While the weekend is upon us, The Matinee ’21 v. 032 offers a selection of songs that belong on the big and small screens. These tracks will rouse your senses and challenge you to contemplate life and all its rich layers.
Flock of Dimes – “Price of Blue” (Durham, North Carolina, USA)
RIYL: Wye Oak, Patti Smith, Sharon Van Etten
Jenn Wasner – aka Flock of Dimes (also of Wye Oak) – spent last year like many of us: alone with plenty of time to ponder life. And like many artists, Wasner invested her time on an introspective deep dive. Soon her fans will reap the benefits of her quarantine season when she releases her sophomore solo album, Head of Roses. If this single is any indication, it’s an album destined to land high on our favorite LPs of 2021 list.
“Price of Blue” is a slow-burning stunner that pulls listeners into a dream world. Her languid vocals are enticing, allowing each note to linger in the air after passing her lips. What captivates you first (whether you listen to the audio or watch the video) is her unhurried poise. She is embracing stark vulnerability, though not for the first time. Wasner is, after all, knows how to craft a song that brings you to your knees. Magic nearly always happens when she pairs haunting melodies with heartfelt words. The cinematic elegance of the video matches the nakedness of her lyrical honesty. She sings “I’m waking up from a dream,” with a steady voice yet in the next line admits “I’m suffocating.” Her delivery evokes Patti Smith here, so be ready to keep this one on repeat as you absorb its intensity and brilliance.
“Price of Blue” joins the album’s lead single (“Two”) as some of Wasner’s best work.
Head of Roses arrives April 2nd on Sub Pop. It was recorded with Nick Sanborn (Sylvan Esso) and features guest performances by Andy Stack (Wye Oak), Meg Duffy (Hand Habits), Matt McCaughan (Bon Iver), and Adam Schatz (Landlady). Pre-order and pre-save links are available here.
Lea Porcelain – “Ohio” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Editors, Leftfield, Underworld
“Ohio is ready to blow up” may sound like a line from The National set to music from Editors, but no: it’s from the newest Lea Porcelain single. The Berlin-based duo of Julien Bracht and Markus Nikolaus confirmed this week that their sophomore album, Choirs to Heaven, will arrive in May. Their post-punk sound is stronger than ever on this track, thanks to intense synths and pulsing percussion.
“Ohio” is an instant masterpiece. The moodiness at its core adds a distinct post-apocalyptic flavor that would sound riveting in a film-noir thriller. There are cinematic elements to the song’s inspiration: the author Lucie Brock-Broido features a poem titled “Ohio” in her book, The Hunger. This tale of isolation and doom certainly mirrors the pandemic era we have all been experiencing for a year. Separation from everything and everyone we love takes a mental toll. It can dampen our resolve to survive today and dash our excitement for what comes tomorrow. Lea Porcelain channel our collective anxieties to create a work of brooding beauty. The line “I came here to forget” has immediate resonance, as do the closing words, “I’m coming home.” Who hasn’t wanted to flee the never-ending sameness of isolation? If life seems permanently on hold, this song is your vehicle of escape.
Petey x Miya Folick – “Haircut” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Car Seat Headrest, Pinegrove, Slothrust
Ah, to be 25 again. It’s an age where one suddenly realizes that s/he is truly an adult and has to start for planning for things like retirement. It’s age where one wants to be reckless and free but is constrained by the responsibilities demanded by one’s employer or family. Then add in political turmoil, social and racial injustice, and a global pandemic, today’s twentysomethings don’t have it so easy. Instead, plenty are going through quarter-life crises, worrying if they will be able to move out from their parents’ basements, wondering if they be permanently employed let alone contribute to their retirement savings, and if they will live to see tomorrow. LA-based artists Petey and, one of our all-time favorites, Miya Folick address their own situations on “Haircut”.
This synth-driven, lo-fi indie-rock tune is simply brilliant. Its melody is simple yet embracing, as the synth, 808s, and rhythms hum gently to allow Petey’s and Folick’s voices and lyrics to shine. They share the different ways they’ve felt dazed and confused, and when they’ve cut their hair when feeling blue. At the start, Petey openly reveals:
“I was in a quarter-life crisis
And I can explain
I’d been feeling so different
About all the same things
Remember that summer when I shaved my head
Just to prove that I had control over something?”
Then Folick later chimes in with her own experience lyrically and physically in the video:
“I walk in
You say, ‘Damn that’s a shaved head / Did you go to the barber? / Ask for a Natalie Portman?’
Actually I was blacked out alone in my bathroom
Shaving my own head in the mirror”
For the record, we, too, have shaved our heads or undergone radical hairstyles when we were 25 (and older, too).
Bachelor – “Anything At All” (Allston, MA, USA and Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Palehound, Jay Som, Kalbells
Speaking of unexpected and great collaborations, Bachelor is the project of Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound. Both Palehound and Jay Som both released two of 2019’s finest records, which proved they are among some of the best songwriters out there. While Jay Som’s output can be a bit laid back, Palehound’s sound and lyrics have a bit of an edge to them. On a collaborative effort, it would be interesting to see how the two balance each other out.
