We’ve stacked the deck for The Matinee ’21 v. 036 edition. A full house of nine songs are offered to end the week in sublime fashion. Most of the tunes are upbeat, though a couple slow things down to allow us to collect our breaths. And since today is Bandcamp Friday, we have included links where possible so you can directly support the artists there.
Small Black – “The Bridge” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Mt. Wolf, Wild Nothing, Zola Blood
Mention the words Rockaway Beach to music fans of a certain age, and they will likely sing the classic 1977 tune by The Ramones. But that beach might yet become associated with Brooklyn chillwave favorites Small Black. Their newest single provides an endorphin rush that builds on the retro bliss of “Tampa” which they shared last November.
The gentle piano intro of “The Bridge” is a red herring that lulls you into false expectations of mellowness. Its sleepy tempo soon takes on sunrise energies that will have you heading to the nearest beach in search of carefree fun.
This song’s inspiration comes from frontman Josh Kolenik’s uncle Matt, who is featured in the band’s 2009 video for “Despicable Dogs.” A sudden stroke left the former surfer unable to ride waves, but it didn’t keep him away from the beach he loved. As you watch the video, consider the song’s theme of optimism. Sometimes all we can do is keep our eyes fixed on the horizon in search of brighter days. This song’s message is as uplifting as its soaring melodies.
Small Black are: Josh Kolenik (keys, vocals), Ryan Heyner (guitar, keys, vocals), Juan Pieczanski (bass, guitar) and Jeff Curtin (drums).
Boh Doran – “Cat’s Cradle” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: The Cardigans, Ladyhawke, Hatchie
The ’90s will forever be remember for the rise of grunge and alternative rock, but that decade also gave us some of the most memorable coming-of-age songs. The Cranberries’ “Linger”, The Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You”, and “Dyslexic Heart” by Paul Westerberg are some of the more notable tunes to come out from that era. If we could rewind the clock and transport Boh Doran to that time, her newest song, “Cat’s Cradle”, would have made her a cult hero in the eyes, ears, and minds of all the young adults and twentysomethings.
“Cat’s Cradle” buzzes of the sun-kissed dream-pop of the era, where the breezy melody has a calming and levitating effect. It’s the ideal song to end a week and revitalize the soul as the freedom of the weekend approaches. Doran’s lyrics, too, attempt to liberate us from the invisible chains that keep us from being ourselves. Although the song is inspired by Kerry Washington’s character in Little Fires Everywhere, the song shared similarities with Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel of the same name. But instead of a satirical examination of the world, Doran looks at how life has become a game of winners and losers and getting ahead requires one to be someone else. “Just my shadow pretending to be a / Perfect girl tonight”, the LA-based artist sings, indicating that she, too, is a pawn.
Sounds like the perfect song for a movie like Empire Records or Reality Bites, eh? Well, make it part of your soundtrack for the weekend.
Mermaidens – “Soft Energy” (Wellington, New Zealand)
RIYL: Black Honey, EX HEX, T-Rex
Every city has a hidden gem or three that the rest of the world has yet to discover. Wellington, New Zealand has more than its fair share, and among them is Mermaidens. While they’re not household names within the wider global community, they’re rock stars in the land the Maori refer to as Aotearoa. Their inaugural Mermgrown Festival in their hometown sold out in a matter of days and was a massive success. The festival will next be held at Auckland’s Whammy Bar on March 20th (with tickets here). This event, however, is not the only thing keeping Lily West (bass/vocals), Gussie Larkin (guitar/vocals), and Abe Hollingsworth (drums). Once they finish up in Tāmaki, they’ll head out on a nationwide tour to share their latest awesome tune.
Whereas much of their previous material has been of the devilish, transfixing affair, including their excellent Perfect Body album, the trio opt for a trippy affair on “Soft Energy”. Seventies psych vibes intertwine with glam-rock and pop-rock, creating a song that is simultaneously mysterious, suspenseful, and groovy. It’s the type of song that be perfect for the over-the-top crime shows of the era, but this tune possesses a much better storyline. It’s like the unexpected love story between a creature of the night or underworld (a vampire maybe) and an innocent human.
