We’re kicking off the month of May in fine style, as The Matinee ’21 v. 066 is a full house of nine songs spanning multiple genres and countries. Long-time favorites and talented newcomers brimming with limitless potential are featured today.
Damen – “Brightside” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Editors, Gengahr, a young U2
A year ago, Swedish indie newcomers Damen released a stellar debut album, Sagrada Familia. It was an eye-opening record that was filled with brilliantly-written mini-anthems, which captured the conflict and confusion that existed within us. In another time, such an LP would have been the talk of the town, but instead it unfairly flew under the radar. The great thing about the power of the internet, though, is that talented bands like Damen can continue to produce music and gradually if not exponentially grow their fanbase. With a great little label in VÅRØ Records behind them, Danial Bin Ismail Ärlig (vocals/guitar), David Nordell (bass), Adrian Gejrot (drums) and Gustav Bondesson (guitar) should become household names at least in Scandinavia very soon. Songs like “Brightside”, meanwhile, should become mainstays on local radio.
Like most of the tracks on their debut, “Brightside” is an emotionally-soaring anthem. It booms with the surging power of Editors in their prime while possessing the urgency of U2 in their infancy. The ringing, delayed guitar even echos of The Edge’s trademark sound. Ärlig, similarly, channels his inner, 20-year old Bono, who once took it upon himself to write stories about the struggles of youth and entire communities. For Ärlig, he tries to find the light within the growing darkness that clouds the mind of all trying to keep their head above water. It’s an
It’s like I wanna be fooled
You disappeared empty promises
On top, on top everything you said
All lost, all lost
A fucking taste of the fame
Are you the light that leads me there?
So you know everybody’s name?
Just say the word
And I’ll try and find a little brightside to it all
You say the word, and I’ll be there
But I don’t know if you really care”
The band’s new EP, Unemployment, Broken Bones, Death, Baby, drops May 14th. Maybe the record will be their breakout.
HYMNS – “Sirens” (London, England)
RIYL: Interpol, The Blinders, Gang of Four
Post-punk experienced a rebirth in the mid-2010s, and 2020 arguably was the genre at its peak. But was last year really the high point and could 2021 exceed a year that saw Fontaines D.C., Idles, Ganser, Protomayer, and a slew of other bands deliver outstanding records and songs? Time will tell, of course, but the Brit post-punk scene is off to a fantastic start with Shame’s electrifying new album and bands like HYMNS making emphatic statements to be heard and recognized.
On Friday, Oli Hooper (vocals, guitar), Giorgio Compagnone (bass), Amy Chapman (drums), and Filippo Ferrazzoli (guitar) released their new EP, Reset, which features four songs of enrapturing post-punk and incredible storytelling, highlighted by “Sirens”. With the trembling bleakness of The Blinders and the throbbing theatrics of Interpol, the track is like a classic horror film derived from the mind of the late, great Dario Argento. It is artistic yet foreboding, stunning to observe but thrilling on the senses. As the song builds with the building, dual guitar lines and the stark rhythms, Hooper with his gripping, haunting vocal takes an actual event and turns it into a piece of brilliant fiction. Having observed an actual tragedy on the tube (i.e., the London Underground), Hooper’s story revolves around the observations of different characters, including the victim.
“The suited man takes a bow as he passes over
Turn the lights out, never turn the lights out
He’s decided that he’s gonna trade in all his memories
Turn the lights out, never turn the lights out
Nobody can stop him as the seconds seem to last forever
Turn the lights out, never turn the lights out
The moment’s gone an image frozen fixed it can’t be unseen
Turn the lights out, never turn the lights out”
His songwriting is stupendous. Read it all by clicking the audio link above.
