Deciphering fiction from reality is the name of the game on The Matinee ’21 v. 065, featuring eight songs from seven artists/bands. They all offer an escape as well as a reality check on what our lives have become.
Mattiel – “Those Words” & “Freedom Feels” (Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: Fazerdaze, Angel Olsen, Pearl Charles
When Mattiel Brown arrived on the indie scene back in 2017 as Mattiel, she had already established herself as a designer and illustrator. Music was just a natural progression for the multi-talented young woman from Atlanta. Just like the outfits she sketches and sews, her sound is varied, where she can easily craft an addictive, desert-psych tune or a ’50s doo-wop number. She is, in other words, unpredictably brilliant, which is, in our humble opinion, the strongest trait any artist could have. To demonstrate her chameleon-like abilities, Brown along with her long-time collaborator guitarist/producer Jonah Swilley has shared not one but two fantastic numbers.
“Those Words” is a toe-tapping, hip-swaying piece of infectious guitar-pop. Its brilliance lies in the duo’s ability to seamlessly integrate elements of ’50s and ’60s pop with contemporary guitar-pop. As such, the song feels nostalgic yet modern, filled with memories of the past while looking into the future. Brown’s lyrics, too, possess these same feelings, as she examines all her past relationships and friendships and how destructive some were. She’s learned from those lessons and now avoids people who choose to pin her down.
“Freedom Feels”, meanwhile, is a tender, psych-tinged, folk-rock ballad. It emanates with the soothing cinema of Angel Olsen’s early, grand numbers with every chord and drum roll calming our anxieties. Brown’s voice booms like a ’50s starlet standing at the center of the Grand Ole Opry, telling one woman’s story of her constantly appeasing others at her expense. She’s had enough, and now she’s sawing off the shackles that have held her down for far too long. She is the hero in her story and no one else’s.
Squirrel Flower – “I’ll Go Running” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Emma Ruth Rundle, Lucy Dacus
Squirrel Flower‘s Ella Williams has every necessary quality to be the next breakout artist. Williams released a stellar debut record last year, I Was Born Swimming, a diverse record full of emotionally-charged songs. When she announced her sophomore record, Planet (i), it seemed Williams added another tool to her arsenal with “Hurt a Fly”. The grunge ballad led us to compare her to Liz Phair, focusing on how the song echoed one of the most influential voices of their generation.
Williams and Squirrel Flower are back with their second single from Planet (i). “I’ll Go Running” changes the direction swiftly from the first single. “I’ll Go Running” is a stunner of a song. Its early moments set the scene perfectly with just vocals and guitar. Drums join in slowly and add even more to the dark tone of the track’s early moments. About halfway through, the song takes a huge shift as the electric guitar comes in and Williams’ voice goes from little more than a whisper into something huge and triumphant.
Williams describes “I’ll Go Running” as being “about the darker side of being an artist”. Its opening moments fit that well, describing how it feels to leave everything out there on a record. However, its closing moments, repeating “I’ll be newer than before“, echoes the pressure on artists to continually create.
“You didn’t listen long enough to know
I’ll tell you everything
Give away every part
And when I get worn out
I’ll dive into the ground”
Squirrel Flower’s new album, Planet (i), is out June 25th via Polyvinyl Record Co. and Full Time Hobby. Pre-orders/pre-saves are available here or go to Bandcamp. Squirrel Flower also are scheduled to tour this fall with Soccer Mommy, tickets are available here.
Phoebe Green – “IDK” (Manchester, England)
RIYL: St. Vincent, GeOrGiA, Danz CM
Look out Annie Clark, a young woman from the UK is coming to take your crown as indie’s preeminent royal. Her name is Phoebe Green, who quietly released an enticing debut LP in 02:00 AM in 2016 and then found more traction within British circles in 2019 following the release of “Dreaming Of”. The now 22-year old is on virtually everyone’s radar because she makes exquisite and inventive alt-pop music with bite. She isn’t one to sugar-coat things or gush over another person, but she’s using her platform to send powerful messages like on “IDK”.
The song is akin to the buzzing, infectious assertiveness heard on St. Vincent’s self-titled album. It also mimics Clark’s knack for contrast. A whirling, electro-disco arrangement rings throughout the track. The titillating beats and sparkling grooves are intended to make people dance and lose themselves. This aural wonderland represents the masks and costumes we wear to cover what truly lies inside. Beneath the cool soundscape lies a dark, gritty underbelly, which is represented by Green’s almost monotone, mechanical voice. She sings about how “cyclical occurrences and cynical people” have affected her well-being while she also tries to rid of her demons through drinking and medication. The conflict around and within her is masterfully told, and better yet it is one to which many of us can relate.
The single is out now on Chess Club Records. Green is going to be a star.
