The Matinee ’21 v. 035 is full of instant classics, ranging from danceable pop, brooding Gothic tracks, intimate folk, and even some cloud hop. Sounds like the perfect playlist to get through another hump day.

 

Japanese Breakfast – “Be Sweet” (Philadelphia, USA)

RIYL: Wild Nothing, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hatchie

Japanese Breakfast were one of 2017’s most notable breakout artists, with the release of the stellar Soft Sounds from Another Planet. It was a follow-up to a fantastic debut Psychopomp, but beyond its improvements in production, it also marked a shift in sound and increased confidence for its creative force, Michelle Zauner, to explore new sonic spaces. Songs like the auto-tune heavy “Machinist” now define the Japanese Breakfast sound as much as the slower, guitar-led personal tracks like “Heft”. Zauner also collaborated on a project called “Bumper” with Ryan Galloway of Crying, which made our list of favorite EPs of last year, and featured some really fun tracks as well.

“Be Sweet” marks another change in direction, but one that absolutely hits Japanese Breakfast’s sweet spot. Zauner’s vocals absolutely thrive in the throwback groove laid down on the track. There are tons of inviting qualities to the song, from it’s infectiously danceable bass-line, its wonderful synth hooks, to its delectably catchy chorus. Lyrically, it also marks a shift in tone. Zauner said, “After spending the last five years writing about grief, I wanted our follow up to be about joy”. There is such a joyous vibe on “Be Sweet”, and it should be one that carries over to the aptly named upcoming Jubilee, which is out June 4th on Dead Oceans.

Pre-orders and pre-saves are available from Bandcamp. “Be Sweet” is accompanied by a fun X-Files inspired music video featuring Zauner alongside Marisa Dabice from Mannequin Pussy.

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Lucy Kruger & The Lost Boys – “Evening Train” (Berlin, Germany via Cape Town, South Africa)

RIYL: Daughter, Elena Tonra, TORRES

A great arrangement can make a song remarkable. Add an incredible story, and that same track becomes unforgettable. To create what amounts to being the equivalent of an artistic masterpiece requires not just the mind of a creative genius but also passion and courage to put oneself out there. Leonardo da Vinci, after all, didn’t become the most renowned inventor by playing it safe. South African-born Lucy Kruger likewise has revealed herself for all to see on “Evening Train”.

This slow-building, Gothic, folk-rocker is a sonic marvel. It’s delicate, dark arrangement is hypnotizing, as the song commences with a slow burn and it gradually gets a bit more intense, but it never goes over the cliff. Instead, Kruger and her band The Lost Boys keep the song right on the ledge. Kruger’s whispery vocals, meanwhile, enchant, as she looks deep inside the souls of her fellow train passengers. They are one and the same – lonely travelers heading to the same destination but they will never speak to one another. They will forever be strangers, living in their own little bubbles and alienated from one another. Kruger’s songwriting is imaginative and brilliant. This is unforgettable.

The single is out on German micro-label Unique Records and Polish label Schubert Music Europe.

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Black Country, New Road – “Track X” (London, England)

RIYL: Nick Drake, tunng, Midlake

We don’t fancy ourselves prognosticators of musical success, but we know promising talent when we hear it. And trust us when we say that Black Country, New Road is the next big thing. If you have not yet discovered this London-based septet, now is the time and “Track X” is a perfect introduction point.

“Track X” is a fever dream brought to life with hypnotic elements that leave you dazed yet blissful. The gently looping of synth refrain feels psychedelic at times, though more like a micro-dose than a full-fledged trip to strange new galaxies. These warm tones invite you to relax and surrender to what lies ahead. Since this tune is ideal for trips of all sorts, let’s spend some time getting to know our fellow travelers, shall we?

Black Country, New Road aren’t exactly a new band. They first garnered acclaim in 2019 with the release of two singles that catapulted them into the fast lane bound for future stardom. Fueled by gigs at major festivals (Glastonbury, Primavera) their upward trajectory has continued. But when the pandemic curtailed touring, the band honed their eclectic sound (which includes violin and saxophone!) in the recording studio. Their seamless fusion of post-rock, post-punk, neo-psychedelic defies genre labels, really. Their originality is a multi-faceted benefit: it frees them to explore sonic terrain, it keeps fans guessing, and it wows first time listeners. We cannot wait to hear what comes next from this talented outfit.