“I know you need the hit
The taste of sour mothers milk
Looking for higher ground
Hold your breath, don’t make a sound
Sweat on your neck drips down my spine
All of our blood moves in time”
Sprints – “Swimming” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, IDLES
There is one big reason for why Irish outfit Sprints were listed as one of our Artists to Watch in 2021 – they are a future powerhouse in post-punk and garage rock. To date, Karla Chubb (lead vocals/guitar), Sam McCann (bass/backing vocals), Colm O’Reilly (guitar/backing vocals), and Jack Callan (drums) have demonstrated they know only one gear, and that is nitro because every single one of their songs is wall-shattering and head-exploding awesomeness. Tunes like “Manifesto”, “Dones”, and “The Cheek” gave a hint of their ferocity, and they dial up the intensity with “Swimming”.
You might want to warm up the vocal chords because by the time this song is finished you’ll be hollering along with the band when the song reaches its cataclysmic climax. Before that, the quartet get us bouncing with the jittery, on-the-ledge, grimy guitar riffs and the propulsive rhythms. Chubb’s vocals, meanwhile, holler with purpose and disgust. She is laying waste to traditional ideals of what “success” means, specifically how we sacrifice our lives to jobs we don’t enjoy and yet still cannot pay the bills. She smartly says at the start, “I’ve been working full-time since I was 17 / And I still have four coins in my pocket”. Our bankrupt nature is partly due to being vastly underpaid, but we are also our own worst enemy. “I’ve got a fashion consultant”, Chubb says with the disdain of a person who really cannot afford one – and why would she want one? Sprints, after all, are on track to being one of the great politically-driven bands from Dublin.
They are on track to being a powerhouse.
Sprints’ debut EP, Manifesto, drops March 26th via Nice Swan Records. We cannot wait.
Jess Locke – “Halo” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Angel Olsen + Matt Berninger, Angie McMahon, Palehound
When we included Jess Locke on our Artists to Watch in 2021, we did so on the basis of her outstanding songwriting, which hovered in the same stratosphere as Angel Olsen and Courtney Barnett. Earlier this year, she released a timeless, folk-rock classic in “Dead And Gone”. The Melbourne-based singer-songwriter takes a much different approach with her latest single, but it is nonetheless still a classic.
Grab a stiff drink, settle into your favorite chair, and just listen to “Halo”. This dark yet delicate ballad is mesmerizing. With her friend and fellow singer-songwriter Robert Muinos providing backing vocals, the song sounds like what a duet between Angel Olsen and The National’s Matt Berninger might sound like. Locke’s and Muinos’ soft, brittle vocals add to the song’s vulnerability while the sparse arrangement creates the brooding panorama for this drama of a young man with nowhere to go. He is living in purgatory.
“Now you gotta pick a team
Be the hunter or the meat
There is nothing between
And you’ve got something in your teeth”
Simply a brilliant song.
Middle Kids – “Stacking Chairs” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Sunflower Bean, Sun June, The Ratboys
And speaking of great Australian artists, Middle Kids are without question one of the elite. In a short period of time – about five years to the day – Hannah Joy (vocals, guitar, piano), Tim Fitz (bass, production), and Harry Day (drums) have accomplished a tremendous amount. Their debut single, “Edge Town”, was certified Gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). They shortly signed with Universal Music Australia, who released the band’s stellar eponymous debut EP in 2017. A year later, their first full-length album, Lost Kids, reached #10 on the Australian charts while capturing our attention with its personal, pop-rock anthems.
Now Middle Kids’ sophomore LP is just two weeks away, which could position the trio for another massive jump in popularity. They’ve already released three singles from the record – “R U 4 Me?”, “Questions”, and “Cellophane (Brain)” – and they’ve opted to share one more to whet our appetite. Like pretty much every song in their arsenal, they once again proclaim their unconditional friendship to us with “Stacking Chairs”.
