As the long weekend arrives, The Matinee ’21 v. 051 offers moments of self-reflection so that in the end we can be better versions of ourselves. Stay safe everyone and remember to be kind.
Wy – “Window” (Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Wye Oak, School of Seven Bells, Mint Julep
For more than half-a-decade, married couple Ebba and Michel Gustafsson Ågren have perfected the art of emotional intimacy via their project Wy. From the moment they shared the single, “Bathrooms”, we were hooked. Over the years, they’ve effortlessly moved between cinematic dream-pop to soul-crushing slowcore, which is where we find them today with “Window.”
Like so many of their songs, “Window” is powerful, emotive, and raw. The sparse, almost minimalist arrangement allows the track’s emotion to naturally develop. Nothing is forced, which is the sign of a band confident in their ability to elicit a response no matter how widescreen or subdued the melody may be. Ebba’s falsetto and introspective lyrics magnify the song’s poignancy and impact. As her voice moves from brittle to desperate, she reveals the inner turmoil that eats away at her. “What am I missing this time?”, she asks to no one in search for an answer as to why every day feels like a prison and why the days where she feels fulfilled are rare. Ebba has offered a window into her mind so that we can understand there are others who are also struggling to wake up each day.
Watch the beautiful black-and-white video on YouTube.
“Window” is the fourth single from the duo’s forthcoming new album, Marriage. It arrives May 7th via Rama Lama Records. Pre-order it from the label’s store or Bandcamp. The other three songs are: “That Picture of Me”, “Come Here” and “Dream House”.
JayWood – “Some Days” (Winnipeg, Canada)
RIYL: Shamir, Mac DeMarco, Boy Pablo
While the city of Winnipeg rightfully is excited about the performance of the Jets (that’s the National Hockey League franchise for those not into hockey), its citizens should also be rallying behind Jeremy Haywood-Smith and his project JayWood. The young Canadian recently signed with the great NYC label Captured Tracks, who will release his debut EP, Some Days. The lead single is a tune that Haywood-Smith wrote three years ago, but only yesterday did it get officially released.
“Some Days” is a full-bodied, springtime anthem. The blissful and euphoric tones emanating from the jangly guitar riffs and stuttering, groovy rhythms recreate the feeling of stepping outside immediately after a storm and feeling the bright sunshine break through the abandoning clouds. Warmth and optimism overwhelm our senses, as we set foot outside for the first time in what seems like years. It is an accomplishment to cherish given the state of the world, and Haywood-Smith’s lyrics also encourage people to be prepared to do what they want because brighter days are ahead. As such, don’t get comfortable with your situation but be willing to take a leap of fate.
“Some days I dream I can fly
To look around
And know I’ve gone beyond this world that I know”
Those words should be plastered on a poster. In the meantime, etch April 23rd into your calendar, as that is when Some Days will be released. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp. The video for the song is available on YouTube and is well worth watching.
Half Waif – “Take Away the Ache” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Weyes Blood, Jenny Hval, Gordi
Nandi Rose Plunkett is not one to be stationary. The singer-songwriter, composer, and creative genius behind Half Waif is constantly experimenting, whether it is with grand art-pop or brooding theatrical fare. She is an artist’s artist, where the intricacies of music will wow even the most seasoned professional and deft listener. For the lay persons like us, her music still finds ways to amaze for its ingenuity yet connect emotionally. One does not need to look any further than “Take Away the Ache” for evidence.
On her newest single, Plunkett has abandoned the safe confines of her studio and entered another world. This sonic wonderland feels barren yet beautiful, composed of sparkling back beats, delicate keys, and the subtle bellow of a trumpet. It is folktronica that goes beyond Justin Vernon’s masterful orchestration, as Plunkett keeps the arrangement restrained in order to allow her magnificent voice rise above the sonic fireworks. She sings about never settling for the status quo, but instead to seek more even in love.
“And I know that i’m asking for more than you can give,
But isn’t love just living like that?”
Squirrel Flower – “Hurt a Fly” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Liz Phair, Letters to Cleo, Soccer Mommy
The ’90s was the last decade of true inspiration and innovation with the rise of grunge and alt-rock and the mainstreaming of hip-hop, rap, and electronic. The first two genres, however, were the ones we gravitated towards, as bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Elastica, and Veruca Salt echoed our thoughts and feelings. Meanwhile, a young woman named Liz Phair was galvanizing young women to speak out and be heard. Even young men were inspired by her poignant songwriting and assertive nature. Today’s generation may have their own Liz Phair in Ella Williams, whose project Squirrel Flower echoes this great era and the music of a living legend. This is evidenced on “Hurt A Fly.”
