Two words describe The Matinee ’21 v. 026 – vulnerability and intimacy. Each of the six songs reflect on what was, what could be, and the courage required to persevere.
Nelson Elle – “All for You” (Sweden via Hollywood, USA)
RIYL: Alicia Keys, Jorja Smith, HER
What if? We all play that game once in a while wondering what if we said something different, chose the other course of action, or never moved in the first place. For Nea Nelson, who goes by Nelson Elle, what if her mother and sibling stayed in Hollywood and grew up in the world’s entertainment mecca? Would she have been discovered at an early age and turned into a pop superstar, as her smokey, emotive voice recalls the smooth power of Alicia Keys and Jorja Smith. Her voice is one that we could listen for hours because it has a calming effect and a breathtaking allure. She demonstrates her magnetism on “All for You”.
Through mostly a spoken-word approach, Nelson recalls a moment she was at her most vulnerable with someone she once loved with all her heart. Everything is perfect in these minutes. Over the course of time, however, the moment turns into a memory that life cannot recapture. She softly and painfully sings, “Say you won’t touch me like yesterday… No, no, no, no… But I was there and I’m still there”.
And stardom still awaits Nelson, who is bound to be discovered and in the process mesmerize a new legion of fans.
Freedom Fry – “Corde Sensible” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: La Femme, Balthazar, The Pirouettes
In their nearly a decade as a performing group, LA-based married duo Freedom Fry have written intimate folk ballads, offered sun-kissed indie-pop songs, and released the occasional anthemic Americana number. Their music was made for the likes of Newport Folk Festival and Pickathon. Parisian-born Marie Seyrat and American Bruce Driscoll, however, have always found a way to surprise, like they did last month when they shared the disco dazzler “Le Point Zéro”. The song was the first from their upcoming, all French-language project, which had us extremely excited about the change in approach. Our enthusiasm has only intensified a hundred-fold with “Corde Sensible”.
Silky smooth and groovy, the duo once again take us to ’70s Paris and its 4th arrondisement – otherwise known as Le Marais. This is where people came to be seen and dance until the sun came up. Freedom Fry replicate this feeling of liberation and endless nights, as the keys and beats gently pulse around Seyrat’s saccharine voice. All one can do is close her eyes and dance for eternity. But like everything the duo have done, the music is just the vehicle by which they share their message. In this case, they speak to how tenuous life is, and the things people do to succeed, thrive, and survive. As people pump themselves with sugar and steroids, Seyrat is just an observer to people’s self-destruction. For us, we don’t need any stimulants; we just need more of Freedom Fry’s intoxicating nu-disco.
Men I Trust – “Tides” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Men I Trust
Keeping us in the ’70s are a band that is one of the great DIY, indie success stories of the past five years. Montreal-based Men I Trust have turned aside record deals and PR companies and done things on their own for most of their existence, growing their fanbase with the combination of an immersive disco-soul approach, fantastic stories and messages, and smart social media outreach. More importantly, Dragos Chiriac (keys/mastering), Jessy Caron (guitar/bass/keys), and Emmanuelle Proulx (vocals) are genuine people doing what they love. A lot of the more established stars could learn a few things from the trio about public outreach, and the band communicate via their platforms and of course their songs, including “Tides”.
A sultry, Parisien pop-noir vibe emanates through Men I Trust’s trademark nu-disco sound. Instead of a glitzy disco ball shining, the song has the feel of a dimly lit full moon trying to penetrate the thick fog. Suspense and sultry collide in this sonic space, and it is brightened by Proulx’s soft yet tantalizing voice. She narrates a tale of a world that has survived the very worst and regained its humanity. The track could be considered an ode to 2020 and the welcoming of 2021 or just a dream about what is possible if we all come together in perfect harmony.
“I see brave men walking hand in hand again
With angels by their sides
Who’ll dare put on a fight?
To make it all in-line
We shall be fine”
Black Twig – “Big Cat” (Helsinki, Finland)
RIYL: Bright Eyes, The Weakerthans, early R.E.M.
Not too long ago, one of the great bands to grace this planet wrote that “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. Today countless forces are trying to divide us, and their work extends as broadly as whole countries to as narrowly to the neighborhood and family levels.
While we hope 2021 will be better than the shipwreck that was 2020, we still a lot of work to do to make our world more livable, safer, and kinder. Forces are still at work to try to divide us, but we can fight back. It will take time, but the first thing we need to do is recognize we have a problem (or problems) and then come together. Helping us to move forward are Finnish outfit Black Twig, who channel a college radio-aged R.E.M. on “Big Cat”.
Or more specifically, Aki Pohjankyrö, Rasmus Rantanen, Kaarlo Stauffer, and Janne Vainikainen take on the evil forces with with an upbeat, breezy vibe that is intended to get people moving and shaking. By this we don’t mean dancing. Instead, after the quartet rightfully ask, “How can we fight all this evil that we see?”, they encourage us to find the motivation and courage to look people in the eye, like “a great big cat”, and learn to trust a stranger despite our differences. Once we can come together, then we can right the world. If we don’t, then the “fascists will rise if we don’t fight”. It almost happened last year. Let’s not re-live that possibility.
TOLEDO – “Sunday Funday” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Day Wave, Real Estate
Brooklyn indie-pop duo TOLEDO released their new EP, Jockeys of Love, last Friday, and we are smitten with the heartfelt track “Sunday Funday.” The duo of Daniel Alvarez and Jordan Dunn-Pilz continue to impress with every release, and this song is no exception.
“I’m sorry that I don’t know how to talk about drinking” is a bold choice for an opening line, but it’s effective considering the song is about alcoholism. The direct approach pairs nicely with the breezy, dream-pop instrumentation that softens an otherwise difficult topic. As they sing about a friend offering support to someone they love, it is impossible not to feel moved. Anyone who has struggled with a substance (or been the supportive friend) knows how difficult it is to overcome. This song conveys hope in its gently reassuring melodies and message:
“You’re lying awake, you’re turning away and detaching
And whenever I ask what it is
You say thank you for asking again
For holding my hand, for helping me handle”
One spin of this song proves why last month we described TOLEDO as having “hypnotic powers.” Indeed their music is equally magical and therapeutic. The Jockeys of Love EP is out now via TELEFONO and streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.
Su Lee – “All The Noise” (Seoul, South Korea)
RIYL: Caroline Rose, Frankie Cosmos, Jay Som
If there’s anything that we all have learned over the last few years it’s that social media can be incredibly destructive. Over the last year it’s even more obvious, as a majority of personal relationships now take place over a screen, be it on Facebook, Zoom, or Twitter. But with that, comes a lot of noise. A lot of political discourse, plus the endless onslaught of bad news has made it especially hard to both enjoy social media, and also to just stop doomscrolling.
On her latest single, “All The Noise”, Su Lee tries to navigate that darker side of social media. Singing about scrolling endlessly and feeling stuck, of seeing influencers and the like and feeling inferior because of it. While it is a serious topic, Lee’s approach is smart and with a bit of humor. Musically, “All The Noise” is a simple track, recorded in Lee’s bedroom in Seoul. A great bass synth and drum machine provide the backbone for Lee’s voice, which is accompanied by some great harmonies throughout the track. While there’s a lot of toxicity out there on social media, it’s still not all bad for Lee, who gained some viral fame with a video on Reddit. It’s about finding balance, and tuning out “All The Noise”.
“All The Noise” is available to stream here. It’s also accompanied by a fun music video with a quirky late-90’s Windows aesthetic, and an intro that pokes fun of the oh-so-familiar Zoom meeting.
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