The best way to end the week is with a surprise, and The Matinee ’21 v. 076 edition has not one but two. The mini-playlist is bookend with a pair of unexpected collaborations while the six songs in between offer some delightful sonic treats. Have a safe and wonderful weekend all. If you need more music to get you through to Monday, our Songs of May 2021 playlist is available on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Sharon Van Etten & Angel Olsen – “Like I Used To” (Los Angeles & Asheville, USA)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Bruce Springsteen
When thinking of the most important songwriters of the last decade, two women have to be at the top of that list. The music of both Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen have defined the last ten years for singer-songwriters. With Van Etten’s classic Epic reaching ten years old and Olsen’s phenomenal break-out sophomore record Half Way Home a year behind, they’ve continued to grow as musicians, songwriters, and creative forces.
The collaboration between two of the strongest voices out there makes “Like I Used To” feel like a dream come true. The song was written by Van Etten and sent to Olsen and work began on the track. And history was made!
Both singers exchange verses and join together during the choruses. It is a fantastic track where each songwriter’s strengths complement the other so well. Van Etten’s Jersey roots shine through with the Springsteen-esque choruses. Olsen’s voice adds even more to the nostalgia that runs through the track. To a song about what was, what could have been, and eventually what awaits.
Given from where Olsen and Van Etten started in 2011, the world is their oyster. They’ve gone from small venues and small releases to headlining theaters and securing prime festival slots. Van Etten has even done her share of acting. But there is something to be said about the magic of the good old days and to hear both of these songwriters look back is something truly special. Now please excuse us as we wipe the tears of joy from our eyes.
The single is out on Jagjaguwar.
POND – “America’s Cup” (Fremantle, Australia)
RIYL: GUM, Babe Rainbow, Foxygen
Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Shiny Joe Ryan, Jamie Terry, and James Ireland have for thirteen years established themselves as one of the great psych-rock outfits on the planet. As POND, they’ve been the perfect bridge between the sonic oblivion of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and the trippy wonderlands of Tame Impala. Every band, however, has to evolve and grow out of their comfort zone.
POND started the process with 2019’s Tasmania, adopting a more anthemic approach. They continue their metamorphosis this year, speeding their way to dance floors and DJ booths. We’re not talking electronic music nor techno but psychedelic-disco, as they revealed on their first release of 2021 with the spaced-out “Pink Lunettes”. For the second single from their forthcoming new album, 9, they get groovier.
“America’s Cup” is funky, neon-lit psych-disco. It is the personification of smooth, cool, and chic with its sultry and sweltering melody and ultra-hip rhythms. This song is made for confidently strutting down main street, decked out in your fine white, polyester suit and your hair teased to form a massive afro. You are Tony Manero, and all eyes are fixated on you.
The band’s story is similarly retro-inspired. But instead of John Travolta playing the lead, the band’s hometown is the protagonist. They focus on the gentrification of Western Australia and Fremantle after Australia’s 1983 America’s Cup win. Before the famed regatta was held, the area south of Perth was full of characters, from “sailors and junkies, Presbyterians and bikies”. It was full of life. It was a laid-back community that ended up selling its soul in pursuit of big city dreams. If you’ve ever visited the area, you know exactly about what POND are singing.
Sam Evian – “Easy To Love” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Michael Rault, Cass McCombs, Whitney
The last time we heard from Sam Evian, we were spinning his excellent album, You, Forever, on one of our many road trips in 2018. That superb record was made for belting in the car with the windows down. It was basically the calling of the open road. As the world gradually returns to normal and summer creeps closer, the urge to pack up the VW van and feel the asphalt roll under its wheels intensifies. Fittingly, Evian returns with a song that will only heighten these desires.
“Easy to Love” is a glam-pop-rocker made for moving and traveling. From the jangly guitar riffs to the bursting horns to the toe-tapping rhythms, everything about the song encourages us to free ourselves from our security blankets and live a little (safely and responsibly, of course). Even Evian’s lyrics are about escapism. Specifically, he sings about his and his partner Hannah’s retreat to the rolling hills of upstate New York. Away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple, they have found their happy place. They have found the place they will call home.
“I’m sitting in the garden watching birds fly these are happy days
My friends are crunching numbers in the city but I ran away
I get by, I get by, paranoia had its time
We get high we get high in our garden in the sky
These are loving days”
So pack up the car, and let’s go home.
The single is out on Fat Possum Records. Surely a new album cannot be too far away.
Pronoun – “I’M RIGHT BACK IN IT” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Hatchie, Alex Lahey, The Beths
Alyse Vellturo – a.k.a. Pronoun – made quite an impact with her previous single, “I Wanna Die But I Can’t (Cuz I Gotta Keep Living)”. Reminiscent of a Springsteen classic, Vellturo captured the spirit of her earlier lo-fi recordings and transformed them into something much bigger. It also marked a shift from indie-pop to a more rock ‘n roll sound.
Greeting listeners with a roaring guitar and driving drums, “I’M RIGHT BACK IN IT” goes even more into that rocking direction. From the lush harmony of the vocals to the catchy bass line and reverb drenched guitar, “I’M RIGHT BACK IN IT” just sounds so good. One thing Vellturo is undeniably great at through all of her music is channeling anxious energy into something productive. It’s no surprise Vellturo describes this song as “a hard look in the mirror, by myself, in a bathroom, asking myself what the hell is up.” Vellturo is willing to have these hard conversations with herself and use them as a measure to create something relatable and even quite a bit upbeat.
Folly Group – “Awake and Hungry” (London, England)
RIYL: Black Country, New Road; Black Midi; Shame
We didn’t think post-punk could get much better after what the genre gave us last year. Boy were we wrong. Releases by Black Country, New Road and Shame, which are among two of the very best records of the first half of 2021, further moved the needle on what is considered bleak, trembling, and sinister. And taking the needle several strides forward are Folly Group, who are quickly rising up our list of our favorite discoveries of 2021.
