Wide-eyed and honest to the core, the eight songs on The Matinee ’21 v. 060 edition tackles life’s many challenges in gripping, edgy, dreamy, and stunning ways.
Wolf Alice – “Smile” (London, England)
RIYL: Garbage, Billie Eilish, Smashing Pumpkins
Never make assumptions about someone – especially a woman – is a maxim that shouldn’t need repeating. There is a good reason why we are taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, right? The newest single from Wolf Alice tackles that exact scenario with a primal ferocity. If you are surprised that a tune called “Smile” has such bite, then you’re the target audience.
Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell is in a take-no-prisoners mood on this fierce track from their forthcoming third album, Blue Weekend. The band tap into angsty ‘90s-era energy from the start, unleashing snarling hooks and sultry vocals that evoke Garbage and Smashing Pumpkins. That unbridled rawness does more than get Wolf Alice fans ready for the new album. This cannon blast of warning is a wake-up call, with a message as bold as its thunderous instrumentation:
“I am what I am and I’m good at it
And you don’t like me well that isn’t fucking relevant
Don’t call me mad there’s a difference I am angry
And your choice to call me cute has offended me…
I know you all think I’m unhinged
But wind it up and this honey bee stings”
Hell yes this honey bee stings!
Blue Weekend is due June 11th via Dirty Hit Records with pre-orders available here. Wolf Alice have announced tour dates for next year, along with details about their upcoming performance at Glastonbury next month.
Wolf Alice are Ellie Rowsell, Joff Oddie, Theo Ellis, and Joel Amey.
A Place To Bury Strangers – “End of the Night” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers
We’ve mentioned this a few times before, but it’s worth mentioning again: A Place To Bury Strangers are not the typical or predictable shoegaze band. For that matter, pigeon-holing them into this genre would be a disservice to their craft. The Oliver Ackermann-fronted trio are a mashup of wall-shaking sound, taking the reverb-drenched guitars and embedding them into the worlds of post-punk, Gothic, and noise-rock, as they masterfully displayed on their last album, Pinned. Three years since that record’s release, Ackermann is back, but this time he is joined by John Fedowitz (bass) and Sandra Fedowitz (drums) of Ceremony East Coast. While the lineup has changed, the band’s jarring sound has not. At least not on “End of the Night”.
A noticeable difference in the track is that Ackermann steps aside at the start and allows his new bandmates to hog the spotlight. The song’s first minute is driven by Sandra’s rattling drum kit while an electronic beat hovers in the background. It’s not until about the 39-second mark when the familiar steely, fuzzy guitar wails arrive, at which point we know we’ve entered the mystifying realm of APTBS. For the next 4.5 minutes, the trio deliver us into the start of the apocalypse. This is a place of unnerving intensity, demonstrated on the swirling surge of electricity that emanates from each musician’s instrument and Ackermann’s shallow and distant vocal. He also sings about the end of days and the dawn of everlasting darkness. In such places, only a few can excel, and A Place To Bury Strangers have long been the benchmark by which others attempt to reach.
Eliza Shaddad – “Heaven” (London, England)
RIYL: Juliana Hatfield, Bryde, Suzanne Vega
Eliza Shaddad is an old soul at heart even though she’s still in her twenties. From her folk beginnings to her progression to cinematic folk-rock, the Masters in Philosophy degree holder has always focused on moving hearts and souls the old-fashion way – through gripping, intimate melodies and stellar songwriting. Most of her songs, too, focus on the we instead of the me, which further reveals an artist more concerned about the well-being of others than her own. On “Heaven”, she extends a much-needed hand to all those needing help to lift themselves up.
Shaddad channels her inner Ani DiFranco, Julianna Hatfield, and Suzanne Vega and delivers an indie folk-rock number from the ’90s. It soars to near anthemic heights, yet it is still embracing and intimate. The retro sound recalls the moments when we quietly contemplated our purpose while the wind raced through our hair during a trip to nowhere. Recognizing that many people are about to crumble, she bellows in our direction, “When you’ve got heaven on your mind / But I want you to keep holding on!” More importantly, she lets us know we’re all in the same boat.
