From near tragedy to life imitating art to the heavens, The Matinee ’21 v. 062 is full of adventure. Some are of the introspective and ethereal variety and others like reading a great piece of literature coming to life.
Jesse Marchant – “An Accident (From 3 Perspectives)” (New York City, USA via Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Matt Berninger, Leif Vollebeck, The War On Drugs
An emotional cinema fills every moment of each Jesse Marchant single. His music can be endearing and wistful or hopeful and joyous. It can even feel as brittle as the crisp air on a cloudless mid-winter’s day, as was the case with his previous single, “Go Lightly”. The Montreal native is a master of turning the subtle moment into a compelling and beautiful enterprise or making a near tragedy into a startling yet enrapturing and unforgettable experience, which is what he does on “An Accident (From 3 Perspectives)”.
The first word from out of our mouths upon hearing Marchant’s newest number was “amazing”. The song builds from its tranquil, piano-laden melody into a soaring, cinematic climax. It is like watching a great drama unfold before your eyes, but instead of seeing it you hear and visualize the action. Marchant’s brilliant songwriting vividly paints the scene, as he assumes the role of three individuals – his mother, his brother, and himself. The setting is a ski slope that finds Marchant laying still after crashing from his snowboard. “Somebody lead me to the phone / My brother is fading fast / He slid halfway down the hill / His face is as gray as ash”, he sings in the role of his brother.
Next, he is his mother, who faces her worst fears. He calmly sings, “When I turned up on the scene / My knees felt weak in panic / I saw a dead man on his feet / Walking to the car smiling / Saying everything is fine.” Afterwards, he cuts into his own mind and how he realizes how fortunate he is. Back and forth Marchant goes between bodies and minds, trying to comprehend their fears and anxieties in comparison to his own. As such, while he sings about the accident that almost took his life, the song is also a thank you to his mother and brother. A thank you for the life he still has.
Sunjacket – “Uptight” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: The Antlers, Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke
The music industry is cutthroat. Few artists and bands get covered even though the internet is littered with blogs, micro-radio stations, playlist curators, and labels of all sizes. And yet, they persevere in pursuit of perfecting their craft and doing what they love. Chicago’s Sunjacket is a prime example of a band continuing to push through the anonymity in order to be heard, having been around for nearly a decade. Their determination has subsequently craft perfection with their newest single, “Uptight”.
Like the beautiful marriage of The Antlers, Grizzly Bear, and Thom Yorke, “Uptight” is the seduction of the full moon at midnight. Every element pulses like the heartbeat of a person patiently wading through the alleys of an unfamiliar neighborhood that has a secret lying behind every corner. In this case, the secrets are known because this neighborhood resides inside the mind of the protagonist. As the song slowly builds, front-man Bryan Kveton delves further into his conscious as he attempts to survive another day. There is fear and hopelessness, optimism and enlightenment, all the things one associates when the end of one day meets the start of another. This story in many replicates Sunjacket’s experience with the dark behind and their own era before them.
The band consists of Bryan Kveton (vocals, synths, guitars), Carl Hauck (vocals, synths, guitars), and Garret Bodette (drums, percussion). Their sophomore album, More Lifelike, is out June 4. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
Babel – “Honeyspell” (Helsinki, Finland)
RIYL: Azure Ray, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins
From the enrapturing night we enter the dawn of a new day. We step inside a world full of illumination and wonder, and it is appropriately called Babel. And no, this place isn’t one of confusion, as the word means. Instead, Karin Mäkiranta and Mikko Pykäri’s project relates to the days leading up to the erection of the Tower of Babel, at which time all the peoples of the Earth spoke a single language and shared the common belief that heaven was their final destination. In such a place, they would find a better life. The Finnish duo, likewise, remind us that in during these confounding times we can similarly find fulfillment. We can find our bit of heaven within us, around us, and in music like “Honeyspell”.
The song is the personification of dreamgaze. It is ethereal and breathtaking, and a tune to be heard over and over again. Matching the widescreen sonic cinema of Azure Ray, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, and Lush, the band create a soundscape that makes us feel we are levitating in the air or floating gently down a calm stream. They maake us feel we have reached the place that we were destined to find. It is truly an out-of-body experience that is simply striking and stunning, and in the process of all this we just may have found another new favorite band.
Veps – “Ecstasy” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Hinds, Dream Wife, The Big Moon
About six years ago, the Norwegian indie scene exploded with the likes of Sløtface, Highasakite, and Hajk leading the charge. While the country continues to produce some stellar bands, it has not experienced a similar tidal wave. With the arrival of a new decade and a pandemic allowing for people to stay home and create, we might be on the cusp of a second wave of Norwegian greatness that kicks off with Veps.
