, the band calmly state, as if the new normal is one characterized by “the venom and the hate”.
Maybe Dot Never will be the ones who save us from our impending doom. For now, they’ve given us another reason to believe electronica’s best days lie ahead.
Alex Siegel – “Sangsuree” (Santa Monica, USA)
RIYL: Damien Jurado, Sea Wolf, Great Lake Swimmers
Special people in our lives often play multiple roles: friend, confidant, therapist, and even lifeguard. Anyone who has weathered a storm from the safe harbor of a dear friend can attest to the latter. California-based indie artist Alex Siegel captures those feelings on his moving newest single, “Sangsuree.”
This gentle indie folk-rock ode pays tribute to his friend Nicole who was a beacon of light during a dark time in his life. Siegel pairs his warm vocals with sun-kissed instrumentation and heartfelt lyrics:
“You were the lightning striking
And I was out in the cold
You were the moon in the night sky
I was out on my own”
How fitting that the music here evokes visions of sunlight glistening on water. So, too, are our hearts warmed by memories of our loved ones after they have gone. Siegel’s gift for expressing emotion through song is a blessing.
“Sangsuree” is available now on Bandcamp.
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