While the song possesses an undeniable warmth and shimmering melancholy, its power lies, as is usually the case, in Joy’s lyrics. While we mentioned that the song is an ode to friendship, “Stacking Chairs” is a proclamation of her undying love to Fitz, whom she married a few years ago and the two now have a little one prancing around the home. Her lyrics, though, could apply to anyone and everyone, offering a reminder to us that there is someone out there for everyone.
“When the wheels come off
I’ll be your spare
When the party’s over
I’ll be stacking the chairs
When the world turns on you
I will be there
I will be there”
Tristen – “Complex” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Faye Webster, Anna Burch, Steady Holiday
The one and only time we profiled Tristen Gaspadarek’s project, Tristen, was way back in 2014. Not for lack of output, however, Tristen has released some really great singles as well as a fantastic album, Sneaker Waves in that timespan. She also co-wrote an album with Vanessa Carlton. It’s not that Tristen didn’t release anything of note, far from it. We’re just guilty of criminally sleeping on Tristen.
On her latest single, “Complex”, Tristen reminds us of what drew us to her in 2014. Her songwriting continues to stand out as intelligent, witty, and heartfelt. “Complex” is a love song, but not from a typical perspective. It’s about an internal relationship of love, and how it can be both fulfilling and self-destructive. Musically, It’s driven by an upbeat combination of acoustic guitar and bass laying under Tristen’s inviting voice. The choruses have some gorgeous layers of harmonies as well that tie everything together quite nicely.
“I’ve got a complex; it’s complex
I don’t know why I act this way
The things I do, the things I say”
Jade Bird – “Open up the heavens” (London, England)
RIYL: The Jezabels, Lauren Ruth Ward, Jesse Jo Stark
Jade Bird‘s self-titled debut was an incredible combination of contemporary folk, 90’s alternative, and outlaw country. Since then, Bird has released some fantastic singles as well. In 2020 Bird released the killer “Headstart” and the honest “Houdini”. Both tracks signified a maturity, in both Bird’s songwriting, and the production of her music.
On her latest single, “Open up the heavens”, Jade Bird digs back into an alternative sound. “Open up the heavens” started out as a riff, and grew into something much more grand. That riff opens the track, accompanied by bass, and eventually Bird’s voice powers over it. Eventually explodes into a huge chorus full of harmonies. Throughout, the power of Bird’s voice and songwriting are on full display, pushing the song to new heights throughout. Bird’s clever use of imagery is a testament to how impactful her songwriting really is. It’s got us excited for what’s next from Jade Bird, and even more excited when we found out she’s working with Dave Cobb, who’s worked with Jason Isbell, and Brandi Carlisle. There is no better team to bring the fire of Jade Bird’s music to life.
The single is out on Glassnote Music.
John Moods – “So Sweet So Nice” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Har Mar Superstar, Small Black
“Overnight success” takes five years in the music business, some say. If so, stardom is just around the corner for John Moods. This emerging talent charms listeners with sweet retro sounds on his new single, “So Sweet So Nice.” His perfect fusion of ‘80s synths with modern dream-pop makes this song irresistible.
John Moods is the solo project of Jonathan Jarzyna from the Berlin-based experimental pop outfit Fenster, and his new album arrives next month. His lyrical imagery is vivid, marked with opposing themes of beauty and decay, and of life and death – perhaps a sly nod to the Cold War days when many lived in the shadows of oppression?
“I don’t mind the passing of the days
They just seem one and all the same
Like a flower blooming in the spring
I give in to winter’s withering
So sweet so nice
Everything is waiting to die
So sweet so high
Nothing’s ever felt so alive”
The video, filmed in Paris using a 1980s-era Russian 16mm camera, evokes similar feelings. We cannot wait to hear what else is in store on his forthcoming So Sweet album. The EP is due April 16th via Arbutus Records and Mansions and Millions with pre-orders from these links or Bandcamp. The second EP, So Nice, arrives August 6th and will include an exclusive book of poetry.
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