From undeniable grooves to bedroom pop inspired by J-pop, there’s a bit of everything in the seven songs that make up The Matinee ’21 v. 020.
Har Mar Superstar – “Where We Began” (Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: Hall & Oates, Rick Astley, Alex Cameron
Plenty of articles have been written about how live venues are struggling to pay the bills with no live shows and artists collaborating via Zoom and doing online shows to make ends meet. Surprisingly, not many journalistic pieces have focused on the new occupations that artists have assumed to earn a livelihood. One great article from December in Mpls. St. Paul Magazine concerned Sean Tillman’s – the man behind retro-revivalist Har Mar Superstar – new career as a post-man. The man who has made us laugh and feel good with his music is now an essential worker and performing an honorable service, and we thank him for that.
Despite walking dozens of miles every day, he has still found time to entertain us. The other day, Tillman announced that his seventh album, Roseville, will be released March 5th (pre-orders are available on Bandcamp), and accompanying the announcement was a song that rekindles our love affairs with late-’70s and early-’80s pop. So get up off your feet and prepare to dance to “Where We Began”.
Groovy, funky, disco-y, and full of blustery horns, this song is the perfect kick-start to the weekend. It might have you dancing like John Travolta or even Rick Astley, strutting down the street with confidence, or making you want to drive with the windows down despite the biting cold outside. Tillman’s lyrics, too, are fun, as he says with tongue-in-cheek flair how he cannot get the image of another out of his mind. He’s in love, but he’s a “fragile man” that is uncertain how to make things right. For those like him, maybe this tune will give you the courage to make the move. Well, at least move in a dancing kind of way.
Nana Yamato – “Gaito” (Tokyo, Japan)
RIYL: Faye Webster, Steady Holiday, beabadoobee
Nana Yamato gained our attention with her unabashed approach to channeling her creativity. Low-key electronics and guitar fuzz defined her first two tracks, along with stunning and captivating music videos. It was also enough to get the attention of A. Savage of Parquet Courts, who signed Yamato to his Dull Tools label.
The creativity and unique perspective that drew us to those first two tracks are in full force on her third single, “Gaito”. Hearing “Gaito”, you’d be surprised to hear it was inspired by J-Pop and K-Pop idol music. Not that Yamato is a fan, but it was an idea, to try and figure out the pop culture phenomenon. Yamato stated, “I decided to write a song inspired by them, imagining their song, and this is what I came up with.” Musically, it’s downbeat and melancholy, and just as low-fi as her early tracks. Driven by just a bit of keyboard, and a sparse helping of guitar, it’s about as far as you can get from the big, incredibly catchy pop tunes that inspired the track. The music video also channels inspiration from idol groups, with Yamato dancing a choreographed dance. However, it’s in an over-exposed black and white setting, adding to the lo-fi vibe.
Pop Levi – “Tia” (Los Angeles, USA via Surrey, England)
RIYL: Of Montreal, Passion Pit, Jermaine Jackson
Infectious, psychedelic, throwback, are just some ways to describe the music of Pop Levi. His 2020 record, Mark of Paradise, channeled some of the great UK rock legends, with songs reminiscent of the trippiest Bowie, Beatles, and T. Rex tracks, while going into even weirder, and groovier territories. Add that to his work with Ladytron, Super Numeri, The Weeknd, and many other acts, any release of Levi’s is an attention grabber.
Pop Levi is back with perhaps his poppiest and grooviest track yet with “Tia”. “Tia” sounds like a loud celebration. From its killer bass groove, to its infectious guitar work, there’s so much for a listener to get hooked by. Levi’s voice is definitively glam-rock, hitting some really fun heights. Add in some hand-claps and playful synth and “Tia” is a gem of a single. Lyrically, it fits that old-school glam rock style like a glove, from its luxury brands of Mercedes and Cadillac, to the unrequited love song at the base of it all.
Single is out on Boiled Records.
Flock of Dimes – “Two” (Durham, North Carolina, USA)
RIYL: Wye Oak, Mountain Man, The Weather Station
Jenn Wasner is one of the most prominent voices in the music scene over the last fifteen years. From Wye Oak, to her solo project Flock of Dimes, Wasner has multiple creative outlets to channel her creativity into. Her first record as Flock of Dimes, If You See Me, Say Yes, was fantastic, and showed a more creative and adventurous side of Wasner’s songwriting.