Folly Group – “Sand Fight” (London, England)
RIYL: Talking Heads, Dry Cleaning, Shopping, Shame
If more evidence is needed regarding post-punk’s resurgence within the UK, London quartet Folly Group are another fine example. Sean Harper, Louis Milburn Tom Doherty, and Kai Akinde-Hummel, however, are taking a unique approach to the genre. Instead of stark and bleak soundscapes, their music is meant not to make you hide under the covers but to wiggle uncontrollably and get ready to tackle the day. Call it math-punk if one wishes, but nonetheless the foursome have the potential to break out like Dry Cleaning have this year, and “Sand Fight” could be their calling card.
Infused with some Talking Heads-inspired art-rock, “Sand Fight” is a jittery, slightly manic number that at first might have you doing the Mr. Roboto or mechanically moving like listening to a DEVO tune. As the tempo accelerates, the energy and urgency increases, and the song becomes a zany little, punk-infused dance number. The track is one to be spun in the caverns of England’s underground bars, where the patrons can gather and buzz around like oversized locusts. Even the lyrics replicate this sensation of controlled chaos, as each band member shares their thoughts – from their anxieties to childhood memories of “waiting for my brother” to save them from their fears. The song is a reminder that even in today’s strange world that opportunities, fun, and hope still exist.
Folly Group’s debut EP, Awake and Hungry, is out June 11th on So Young Records. The band is also planning socially-distanced shows in June and a lengthier UK tour in September and October, assuming the situation is safe to do so.
feeo – “feels like we’re getting older doesn’t it” (Oxford / London, England)
RIYL: Half Waif, Julia Holter, Sade
When we were introduced to feeo a month ago when she released “End Song”, we were left flabbergasted by her incredible artistry. The song was inventive, creative, brilliant, and refreshing. If the young Londoner continues down this path of pushing the envelope while making songs still accessible, she could be her generation’s Sade. This might be raising expectations, but we’re very bullish on feeo’s potential and her newest single only further evidences her musical mastery.
Stop everything you’re doing and experience the mesmerizing, bleak tranquility of “feels like we’re getting older doesn’t it”. This sultry dark-pop number combines the vulnerable sensuality of Sade; the calm, multidimensional soundscapes of Thom Yorke; and Portishead’s patient yet ethereal atmospheres. Together, feeo has sent us into the far depths of the seas, where we’re left struggling for a breath. This sea, though, features the rough currents of unreciprocated love based on addiction.
“Babe, can hardly sleep when you lie with me
Stay up all night so I can hear you leave
Cause I’m many things but I’m not naïve, Babe
No, I won’t be the fool waking up to haunted sheets, Babe”
ameliarose – “Goliath” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, PJ Harvey
Nearly a year ago, a young woman by the name of ameliarose blew us away with her extraordinary single, “Vessel”. The teenager from NYC released a couple of songs since – “mosquito” and “you’re not a god” – that showcased her expanding sound and brilliant artistry.
that showcased her expanding sound and innate talents. With each single, she continues to separate herself from the pack, choosing to forgo the Taylor Swift route and instead follow the paths carved out by some of music’s most powerful and influential singer-songwriters of the past 30 years, which is what she does on “Goliath”.
Resembling Fiona Apple and PJ Harvey in their 20s, amerliarose has unleashed a powerful anthem of control and independence. With a fiery assertiveness in her voice, the New Yorker faces her stalker, possibly even tormentor directly in the eye and tells him right away, “I’m quiet and bold / I’m a sorrowful soul / Who doesn’t dare to look towards the light”. While this person towers over her, she, like David, is determined to bring him down, revealing to the world that his bark is louder than his bite.
It’s not just in the songwriting where ameliarose emulates her idols. Her orchestration is brilliant, as she merges multiple genres into one eye-popping arrangement. Hip-hop beats and jazz textures are seamlessly melded into the unmistakable angst, alt-rock of the ‘90s. As such, the song could be performed in the cavernous confines of Madison Square Garden or the Birdland Jazz Club and still be memorable. The young woman, after all, is a remarkable talent.