“Coz I know you pray every night of your life
I know you held out for a savior deep inside
And though it hurts my heart to say it
Life is just a game
And we all lose
Yeah we all lose”
In Shaddad’s presence, though, we know we can win this game of life. On July 16th, we all win when her new album, The Woman You Want, sees the light of day. Pre-orders for are available here and directly on Bandcamp. You can also hear the springtime escapade, “Blossom”, which was released last month.
UV-TV – “Back to Nowhere” (Queens, NY via Gainesville, FL USA)
RIYL: a revved-up Alvvays, Illuminati Hotties, Surf Rock Is Dead
In 2014, a little Canadian band took the music world by storm with their bubbly and reverent brand of guitar-pop. That was Alvvays, who toiled for a few years playing little gigs across the country before winning the indie lottery. Could 2021 be the year that UV-TV experience a similar breakthrough? If we were betting folks, we would say yes because their version of guitar-pop is equally as enticing, as they showcased on the adrenaline-inducing “Distant Lullaby” in March. For a second demonstration of their musical gymnastics, Rose Vastola (vocals, bass), Ian Bernacett (guitar), and Ian Rose (drums) share a tune that will have listeners doing back flips, cartwheels, and all sorts of tricks.
“Back to Nowhere” is beachy guitar-pop running at 120 miles per hour. It is an exuberant affair made to get people out of their doldrums. It is made to make people believe that the worst is behind and only good times remain. Bernacett’s gushing guitar and Rose’s splintering drumming lead the charge, creating a wall of caffeine-laced sound. Vastola’s voice, meanwhile, mirrors the song’s boisterous approach, delivering a message that Athos, Porthos, and Aramis (a.k.a. The Three Musketeers) would be proud to hear. Coolly she tells everyone that we’re in this all together and “no one is going down”. That we have a choice to sit idly or find ways to enjoy ourselves and the time we have. With a song as catchy as this, we only have one choice – to find a routine that catapults us off the couch and learn a new trick or two.
Alex McArtor – “Baby Don’t Cut Your Hair For Anyone” (Dallas, USA)
RIYL: Lana Del Rey, Julia Holter, Bette Midler
One of our favorite discoveries of 2020 is now an adult, which says a lot about the talent of Alex McArtor. She has loads of it, as evidenced by her singles, “Biggest Fan” and “House On the Bay”. The 18-year-old Texan is now gaining global traction, and it won’t be long until her image dominates every entertainment medium. While many artists her age would start thinking about commercial success and appeasing the mainstream crowd to accelerate her career, she has instead opted to continue writing cinematic works with fantastic stories. She will achieve success on her terms with songs as moving as “Baby Don’t Cut Your Hair For Anyone”.
In a nutshell, McArtor has crafted another stirring, emotional number. The song is part Bette Midler with its sweeping orchestration and part Lana Del Rey, as reflected in McArtor’s vocal delivery and brilliant songwriting. While the arrangement is stunning, McArtor’s songwriting is the showstopper. She does not hold back when describing the pretentious town where she and her friend live and how others try to manipulate them. She instead encourages her friend and herself to be themselves while offering a biting critique of the town’s inhabitants:
“Here everyone gets wasted at the high school dance
Mothers hanging around reliving old romance
Oh those glory days
They seem so far away
So they don’t like your shaved legs
And the way you move
But you don’t see the way that they look at you
Like you’re so hot, you make their heart stop”
McArtor’s debut EP, Welcome to the Wasteland, will be released June 25th. She’s going to be a star.