This week, Flock of Dimes shared a new single, “Two”, and it’s among Wasner’s best work. While Flock of Dimes is technically a solo project, there’s a lot more than just Wasner that goes into this. Even when describing the song, Wasner says “Two” is about trying to find a kind of balance between independence and interdependence, and the multitudes within ourselves.” It’s made even more clear by the crew Wasner has assembled to put together her new music. “Two”, as well as all of her upcoming record was recorded with Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso), and guests on the record include Andy Stack (Wye Oak), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver), and Adam Schatz (Landlady). “Two” is gorgeous musically, gently brushed drums, a clean guitar tone, and a bunch of wonderful ambient instrumentation provide a perfect foundation for Wasner’s voice to flourish.
Saintseneca – “All You’ve Got Is Everyone” (Columbus, Ohio, USA)
RIYL: Typhoon, Bright Eyes, Nana Grizol
Saintseneca’s Zac Little always seems to one-up himself creatively and pushes himself to new territory with each release. From 2014’s incredible Dark Arc to their last release, 2018’s Pillar of Na, their blend of folk and punk music has shifted, both musically and lyrically.
Saintseneca recently released “All You’ve Got Is Everyone”, their first single since 2019’s “Winter Breaking”. “All You’ve Got Is Everyone” does take many winter themes. Zac Little stated it started off as a Christmas song, evolving into a New Years song, with Little referencing “Auld Lang Syne. Eventually, the song more becomes about the passing of time. It’s also about the power of these days to bring people together, and how important that is in a time where we can’t actually gather. The song goes many places musically, from its folky intro underscored with a punk-esque bassline, to its quiet moments of just vocals and guitar, its moments of huge catharsis and an absolutely transcendent ending.
The Reds, Pinks & Purples – “Don’t Ever Pray in the Church on My Street” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Jewelled Antler, Skygreen Leopards, The Jam
We were late in discovering The Reds, Pinks & Purples – the project of San Francisco artist Glenn Donaldson – but his late 2020 release You Might Be Happy Someday made us instant fans. The blissful track “Last Summer in a Rented Room” earned our praise and sustained us through the final contentious months of last years. Just as the new year has ushered in renewed feelings of hopeful optimism, Donaldson has delivered new music to match.
“Don’t Ever Pray in the Church on My Street” is the lead track from his upcoming third album, Uncommon Weather. In true Donaldson style, it elevates your senses and transports you to a carefree realm. (His music should be prescribed to treat anxiety and depression!) The breezy warmth of his vocals exudes calm while the fuzzy jangle-pop riffs trigger serotonin production. Think we’re overstating the obvious? Try listening to this tune while remaining still: we found it impossible. If the mid-tempo rhythms don’t elicit some head-bobbing, the lyrics will surely resonate and bring a smile. You don’t expect to hear the lines “Everything counts when a panic hits you / the fear grips you” sung over a melody that calls to mind a mellow Violent Femmes, yet it works on so many levels. We won’t blame you for keeping this song in constant rotation all year.
Fimber Bravo – “Hiyah Man” (London, England)
RIYL: Peter Gabriel, Grandmaster Flash, Hot Chip, Morcheeba
As we trudge through the final weeks of winter, our thoughts turn to warmer days yet to come. If you need some sunny tunes to keep the doldrums at bay, look no further than Fimber Bravo to meet your needs. His new single “Hiyah Man” provides you with six-plus minutes of deliciously funky, steel pan-accented grooves. So grab a cocktail and prepare to smile your way into the weekend courtesy of these joyful vibes.
Even if his name isn’t familiar, chances are you have heard Fimber Bravo before. The now London-based Trinidad native has previously collaborated with Blur, Hot Chip, Morcheeba, Grandmaster Flash, and more. Now some of those artists are returning the favor on his forthcoming album, Lunar Tredd. This track showcases his ability to fuse multiple genres into a fluid music experience. While the steel pan provides the authentic Caribbean flavor, the track’s depth and vibrancy come from its electronic and Afro-pop elements. Despite our status as relative newcomers to this genre, we can recognize musical brilliance when we hear it. Do yourself a favor and let Fimber Bravo’s music lift your spirits today.
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