Thala – “weep” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Fazerdaze, Alvvays, Hatchie
Back in September of 2020, German artist Thala introduced herself in unforgettable fashion with the Hope Sandoval-esque breath-taker, “Serenade”. To say the song left a lasting impression would be an underestimate, as the 26-year old Berlin resident is now permanently on our radar. With her debut album Adolescence, coming in the fall, she is set to become one of the year’s breakout stars. Her latest single offers more evidence as to why she could be Germanys next big thing.
Whereas “Serenade” was a knee-buckler, “weep” is a sweeping, vibrant piece of immaculate guitar-pop that sounds like it was made for a ‘90s coming-of-age film. The song is uplifting, energizing, and even a bit dreamy, as a shoegaze-drenched guitar forges through bubbling rhythm section. Thala’s stirring vocal, meanwhile, rides this hazy, sun-soaked sonic wave like a world-champion surfer, carving through the current to offer her own striking tale of autonomy and self-empowerment. Her story is one known to millions of women, who choose not to be defined nor tied down to expectations of any single person. It’s about living freely without constraints. About doing what you wish to do like Thala is.
Junaco – “Dazed” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Beach House, Craft Spells, Lucy Dacus
Based on their 2021 releases as Junaco, the duo of Shahana Jaffer and Joey LaRossa are poised to be one of the year’s breakout artists. “Blue Room” is dream-pop perfection while “Weight of the World” was an urgently relevant statement on the power of media.
Junaco is as dreamy on “Dazed” as they’ve ever been. Jaffer’s soothing vocals float over an energetic, but still laid-back instrumental. Wonderful guitar work with a perfect layer of reverb create that vibe guides “Dazed” while a fantastic rhythm section drives it forward. Junaco continue to keep the important things in sight. Where “Weight of the World” aimed to limit the influence of the news on our lives, Dazed finds power in the little things.
Ali Barter – “Chocolate Cake” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: San Mei, Cherry Glazerr, Oh Wonder
When people talk about great songwriters and artists from Melbourne, it’s just a matter of time before Ali Barter is in that conversation. Witty, smart, and incredibly creative, Barter has created her own unique style and vibe over her two LP’s and handful of EPs.
This week, Barter released Chocolate Cake, her latest EP. It’s a great mini-record, and its title track, “Chocolate Cake”, is the centerpiece and stands out among the four tracks that make it up. Starting with an infectious drum machine beat and gritty guitar, it creates a fun playground for Barter’s lyrics. It’s a really entertaining track on the surface, but diving deeper, Barter’s humor and wit is on full display. “Chocolate Cake” is about a feeling of hopelessness, of disassociation and coping with television and cake. There’s such a great energy, and it’s no surprise to learn that Barter was influenced by Beck and the Offspring when writing the EP.
Wildhart – “Better Bby” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: London Grammar, Porches, The xx
For the past five years, Wildhart have released some of the most intoxicating dream-pop on the planet. They launched their career with the widescreen EP1 and took it to another level on Caught on a Fisheye. Ylva Holmdahl (vocals) and Christian Berg (synthesizers/production) became Sweden’s answer to London Grammar and Portishead with those two records, and they may receive world recognition this year when their new album, His Arrows Won’t Hit Us, is released.
The duo have already released the LP’s title track, but it is “Better Bby” that will capture people’s souls. The approach is minimalist, but nonetheless stunning. A calm, nearly quiet atmosphere welcomes listeners, as stark, electronic beats pulse against the dark landscape. Only one object shines brightly, and it is Holmdahl’s illuminating vocal. Her voice rises like the full moon, showering all those below with light and offering a beacon of hope. As a linger guitar riff joins her, the song brightens a bit more, at which point Holmdahl encouragingly says, “I think we can work this out”. She seeks to heal all wounds that have been opened between she and another. She pleads:
“I don’t want to say goodbye
Because I know we can be better
I don’t want to hurt you, don’t want harm
Just need to be honest and figure it out”
Maybe the world will figure out just how great this little band from Stockholm are.
His Arrows Won’t Hit Us will be released later this year via The Orchard Music (on behalf of Pangur Records).
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