The young quartet of Laura (guitar), June (bass), Maja (drums) and Helena (keys/piano) started playing together in their early teens. But instead of trying to be the next The Pussycat Dolls, they’ve set their sights on being the next Warpaint, HAIM, or the aforementioned Sløtface. That is, they’re crafting indie pop-rock that is not just catchy and infectious but meaningful and poignant, which is what “Ecstasy” is.
With June’s throbbing, post-punk-like bass line leading the way, the foursome deliver a heavy-hitting yet dizzying affair. It’s not a song made for dancing nor even skipping through the meadow, but rather it is made for deep contemplation. It is meant to be heard in the quiet corners of a room, where one can examine their situation and the people with whom they surround themselves. For Veps, they take a hard look at a friend and his drug addiction. They smartly share:
“With your head held high like you’re six-foot-five
Circling around all your pretentious lies
Doesn’t seem like you know where to go, no
Meet your eyes and you tell me all the things you like
I can tell she is not the one that’s on your mind
I take your hand but we don’t make a show
But if you let her know and leave, I’ll tell you where you wanna go”
This young band is going places – very high places to be precise if they continue to create intelligent yet emotionally moving music.
Joe by the Book – “Be Somebody” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: The Kooks, Har Mar Superstar, Mac DeMarco, Juan Wauters
We have long stated that a great way for a song to stand out is to tell a story. Songs are not just instrumental pieces, but they are a means to communicate, provoke, and entertain just like a book, a film, or a TV series. Writing a new, fresh story is cool, but being inspired by a literary classic and applying its morals to today can also be equally brilliant if done properly. Leeds newcomers, Joe by the Book, have done exactly this with their third single, “Be Somebody”.
The song is smooth and groovy, echoing the sun-soaked, psych-pop of the ’70s with its funky bass line, the chiming guitars, and the titillating percussion. It’s the perfect track to escape reality for a few minutes. The protagonist of the story, too, seeks to escape this wild world. His name is Don, and he dreams about being a knight who fights monsters and saves damsels in distress. Those monsters, however, are actually windmills, and Don lives in the present day. If you know your literature, then you will quickly realize the band has been inspired by Cervantes’ humorous, classic novel, Don Quixote.
“He really thought that he could be somebody that he dreamed up
Hoping that he would wind up somewhere else
And he thought that he could take up something that he made up
Leaving behind his normal sense of self”
Oh, how we wish we could be Don for a day.
Bachelor – “Sick of Spiraling” (Allston, MA, USA and Oakland, USA)
RIYL: George Harrison, Slothrust, Palehound
With each song released by Bachelor, our excitement for their upcoming record, Doomin’ Sun, increases exponentially. Even just on paper, it’s easy to see why. Melina Duterte of Jay Som and Ellen Kempner of Palehound are two of the most notable and unique songwriters right now. Hearing their singles so far, ranging from the Pixies-esque “Stay in the Car” to the groovy “Anything At All”, it’s clear this is far more than a “best of both worlds” but an embrace of new sounds for both songwriters, including on “Sick of Spiraling”.
With a sound that would fit in perfectly on a George Harrison record, Kempner and Duterte create a laid-back vibe on the track. Great guitar leads over wonderfully strummed acoustic guitar chords helps the track hit at a level that few do. A close-call in a gas station to doom-scrolling on a phone, Kempner’s lyrics sing of unexpected danger during a time-out on the road. It’s a bit like a Hunter S. Thompson book coming to life.
Flora Cash – “Soul Mate” (Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: The Civil Wars, The Head and The Heart, Nick Drake
Most people who have followed Flora Cash know the duo’s story. If not, the Cole’s Notes version is that Shpresa Lleshaj and Cole Randall met on SoundCloud, listening to each other’s solo material. They connected over Skype and fell in love. Randall would pack up his life in Minneapolis and move to Stockholm, and nearly a decade later they remain together. Their story is what an internet fairy tale would resemble, but it has not ended.
Like many artists and bands, the pair used the 15-month-and-counting pandemic to write new material, such as “The Bright Lights”. This year-plus period also saw the couple welcome their first child, and they quickly immortalized that life-changing moment on “Soul Mate”.
Randall assumes the lead with Lleshaj on backing vocal on this lovely ballad that is akin to The Civil Wars’ most intimate and delicate numbers. The arrangement is simple with just an acoustic guitar, a piano, and a cello accompanying the pair’s voices. They sing about the unbreakable bonds between them, how a little moment like the small hand on one’s chest can leave a scar, and how a single event can create peace within this chaotic world. The song is a reminder that life is still full of wonderful surprises and unforgettable moments. That we can still find a bit of happiness even in the darkest of times.
The single is out on their own, aptly-titled label, Flower Money Records. There is still no word on whether a new LP is coming, and we wait patiently for the news.
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