English Teacher – “R&B” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Dry Cleaning, Dead Naked Hippies, Desperate Journalist
Leeds, the gritty Yorkshire English city with an immensely underrated indie scene, has gifted the world with the likes of Alt-J, Kaiser Chiefs, Gang of Four, and the now defunct Eagulls. It is also home to some of the best alt-rock and post-punk bands on the continent, including Dead Naked Hippies, Crumbs, and English Teacher. The latter may not be as in-your-face as their contemporaries, but instead they are masters of contrast. They realize that shining a glimmer of light into the darkness can be more jarring than pure blackness because hope can be crushed. The quartet showcase their skills on “R&B”.
With a crunchy, stark bass line leading the way for the searing guitars and the military-style percussion, front-woman Lily Fontaine’s deadpan vocal floats effortlessly through the stark noise. She is the symbol of calm within the madness of the world’s plethora of contradictions. This includes how love can hurt, as she sings, “I’ve been writing R&B for you / I’ve been making a deep for you / Know it’s what you need / Is it too sweet for you?” This includes the music industry, where she’s been told that “despite appearances I haven’t got the voice for R&B / Even though I’ve seen more colored shows than Katy XPs”.
But who needs to be an R&B star when you can make a profound statement in a genre befitting of these times?
English Teacher are Lily Fontaine (vocals, rhythm guitar, synth), Douglas Frost (drums, synth), Nicholas Eden (bass, synth), and Lewis Whiting (lead guitar, synth). The single is out on Nice Swan Records.
Olivia Kaplan – “Seen by You” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: The Weather Station, Flock of Dimes, Lomelda
When we first covered Olivia Kaplan, we asked how she stayed under the radar for as long as she has. From her small beginnings of sharing releases on Bandcamp to signing with a great indie label in Topshelf Records, It felt like it was just a matter of time for Kaplan to break out. She released “Wrong” in January, it was a mix of 1970’s singer-songwriter charm with a bit of contemporary indie folk.
On her latest single, “Seen By You”, Kaplan captivates yet again. Those throwback vibes are back in a big way early on. Kaplan’s voice over just a bit of synth and drums, creating a dreamy and inviting introduction. The track lets loose, though and it becomes something much larger, with harmonies, heavy drums and guitar kicking in for the choruses in huge moments. “Seen By You” tackles the question of trying to see one’s self the way that others do, and how that obsession could be detrimental rather than validating. It’s accompanied by a quirky video that plays with that idea, with selfies and social media validation.
Kaplan’s debut album, Tonight Turns to Nothing, is out June 25th via Topshelf Records. Pre-order it on Bandcamp. It features some really fantastic guests and musicians including Adam Gunther and Jorge Balbi (Sharon Van Etten), Alex Fischel (Spoon), Buck Meek (Big Thief) and others.
Wyldest – “Beggar” (London, England)
RIYL: Amason, Misty Coast, Makthaverskan
Over the years we’ve grown accustomed to hearing Zoe Mead and her project, Wydlest, create gorgeous, cinematic soundscapes. The sonic images she and her bandmates created were the thing of dreams – widescreen shoegaze and cinematic indie that left you in a gaze. Nowadays, she’s making music of another kind of dream, that of the dream-pop variety. Although her approach has changed, her music remains stunning in its quality, and some would even say more spellbinding for its intimacy. Who are we to argue when Mead unveils a dazzler in “Beggar”.
The track is akin to the uplifting, dreamy atmospheres of some of Scandinavia’s finest indie outfits. Its jangly guitar, feathery keys, and lithe rhythms touch every tender part of one’s soul, creating a calm and levitating sensation. It is, indeed, like a dream, but this moment is entrenched in the here and now, in the reality that we know. For Mead, it is the realization that she is alone in this world with no one to whom she could turn. Her dream is more a nightmare as she says goodbye one last time.
“Sorry I’m the kind that needs you
I put you to the side now no excuse
Sorry I was cruel, I gave you all I could
Don’t give on me
Don’t give on me
As you breathe deep in
So silent now”
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