Williams’ latest is a gorgeous grunge ballad. It is quietly gritty and at times even a little grimy with the gnarly guitar arrangement and hammering keys, yet its core is dreamy and intimate. Williams’ soft vocal adds to the track’s stirring effect. Her voice sounds innocent, but her words are anything but. “Took it too far again / Thought that you were my friend / I just got the wrong idea / In the morning”, she sings, assuming the persona (in her own words) of a “gaslighting, narcissistic soft-boy type shit.” This is the person who always crosses the line and hurts others in the process, but comes back apologizing and seeking forgiveness. Yet, we continue to open our doors to him just so he can continue his ways. Like we said, a new generation has found its Liz Phair.
Watch the video for the song here.
Current Joys – “American Honey” (Reno, USA)
RIYL: Michael Nau, Sam Evian, Sam Cohen
In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors wakes up to the same day, re-living the same events over and over again. Each morning he hears the same song – “I Got You Babe” by Sonny Bono and Cher. If the film could be remade and the song changed, “American Honey” from Current Joys would be a strong contender.
There are many reasons why Nicholas Rattigan’s newest single deserves to be repeatedly heard. The string-filled arrangement gives the song a lament-like feeling, yet one that is blithe and dreamy. Breathtaking moments fill the track, filling one with memories of a time of innocence, liberation, and hope or maybe even rekindling the feeling you had when you first said “I love you.” Rattigan’s voice, meanwhile, breaks with the emotion of man about to lose everything. Or maybe he realizes he cannot attain the one thing he longs for, such as Phil Connors lying in his bed trying to figure out the puzzle that is Rita Hanson’s heart.
“I miss you like American Honey
You taste so sweet
But there’s always something
Like a tragedy
That’s constantly coming
And it sticks to me
So I stick to nothing”
The song’s meaning, though, could mean many things – the fall of a great nation, the loss of a life, the wish for normalcy. Whatever the song may mean to you, find comfort in its gorgeous melody and realize that beauty can exist within the darkness.
View the track’s emotional video here.
Mae Powell – “Fuck I.C.E.” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Jay Som, Car Seat Headrest meets Joan Baez, Patti Smith
Trump may no longer be President, but his legacy still lives. His fingerprints still firmly mark the landscape of the United States, and it might take generations to wipe them away. Although things have changed under Biden, there is still so much to repair and undo. As such, people must remain alert and stay active if change is to happen, and Mae Powell offers a reminder of what was and still is with her new single, “Fuck I.C.E.”
Through a simple, gritty indie-rock arrangement, Powell’s lyrics are her weapons of choice. The strumming guitars and tapping rhythms are merely the vessels that carry the substance that really matter. Channeling the songwriting brilliance and political activism of Joan Baez and Patti Smith, the San Diego-born, San Francisco-based singer-songwriter unleashes a pleasant tirade on her home country, aiming her first volley at 45.
“I am angry today at red, white, and blue
I am angry at the things that you do
You like to see us cry
Claim freedom then put us down so you can thrive”
But like a true activist, she also targets her fellow Americans and calls them out for their apathy. She asks them to act, including calling their representatives while calling out their best friends and “racist grandma”. As the saying goes: if we stay silent, then we are complicit. Or as Powell succinctly says to end the song:
“No one is free until we’re all free”
Preach on Mae Powell!
The single is out on Park the Van, who will also release Powell’s debut album later in 2021.
Douglas – “Come With Me” (Los Angeles, USA via Madrid, Spain)
RIYL: Spanish version of Portishead, London Grammar, Chromatics
To enter the long weekend, we leave it in the hands of an artist who has overcome much yet still has found a way to find inspiration through personal turmoil. Back in February, Amy Douglas White – or simply Douglas – shared her experience with losing a child and then giving birth to another on the emotional “Clouds.” Her 5+-year story will be heard on her debut album, Ashes, which is out tomorrow (April 2nd). The songs on the record are filled with light and darkness, hope and pain, and some occasions all of the above. This is the case with “Come With Me”.
Sung mostly in White’s native language of Spanish, the track is beautifully haunting. It is reminiscent of the spellbinding trip-hop of Portishead combined with the spatial enlightenment that often occupies a Chromatics song. Or in other words, White has orchestrated a futuristic fantasy that takes us deep into the middle of the unknown universe, and this journey is not just an expedition to discover new worlds. It is also a trip to understand who we are. The greatest mysteries, after all, deal with the human subconscious. Just how much is “too much for me”? Use the long weekend to find answer to this question with Douglas’ song and album being the gateway.
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