On “Anything At All”, the first single from Bachelor, any theories about how the two songwriters would mesh can be thrown out the window. It’s a track unlike anything from either songwriter. A driving and groovy bass line welcomes listeners along with a playful vocal track that features both Duterte and Kempner singing together. It’s calming until the occasional overdriven guitar cuts through the calm. The occasional guitar distortion becomes the focal point in the song’s closing moments with a huge explosion of sound. While it’s not definitively Jay Som or Palehound, it features what makes both projects so notable. Smart lyricism associated with both songwriters is present, there’s plenty of laid back moments before the moments of shred. It surely makes it exciting to know there will be more coming from Bachelor in the future.
Black Honey – “Disinfect” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Wolf Alice, YONAKA, Dilly Dally
There was a time not so long ago when some people, including industry insiders, said rock music was dead. Bands like one of our long-time favorites, Black Honey, refused to listen. Now following the dumpster fire that was 2020, rock music is undergoing a resurgence. Not surprisingly, Izzy B Phillips, Chris Ostler, Tommy Taylor, and Tom Dewhurst continue to be at the forefront, especially on the other side of the pond. What’s even more impressive about their rise as one of the UK’s finest indie-rock bands is that they’ve done everything themselves. They write and record all their material, handle their own PR, and they even have their own little record label. No wonder they were able to endure during a time when rap, electronic, and pop music reigned.
As the calendar turns, the Brighton-based quartet are set to sit alongside their compatriots, Wolf Alice, as the best and one of the most important English bands of the past decade. Specifically, circle March 21st as the day of reckoning, as Black Honey’s sophomore album, Written & Directed, will be released on their own Foxfive Records. Last week, they released what might be the LP’s most explosive number in “Disinfect”.
Open the windows, turn up the volume, and make sure everyone can hear this song because it’s not just a seismic rocker but all should hear its message. A fury wails through the grimy guitars and bone-crushing rhythms, representing the chaos around us. Phillips’ voice, meanwhile, never loses control, but instead her delivery is calm yet authoritative. She is like Carrie emerging from the flames, and she’s about to exact her revenge on the people who have betrayed her while freeing the rest of us from our shackles.
We took the test, but we couldn’t be taught,
You wanted too much, it’s never enough,
We gotta get out, out,
Disinfect the disaffected”
Pre-orders for Written & Directed can be found here.
Casual Vice – “Hourglass” (Southern California, USA)
RIYL: Delta Spirit, Slight Of, The Glow
Despite Casual Vice being relatively new to the scene, Kyle Krone and Brandon Hoogenboom have quite a bit of music associated with their names. Whether it’s Hoogenboom’s blissed-out For Mabel record or Krone’s diverse Sea Level, the two creative forces behind Casual Vice know what they’re doing, and know how to do it well. On their latest EP, Joie de Vivre, the duo created another interesting, diverse release with tracks that range from 80’s style synth-driven tracks to laid-back indie.
One of the stand-out tracks on Joie de Vivre, is its closing track, “Hourglass”. Reverb-laden harmonies over just acoustic guitar define the opening moments of “Hourglass”. A driving combination of bass and drums kick in. The guitar work stands out in many ways, from its palm-muted chords in the chorus, to the great chord changes in the verses, and especially the closing moments of the song. Lyrically, “Hourglass” is honest, and at times brutally. The hourglass represents the passage of time, and on “Hourglass” Casual Vice sing of opportunities missed, futures that weren’t as expected, time running out with each sand through the hourglass.
“All I wanted was to be a hero then,
all these years later I’m still strugglin'”
The new EP, Joie de Vivre, is out now. You can pick it up here.
Son Lux – “A Different Kind of Love” (Brooklyn & Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Phoria, Maribou State, Zola Blood
Last year, Ryan Lott, Ian Chang, and Rafiq Bhatia embarked on an ambitious project – to release an epic album in three parts. TOMORROWS is essentially Son Lux‘s version of The Lord of the Rings, where each volume can be experienced individually but only together can the record’s art be appreciated and impact truly felt. The first two volumes were released last year, and Volume III arrives this Spring. The lead single from the final chapter builds on the second volume’s dark vulnerability but the drama is elevated tenfold.
“A Different Kind of Love” is a master class in cinematic indie, and it is spectacular. In its three minute, thirty-eight second duration, the song captures the essence of Son Lux’s project, which is to explore notions of “imbalance, disruption, collision, and redefinition” within our lives. The song is shrouded in darkness and bleakness, reflecting one’s vulnerability, isolation, and anxiety. At the same time, glimmers of hope – wishes of being reborn – are heard through the occasional violin strike and in Lott’s words that are delivered through his pain-stricken vocal.
“I can’t tear down what I’ve built
Not seeking a reprieve
And it won’t it be earned
If solace finds me here
As I’m bruising my knees
Whispering please, please
I need a different kind of love
A different, kinder love”
TOMORROWS III, which completes the trio’s ambitious trilogy, is out April 16th via City Slang. Pre-orders are available here. Bandcamp also has Volume III available as well as all the volumes in a single release.
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