Songs about hope, honesty, a leap of faith, and, yes, a necromancer are featured on The Matinee ’21 v. 029. There is something for everyone today on this jam-packed edition.
Har Mar Superstar – “Another Century” (feat. Kam Franklin & Jackie Venson) (Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: The Temptations, Otis Redding, Jim James + Suffers + Menahan Street Band
Sean Tillman – a.k.a. Har Mar Superstar – must have been born with a smile on his face because he consistently finds the sunshine amidst the darkness and bring happiness to everyone around him. The singer-songwriter even used a global pandemic to find a new way to serve people by becoming a postal worker. His multiple occupations can be thankless, but they are essential. So today, we say thank you to Mr. Tillman for always making us smile and kick off today’s mini-playlist with another inspired classic from the retro-soul revivalist.
After sharing the groovy and funky “Where We Began” at the beginning of the month that made us want to dance all night, Tillman invites his dear friends Kim Franklin of The Suffers and Jackie Venson to celebrate the one thing that unites us all – love. “Another Century” recalls the classic soul-pop of the ’60s and ’70s. The track is cool and uplifting, commencing with a sultry vibe before building to a cathartic ending. It’s the rare type of song that will have you wanting to grab all of your loved ones and having one large group hug. Together, we can sing with Tillman, Franklin, and Venson when they say: “Thank you for reminding me what’s for sure”. And thank you Mr. Tillman for your always helping us see the light.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “Pleura” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Ravi Shankar, Black Mountain
At the end of this week, Stu Mackenzie, Joe Walker, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Lucas Skinner, Cook Craig, and Michael Cavanagh will share their seventeenth album in seven years – 17 albums! L.W. will arrive on the band’s own Flightless Records and ATO Records on February 26th (pre-orders available on Bandcamp), and it should be, well, a trip, just like everything the Aussie psych-rockers have done. They’ve already shared two songs from the record, including the ultra-hazy “O.N.E.” and the adventurous “If Now Now, Then When?”. The former displayed a surprising retro approach, as if the band was honoring the legacy of Ravi Shankar. Of course, the sextet put their own spin on the sound, where The Gizz’s whimsical trademark cuts through the fuzzy haze as is the case with “Pleura”.
Like pretty much everything they’ve done, “Pleura” is a zany, hallucinating experience. At first, it sounds like a classic take on ’70s psych-rock, akin to what George Harrison may have concocted in the presence of the legendary Shankar. But then Mackenzie’s and Walker’s voices arrive and the Aussie band’s character comes shining through. As the guitars whirl, the sitar chimes, and the rhythms pound, the two share a story about a Necromancer, who has risen out of the ashes as a result of 2020’s turmoil. The story is whacked but creepily real.
“Drink the blood of that you spill.
Underneath the whippoorwill.
One more piece of Jenga to pull.
Then necromancer will thank us all.
Suck the life from what you love.
I learnt that from the orange one.
No one to answer to after the fall.
Necromancer will dance on us all.”
Someone should make a movie from these lyrics.
New Pagans – “Harbour” (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
RIYL: Bully, Charly Bliss, Speedy Ortiz
After releasing their ’90s-inspired alt-rock sizzler, “Yellow Room”, last year, Belfast’s New Pagans put themselves on pretty much every tastemaker’s radar. Not only did they roar with the intensity of Bikini Kill and Garbage, but they also recaptured the youthful angst of that decade. Now the quartet of Claire Miskimmin, Cahir O’Doherty, Conor McAuley, and Lyndsey McDougall are preparing to catapult themselves from “Artists to Watch” to “Chart-Topping Band” with their debut album on the horizon. They certainly will hit a whole new stratosphere if the LP is filled with adrenaline-rushing rockers like “Harbour”.
The song takes us back to Seattle in the early ’90s, where every rock band gathered to be heard and seen. Like a mid-winter’s day in the Pacific Northwest, it is a storm that lashes out on the unexpected passersby, but those prepared for the incendiary onslaught embrace it. There’s no sense in cowering from the surging guitar riffs and rhythms, but instead one should soak up the intensity and thrash around like a 5-year old in the accumulating puddles. While we dance, jump, and maybe even mosh, we turn our attention to Miskimmin’s words, which recite McDougall’s emotional roller-coaster experience as a newly expected mother. She is the “harbour” that protects her daughter from the inclement weather and all the while feeling excitement, concern, morning sickness, hunger, physical pain, and then elation. Her experience, though, is one positive that came out of 2020, as is New Pagans’ arrival as one of the UK’s new tour-de-force alternative bands.
Linn Koch-Emmery – “Blow My Mind” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Hatchie, San Mei, Westkust
Swedish singer-songwriter Linn Koch-Emmery is a long-time favorite in these parts because she gets us out of our seats every single time she releases a new song. Her music can be categorized as a euphoric blast of guitar-pop and indie pop-rock, as evidenced on her awesome EP, Boys, and singles like “Don’t sleep on my luv” and “Wires”. When you have a good thing going, why change things? So get on your feet because there no sense in sitting for “Blow My Mind”.
