Forget easing into the week: The Matinee ’21 v. 049 offers songs that unleash our inner hero. The mini-playlist starts off with a roar and ends with calm, just like the month of March.
Manchester Orchestra – “Bed Head” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Silversun Pickups, Foals, Band of Horses
Go ahead and add Manchester Orchestra to your Album of the Year list: their upcoming sixth studio LP, The Million Masks of God, is a guaranteed Top 10 finisher. We knew this from the incendiary hooks of the Atlanta band’s recent single, “Bed Head.” Its follow-up is a prequel of sorts.
“Keel Timing” is the torch that lit the subsequent inferno. Hold onto your proverbial hat. This tune is another scorcher.
“Keel Timing” shares more than just its tempo and fiery hooks with “Bed Head.” Each song shares frontman Andy Hull’s signature lyrical imagery. Natural elements (wood, water, fire) and philosophical subjects (life, death, love) are common threads woven through each song. Robert McDowell and Tim Very provide high-octane instrumentation set to Andy Prince’s thunderous percussion. The result – something akin to Foals and Silversun Pickups – is stunning:
“I was folding, slowly frozen
Change for you
And it wasn’t right, but it wasn’t wrong
It was holy
I think I’ll start again, slowly (and I feel sane again)
Help rearrange my head, slowly (and I feel sane)
I’m the woods, you’re the fire, interloping”
The Joy Formidable – “Into the Blue” (Utah via Flintshire, Wales)
RIYL: The Duke Spirit, Blood Red Shoes, School of Seven Bells
There are few albums as perfectly titled as The Joy Formidable’s 2011 debut record, The Big Roar. In the decade since, the Welsh trio have evolved that distinctive, anthemic roar into something epic. From acoustic tracks (“Silent Treatment”) to power ballads (“The Brook”) they’ve added depth to their music without losing their identity. They’ve also done acoustic tours, released series of songs in Welsh, and have a music club with exclusives for fans.
“Into The Blue” feels like a blend of all the band has done to this point. Its early moments are quiet, centered around Ritzy Bryan’s vocals. But soon bassist Rhydian Dafydd sings a verse, which is a nice rarity. Then the familiar roar returns with heavy reverb enhanced by intense percussion from drummer Matt Thomas. Like much of The Joy Formidable’s lyricism, it is a track that attempts to make sense of the unknown. “Into The Blue” is about embracing the journey and discovering the strength that can come from taking a big leap into the blue:
“Don’t fear the move out of the past
Let time take your hand and guide you Into the Blue
Into the outside without you”
“Into The Blue” is streaming now from these sites.
Hydromag – “What We Left Behind” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: M83, Still Corners, Dreamboat
“Hello world! Hydromag is not dead yet,” proclaimed the project’s mastermind Josh Best-Shaw on Facebook. And thank goodness for that because the Bristol-based artist is a dream-pop auteur even if he’s not a household name. No one would blame Best-Shaw for packing it in after more than four years of hovering under the radar, but perhaps 2021 will be his breakout year. With a song like “What We Left Behind”, that is a definite possibility.
The track is four minutes of summer bliss. The shoegaze guitar, the fluttering rhythms and synth, and Best-Shaw’s lush vocals merge together to create a breathtaking atmosphere. Vulnerability fills his words as he shares the struggles – mental, emotional, and financial – of the past year:
“Watch me spinning around
Stuck on the detail
Suddenly finding it hard
I just want someone to pay my bills
Sing to me in an ever-changing world
And another flower
Calling us to open up our eyes
Then we will realize what we left behind”
Despite what he’s encountered, Best-Shaw offers us more than a glimmer of hope. He also offers a glimpse into the future of British indie music.
Connie Constance – “Electric Girl” (London, England)
RIYL: Nilüfer Yanya, Millie Turner, UPSAHL
Since 2015, we have been turning to Connie Constance to stimulate our minds with poignant stories and messages. Her 2020 EP, The Butterfly Club, was a mix of pop-rock perfection and contemplative, soulful ballads – a microcosm of her immense talent. The twenty-something London resident really should be a star, but for now those in the know will just have to call Constance their very own and delight in every new release. Or in the case of “Electric Girl”, we should all turn up the volume on this awesome banger.
“Electric Girl” is guitar-pop euphoria, as the energy is electric for its entire 171-second duration. The guitar is gritty yet cathartic while the rhythms bounce like an ’80s dance-pop anthem. This song is made for the people, inducing spontaneous dancing while enabling us to release our stress. Its story is of a young woman wanting to escape her situation and see the world. She wants to be free of the shackles that hold her down, including her own anxieties. The heroine is the symbol of our collective situation, and Constance is the light that helps us through the darkness.
The single is out now on Constance’s own Jump The Fence label. Get to know this incredibly talented young artist.
Linn Koch-Emmery – “Hard to Love” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Clairo, Hatchie, Roxette
Swedish singer-songwriter Linn Koch-Emmery has been on our radar for a long time, and constantly finds ways to make her brand of guitar-pop feel fresh and alive. After releasing several singles and a couple of EPs, her debut album, Being the girl, arrives May 7th. Koch-Emmery has shared a handful of singles, including “Blow My Mind”, and now offers another tune to get people excited about what is to come.