Sean Harper, Louis Milburn Tom Doherty, and Kai Akinde-Hummel made us do quadruple takes with the wonderfully harrowing “Sand Fight”. The London-based quartet paint an even eerier tale with “Awake and Hungry”. The track starts with deafening silence, as all that is heard is heavy breathing and what sounds like a heart beating. Harper’s deadpan vocal then arrives, and he describes the spell that has been cast upon him by the house that he’s entered.
“The house awake and hungry makes a room become its mouth
And my friends and my love are just spectres to me now.”
This “home” is something out of The Amityville Horror. Harper, however, cannot find it in himself to leave because “I was reborn here, and I could die twice.” This house is not just a physical structure; it is part of his being. He derives his life from the house that all wish to escape, and the house, likewise, feeds on the prey that he brings. They are one in the same, and they’re always awake and hungry.
Just a great piece of storytelling, which we expect to hear more of when Folly Group’s debut EP, Awake and Hungry, drops June 11th on So Young Records.
Vundabar – “Aphasia” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Buttertones, IAN SWEET, The Frights
Some songs just naturally make you smile. They possess a melody that relaxes every muscle and provokes you to stick your head out the window of the car and feel the air blow through your hair. It is the feeling of innocence, of being carefree, of feeling just for a moment free of all pressures. From the opening gentle guitar riffs and the soothing vocal of front-man Brandon Hagen, Vundabar‘s new single, “Aphasia” (pronounced a-fay-sha) possesses these traits. And as the song builds to its enthralling, dreamy heights, one gets further lost in the stunning arrangement and is left in a state of bliss.
But for Hagen, the song has the opposite meaning. Although the melody may stir positive emotions and memories for us, the song was written during a family crisis. His father had suffered a severe stroke that resulted in him losing his ability to speak and read, which is otherwise known as aphasia. The car trip Hagen references in the song is not one of joy and euphoria, but it is one of fear, agony, and concern. As we understand the song’s meaning, instead of smiling, we shed a tear. That is the power of a superb song.
“And now we’re driving in a stranger’s car
But all the landscape blurred and blended
I’m not certain where we are but I am certain where we’re headed
Do do do
And now I’m screaming in a stranger’s palm
But I just can’t quite place the feeling
A swirling serpent was the floor
And odd man’s god it was the ceiling”
Vundabar are Brandon Hagen, Drew McDonald, and Zack Abramo. Guest vocals are provided by Indigo De Souza.
Always You – “Black City Nights” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Prefab Sprout, Blue Nile, Alex Cameron, Burt Bacharach
It’s been a long time since identical twin brother Christoph and Anton Hochheim have created music together. Sure they’ve been busy with their main projects, Jerry Paper and Beach Fossils, respectively, plus doing the PR thing and composing music on the side. But it’s been more than four years since they released songs via their project Ablebody. Given so much time has passed, the duo decided to rebrand themselves as Always You. The name, though, isn’t the only thing that has changed.
The Hochheims have turned the page from their surf pop-rock beginnings (basically combining the music of their two primary bands) in favor of a classic, almost forgotten sound, that being new wave glam-pop. Those who lived in the ’70s and ’80s will remember the days of Roxy Music, Prefab Sprout, and Blue Nile. Even the Pet Shop Boys dabbled in the genre. If you’re too young to even know this genre sounded like, then let “Black City Nights” be your gateway.
If there was ever a song deserving of the description as technicolor cinema, this is it. Its dreamy, hazy, glammy soundscape feels like the most glamorous hallucination anyone could experience. The bellow of the sax juxtaposed against the glistening keys is ’70s lounge-pop personified. And like Burt Bacharach and Neil Tennant in their heyday, the duo craft a superb story that perfectly complements the retro vibe. The protagonist is a man spiraling out of control. His eyes are the color of red velour, he spends his nights chasing a ghost (i.e., an ex) from his recent past, and he’s essentially “fallen off the wagon”. There’s no going back for him. He now lives a reckless life.
“Hushed days but the nights are loud
You try to keep it grounded but your head hangs over the clouds
Wrapped up in a funeral shroud
My precious little baby’s just another face in the crowd”
The video below is worth watching, as it further demonstrates the brothers’ artistic gifts. Their talents will be further displayed on July 16th, which is when their new album, Bloom Off the Rose, is released on Shelflife Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Goldensuns – “Empty” feat. Warpaint (Los Angeles via Salt Lake City, USA)
RIYL: Real Estate, Ducktails, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Goldensuns is a band of three brothers, Chase, Jantzen and Weston Meier. The three grew up in a musical family together, and their familial bond has helped them create a truly compelling sound with their music. In a crowded genre, blending folk and psychedelia, yet Goldensuns stand out in their ability to explore sounds and hit at deep emotional levels.
On their latest single, “Empty”, Goldensuns enlisted the help of Jenny Lee Lindberg and Theresa Wayman of Warpaint. The Meier brothers’ voices blend in quite nicely with that duo, especially over “Empty”‘s marvelous guitar hook. Lindberg and Wayman’s voices add to the already dreamy quality of Goldensun’s music. There is such a delightful groove throughout, and the lush sound throughout is simply sublime. The Meier brothers again hit on those deep feelings, describing “Empty” as “moody with a hint of hopefulness”. It captures that feeling quite nicely, it feels reflective, but when its last moments kick in, it feels almost triumphant.
The trio is comprised of brothers Chase (bass/lead singer), Jantzen (guitar/vocals) and Weston Meier (drums/vocals). “Empty” is from their forthcoming EP which should be released later this spring.
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