Their new album, For the first timewill surely increase the size of their fanbase. It is out now via Ninja Tune from these links or directly from Bandcamp. It is unquestionably one of the best albums of 2021 so far.

Black Country, New Road are: Isaac Wood (vocals/guitar), Luke Mark (guitar),Tyler Hyde (bass), May Kershaw (keys), Lewis Evans (sax), Georgia Ellery (violin), and Charlie Wayne (drums).

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Noga Erez – “End of the Road” (Tel Aviv Yafo, Israel)

RIYL: M.I.A., Billie Eilish, Ibeyi

Confidence. Fierceness. Swagger. Whatever term you use, the biggest stars often possess these qualities. That self-assured charm is what transformed Lizzo from an obscure flautist to a global phenomenon. The same applies to Adele, whose powerful vocals turned the teen singer into a megastar. We have been singing the praises of Israeli artist Noga Erez since her 2017 debut, Off the Radar, wowed us with its brilliance. If her song “End of the Road” is any indication, her transformation into the Next Big Thing is just around the corner.

Spitting rapid-fire lyrics with the precision of M.I.A., Noga Erez again dazzles listeners. Since she realizes this may be the first time new listeners hear her, some verses serve as an introduction of sorts. But as longtime fans know, her lyrics also deal with political issues that arise in her home and abroad. Stories of war and families struggling to survive are recurring themes that are not glossed over but presented with clear-eyed determination:

Lately I got ceilings but I burn in the sun
Never miss one shot, I’m sick as a gun
I got mortal friends, I’m dead as they come
Like, hey! I’m on the way!

She may be singing “I don’t know what really happens at the end of the road,” but with this song and this album she is announcing to the world that her journey is just beginning.

KIDS arrives March 26th via City Slang with pre-orders from Bandcamp. Noga Erez will host a KIDS: A Livestream on April 1st and 2nd. It promises to be an experience where “visual lines are constantly being blurred,” so count us in!

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Damien Jurado – “Helena” (Seattle, USA)

RIYL: Phosphorescent, Gregory Alan Isakov, I’m Kingfisher

Damien Jurado has been telling stories about his characters for a few decades now. Through his songs we have come to know Silver characters (Timothy, Donna, Malcolm) and Q places (Maraqopa, Taqoma and Qachina) – all products of his vivid imagination. Now the Seattle folk troubadour again regales us with a new cast on his forthcoming self-produced album, The Monster Who Hated Pennsylvania. It will be his third long-player in a year, following What’s New Tomboy? from last May and Ghost of David from September. Listeners return to Maraqopa in a new way, since the album is the first release on Jurado’s new label of that name. While his label may be new, his sound retains its earnest honesty as you can hear on lead single “Helena.”

This mellow ballad is one of ten stories Jurado tells of relatable people facing incredible hardships. And in true Jurado fashion, his intimate delivery lets you feel like an interloper eavesdropping on a private conversation. “Helena” offers unforgettable lyrical imagery (“Laughter, a currency we’ll never afford” and “Seeing yourself through the waves of farewell” are especially poignant) that reminds us why Damien Jurado is one of the world’s preeminent folk songwriters.

The album is due May 14th and features multi-instrumentalist Josh Gordon adding his skills on guitar, bass, keys, and percussion.

His website has details about a summer European tour. Hopefully it will also soon have album pre-order links.

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Bess Atwell – “Co-op” (London, England)

RIYL: Nadia Reid, Julie Byrne, Lucy Dacus

Bess Atwell’s “Co-op” is a perfect introduction to the English singer-songwriter. Its intro is unassuming, but immediately hooks the listener. When it clicks, though is through the vivid imagery of Atwell’s lyricism. It’s present on her 2019 EP, Big Blue, and it’s found a new, more refined home with “Co-op”.

That intro to “Co-Op” really is an attention grabber, finger-picked guitar with layers of reverbed drenched instruments welcome the listener to the track. It fades to just Atwell’s calming voice. Immediately, Atwell sets the scene, “a Blondie tribute concert”. Its content goes deeper than that, Atwell recalls different snapshots in time with her partner. Its choruses are full of beautiful harmonies, softening the blow of its honest lyrics.

“Co-Op” is a stunner of a track from a promising songwriter. Atwell is currently working on a new record and recently signed to Lucy Rose’s Real Kind Records. It is also accompanied by an equally nostalgic and striking music video.

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