“Hard to Love” is a euphoric dazzler. The Stockholm-based singer-songwriter wow listeners with an urgent dream-pop approach, particularly during the song’s bridge and outro. Those moments feel like time is suspended, which allows us to listen intently to what she has to say. Despite its title, the track isn’t the typical love story. It is a tale of taking a hard look in the mirror and realizing the problem isn’t the people around us but ourselves. It is a story of self-love.
The more we listen to Linn Koch-Emmery, the more we think she could be the next Marie Fredriksson of Roxette.
Luminous Kid – “Mountain Crystals” (feat. Phoebe Bridgers) (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Radical Face, Kishi Bashi, Better Oblivion Community Center
So how do you recruit Phoebe Bridgers to sing on your album? Simple, you just need an equally imaginative and creative mind. Such is the fate of Olof Grind, the talent behind Luminous Kid. When asked how he got Bridgers to perform on his newest single, “Mountain Crystals”, he said:
“I shot the cover for ‘Punisher’, so she asked me to send her my music, and she loved it and wanted to do the feature! Pretty cool!”
Pretty cool indeed! We’re convinced Bridgers should recruit Grind for her next supergroup because the Stockholm resident is a gifted singer-songwriter, dabbling in what he calls “queer experimental indie/folk-pop.” For us, his music is the equivalent of a fairy tale. Only a few artists can recreate the sensation that emerges from “Mountain Crystals.”
This tune will put a smile on your face. The folk-pop approach is mystical in its execution yet warm, endearing, and beautiful. Grind’s delicate, fleeting voice floats along with the instrumentation. His tale is the thing of dreams:
“Waves come crashing in my brain colors changing people stay
Nightlight trickles covers your face, you’re smiling
While we dance and while we fight
While we laugh until it’s time
For the sun to punch down the street drunkenly
While the chestnut leaves began to bloom for you and me
Reaching for the sky”
Grind’s debut LP, at the end of the dream, arrives April 23rd.
Silver Strands – “By The Shore” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Roy Orbison, Marlon Williams, Elvis Presley
If we were living in the ’70s, Nathan Beale and his project Silver Strands would be stars. The airwaves would be flooded with songs like “Born to Lose”, “We Could Be Love”, “When The Lighthouse Fades”, and “By The Shore”. Beale is a throwback to an era of tender music from unforgettable voices, something he proves on his newest single.
If Elvis performed a dusty, desert-psych tune, it would sound a lot like “Love Again.” Beale’s voice rises with the cooing intimacy of the legend. This song could be the final goodbye scene of the hero in a Western film. It is romantic yet mythical, a stirring, heartfelt tune that raises your body’s temperature. Here, Beale channels the power of music from an earlier era:
“In the sacred songs they sing
Be careful where you roam
Head-first into the mist
Far out and way past the ruins
Where the brave stand up
And the chorus sing in praise
The dawn rolls like a river
To a waterfall of cosmic waves
There’s nothing left to want
No reason for lies or greed
The only thing in the way is space
And love is all we need”
Beale’s debut album, Love, is out now and available on Bandcamp.
Psyence – “Marmalade” (Stoke-on-Trent, England)
RIYL: Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, The Arctic Monkeys
Ten days ago, the appropriately named psychedelic rockers Pysence released their new EP. Reality or Design is, as anyone who has followed the band already knows, a heavy, propulsive record filled with relevant tales. The EP focuses on the surreal nature of recent years. From COVID to fake news and the rise of the alt-right, the band tackle the shape-shifting world we live in. This cornucopia of the unbelievable are summarized on “Marmalade”.
The song is actually a fairly old one, as the Stoke quintet have performed the track during their live shows. Releasing it now is fitting given the song’s themes of uncertainty and confusion. It roars with intensity from the hammering guitars and hard-pounding rhythms, then shifts in a different direction, albeit temporarily. Psyence pull the song back and give it a dark, throbbing vibe to mimic the multiple thoughts running through the protagonist’s mind. What is real and what isn’t? Who is telling the truth and who even has it?
“Look me in the eye, tell me who is to blame
Another broken heart I will brave
But I’ve got to go back to the start
I have to find out where, find out where it all went wrong”
Reality or Design is available at these links.
Psyence are: Stephen Pye, Jamie Cartlidge, Jamie Bellingham, Benjamin Nixon, and Joe Walsh.
Daniel Netz – “To the Valley Below” (Tel Aviv, Israel)
RIYL: Loma, Hope Sandoval, Grace Gillespie
Sometimes a great melody defines a song’s greatness. Other times it is the story that is told. Then there is the rare occasion where a few lyrics prove unforgettable. In the case of Daniel Netz‘s latest single, “To the Valley Below”, it’s all of the above.
Eliminate all distractions before you listen because this folk-pop number is the essence of enchantment. It is a beautiful but mysterious tale come to life – like a Guillermo del Toro film where fantasy meets reality. The arrangement is simple and delicate, allowing Netz’s gorgeous vocals to star.
Meanwhile, five words stand out from the Israeli artist’s track about perseverance: “Sadness is just an idea.” It’s a simple line, yet accurate and real. Those words should be our mantra as we wait for life to return to normal.
Netz’s new EP, To the Valley Below, is expected later this year.
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