PACKS – “Two Hands” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Frankie Cosmos, Lomelda, Angel Olsen
Madeline Link’s journey to releasing the first PACKS record has been an interesting one. Most of the songs on take the cake were written in one of two spaces: 2019 pre-pandemic in urban Toronto and 2020 lockdown in Link’s family home in suburban Ottawa. Add to it the fact that she worked as a commercial set dresser, spent some time creating art in Mexico, and performing in a power-pop band with her sister, take the cake is poised to have some unique and interesting dynamics. We’ve already heard a clash between the raw slacker-rock of “Silvertongue” and the surreal harmonies of “New TV”.
On “Two Hands”, Link continues those grungy vibes of the first two tracks, but introduces yet more unique qualities. With just the right amount of hazy guitar chords and just a teaser of a guitar solo, “Two Hands” is short and sweet. “Two Hands” is Link’s most straightforward vocal performance yet. It shines a light on how she is able to capture moments and turn them into something more than just a walk home.
Half Waif – “Swimmer” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Weyes Blood, Jenny Hval, Agnes Obel
When Nandi Rose Plunkett, the mastermind behind Half Waif, released “Take Away the Ache” back in March, we had an inkling that the New York City-based genius was on the verge of releasing a new album. Sure enough, Plunkett announced the other day that Mythopoetics will be unleashed on the world on July 23rd via ANTI- Records. Given the LP’s title, the safe assumption is that Plunkett has crafted a concept record that will sound like, well, a contemporary mythology. If one pairs “Take Away the Ache” with “Swimmer”, however, something even more magnificent begins to crystallize.
Through two songs, Plunkett has crafted stunning, post-modern theatrical pop. If “Ache” was enchanting, “Swimmer” is alluring. The song’s mood changes multiple times, from stark and tentative, to lush and mystical, to haunting and uncertain. As the arrangement moves from dark to light to dark again, Plunkett sounds like a siren emerging from the calm, black waters, calling out for the person who touched her life. Who may have actually saved her. That person, though, may be gone in the very waters she resides.
And I knew you
When you were swimming.
You were stronger than I ever was
And I am loving you.
I wanted to sing for you
So I’m gonna sing for you.
Suiix – “The Great Nothing” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Azure Ray, Purity Ring, Cocteau Twins
Speaking of swimming, for this next song you may want to deeply inhale because “The Great Nothing” from Suiix‘s is breathtaking. This six-plus minute dream-pop extravaganza is memorable. For the first four minutes, the Sydney-based quartet create a soundscape that is light, airy, and calming on the senses. The ethereal feeling rising from the synths, keys, and percussion mimic the sensation of floating on calm waters as dusk descends. The first light of the moon flickers off the water’s gentle ripples, and one loses herself in the shadows of the descending night. Adding to the enchantment is front-woman Sarah Elise’s angelic vocal, which delivers a story that ignites our imaginations. We rise from the ashes like a phoenix in order to travel to faraway places if not another dimension.
Just as we settle in for the long sleep, a trembling guitar chimes through the stillness. It’s not an explosion but a little wake-up call to remind us that our dreams exist in one place but life resides in reality. The latter is “The Great Nothing”, a place we long to leave but cannot. A place we wish our dreams could replace. Maybe one day, but at least for six minutes we can imagine it being so.
Suiix are Sarah Elise, Kristjan Garcia Lamerton, Mitch Sloan, and Aroha Smith. Their debut album is expected sometime in 2021.
Silver Firs – “Now We Start To See The Beauty” (Bern, Switzerland)
RIYL: LCD Soundsystem + Talking Heads + Peter Bjorn and John
After listening to “Now We Start To See The Beauty”, you, too might be wondering, “Why haven’t I heard of Silver Firs before?” The veteran Swiss band actually took a six-year hiatus, so you and we are forgiven but only so slightly. Now the rest of the world has no excuse for ignoring them after hearing this musical masterpiece.
The track is a mosaic of wondrous sounds. Art-rock, krautrock, no-wave, art-rock, and even a touch of post-punk with the stark bass line are infused in the song. It commences with a groovy, mysterious, and sultry vibe, as a repetitive beat protrudes through the track before an unexpected sax arrives. It’s not until nearly 80 seconds in when the lyrics kick in, and the band talk about the isolation and solitude they’ve encountered for a half-decade. Then the track shifts gears, illuminating with brightness and radiance. It’s like a black cloud has been lifted, and one’s solitary desolation is now filled with familiar friends and family.
Or is it all just a dream, where we believe what we to be real? That we want to believe that beauty can still exist in these dark times. At least we know one thing – Silver Firs have delivered one of the year’s great songs.
The single is out on Oh, Sister Records. Let’s hope this is the start of a fantastic return for the band.
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