The song is apt given that Koch-Emmery constantly blows our mind. Her guitar wails with anthemic desperation while her voice surges with the force of a woman who has had enough with settling for being the runner-up. In this new year, she wants to feel alive. She wants to live again without being shackled by expectations and the pessimists.
“I can’t get wrong
I can’t get right
It breaks my heart
It breaks it light
I just want you to blow my mind”
Fortunately for us, we have Koch-Emmery always making us feel reborn.
Douglas – “Clouds” (Los Angeles, USA via Madrid, Spain)
RIYL: Bat for Lashes, JFDR, M83
Grief and hope are two of the most powerful emotions anyone can experience. They can weaken us as easily as motivate us to persevere through the most difficult times. Genius can also be born out of them, and LA-based artist, Amy Douglas White, is a byproduct of both. On April 2nd, her debut album, Ashes, will be released, and the record revolves around a short period of her life where she experienced both emotions.
Five years ago, Douglas and her partner made the decision to terminate her pregnancy after tests revealed the child would be born with severe issues and would, therefore, have a difficult life. Six months later, Douglas became pregnant again, and her son was born healthy. These two events are stunningly and painfully captured on “Clouds”.
Through the embers of a brittle and haunting darkwave approach, which combines the allure of Bat for Lashes and the deep pulses of M83, Douglas’ enchanting voice emerges. It is soft and can seem to be emotionless, reflecting the quiet suffering of a woman who has lost something that only she could know and feel. Like with every storm, however, there is light beyond the thick greyness. There is a little bit of hope, and she captures her devastation and renewed belief in life when she sings:
“Under the darkest cloud
I can see a world
It breathes new
Under the darkest cloud
I can see a world”
Misty Coast – “Transparent” (Bergen, Norway)
RIYL: Cathedrals, Cults, Still Corners
Linn Frøkedal and Richard Myklebust, who are Misty Coast, make dream-pop perfection. As evidence, five months ago they released a gem with “In A Million Years”. It was a song that could be spun endlessly on a road trip and you would never grow sick of it. With vaccines being administered and warmer months coming, potential adventures could be on the horizon. So get that playlist ready and add “Transparent” to it.
Whether you’re in the car or at home, make sure the windows are down so you can feel the breeze flowing through your air. This feeling will emulate the calm, cool, dreamy atmospherics of the song, and you’ll be left smiling for hours if not days. With her saccharine voice, Frøkedal also tells a little tale of being real with those around you and yourself. There’s no hiding behind walls nor another character, as one true colors eventually shine through. If we can be true to ourselves, we, too, will be smiling for days if not months.
Damen – “Waste of Time” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Bombay Bicycle Club, Gengahr, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Last year, Damen released one of the most underrated and outstanding debut records with Sagrada Familia. It was anthemic and euphoric, but it also told stories that captured the everyday struggles of a young generation trying to find their way in today’s ultra-competitive and individual-centered world. If you missed that LP and even this band (and you wouldn’t be alone), then here’s your opportunity to discover why they are the future and present of Sweden’s indie scene.
“Waste of Time” captures everything that made Damen a must-listen-to band in these parts. It is a bold, energizing number that combines the pure exhilaration of Bombay Bicycle Club’s soaring anthems and the intimate introspection of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The trembling, reverb-drenched guitar line creates the urgency while the booming rhythms provide the energy. The soundscape gets you teetering on your toes and ready to erupt. In the meantime, front man Danial Bin Ismail Ärlig channels his inner Scott Hutchison and delivers a story to which we can all relate – that of a person chasing after someone else’s dreams and not following his own heart and desires. “Is this a selfish act / That self-fulfilling kind of crap?”, he asks himself. As he ponders his situation, we’re left wondering when Damen will become the band everyone is talking about.
Damen are Danial Bin Ismail Ärlig (vocals/guitar), David Nordell (bass), Adrian Gejrot (drums), and Gustav Bondesson (guitar). The single is out on Swedish boutique label VÅRØ Records.
Aubrey Haddard – “Portuguese Red” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: The Weather Station, Hannah Georgas, Christine and The Queens
Do you believe in love at first sight or that people were meant to be? If this question was posed to Aubrey Haddard, she would undoubtedly say yes. She is, after all, a self-professed “hopeless romantic”, and she’s also evidence that a leap of faith can yield an enduring relationship. She shares that moment with the world on her newest tune “Portuguese Red”.
Echoing the alt-pop of The Weather Station with its gradually-building, bubbling style, the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter recalls the day she and her partner met. Specifically, the two were performing in separate bands on the same night, and the two had an instant connection. After a couple of drinks following the show, he invited her to his apartment, where pulled out a half-empty bottle of wine from the fridge. It was a Portuguese red. Now why was he chilling a red wine is beyond us and why Haddard still stayed with him after that un-sommelier-like move is a further mystery. But besides a blossoming love affair (that continues to this day), this event yielded a song that will brightened people’s day and make you believe in the power of love.
In addition, the track will make you believe that Brooklyn has a budding indie star in Habbard. While her story is one made for the big and little screen, the arrangement is superb. A jittery playfulness opens the track, but it unexpectedly transitions into a dark, steely, sonic whirlpool. This refrain represents Haddard realizing that she is falling in love. That this tryst could be permanent, and now it’s forever etched in song for everyone to live.
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