The Matinee ’21 v. 088 features some heavy-hitters, which includes some of the more renowned indie artists and newcomers whose talents will blow you away. We kick things off with two of the industry’s finest of the past decade.
José González – “Head On” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: José González, Damien Jurado, Chad VanGaalen
There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe José González‘s brilliance and influence. While Justin Vernon and his project Bon Iver helped popularize modern folk and folktronica, González had been experimenting with new techniques many years earlier. He brought a dreamy intimacy to the genre without sacrificing folk music’s essence – that is great songwriting. Whether it is telling the tale of lost innocence, the decay of his hometown, or the mistreatment of new immigrants, González has a unique way to bring listeners to the center of his tales. This is where the power of his music lies – in its soul. And he demonstrates this on “Head On”.
For as much as we have espoused González‘s inventiveness, he reverts to more simplistic arrangements on his latest single. Featuring just his tremendous acoustic guitar skills and a light clap-like rhythm, the Gothenburg-based singer-songwriter has chosen intimacy over grand cinema. While the soundscape is stunning and bordering on euphoric in a gentle way and González voice is lush, his lyrics are forceful. He sings about a world collapsing to its collective knees, as oligarchs rule and hate reigns. He also encourages us to set aside our differences, stand side-by-side against these polarizing forces, and tackle them head on. Only then can we truly live freely.
Gang of Youths – “the angel of 8th ave” (North London, England via Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: The National, City Calm Down, Arcade Fire
Four years ago, Aussie art-rock outfit Gang of Youths released one of the great records of the 21st Century. Go Farther in Lightness was a sprawling, 16-song, 77-minute masterpiece. It was pure genius. Unsurprisingly, it was one of our Favorite Albums of 2017. Since then, Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (guitar/keyboards), David Le’aupepe (lead vocals/piano), Joji Malani (lead guitar), and Donnie Borzestowski (drums) have relocated to the UK to expand their horizons and their fanbase. Whether they’ll become global superstars remains to be seen, but they remind us of their cinematic and anthemic brilliance with “the angel of 8th ave.”
For those familiar with the band’s offerings will think the song could be a lost recording from Go Farther in Lightness, and you would not be far off, as the song was recorded around the time the LP was released. Like the tracks on the record, a stuttering urgency initially drives “the angel of 8th ave.”, and the arrangement mimics Le’aupepe’s tale of a group of guys moving halfway around the world to start new chapters. They face challenges fitting in, making ends meet, and being someone in a city of 12 million people. They, however, persevere, knowing that people are listening. That people somewhere around the world are jumping, dancing, and losing their proverbial shit to the band’s long-awaited return.
“Through perpetual fall
And immeasurable rain
I wanna see this one out
I wanna join the impossible swing
And fall hard beside you”
Gang of Youths are working on a new LP, which Le’aupepe tells Triple J that it will sound unlike anything Gang of Youths have previously created. That sounds exciting.
SPACEFACE – “Happens All The Time” (Memphis and Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: POND, early Tame Impala, GUM, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Whether we’re saving the world or moving to a new country, we need to take care of ourselves. While things are slowly returning to normal in parts of the world, an emptiness still exists within us. It might be the longing for loved ones and friends, wanting to be able to attend massive concerts and sporting venues, or traveling to a destination on our bucket list. Feeling like ourselves will take some time, but we need to be patient and let it all occur naturally, which is what psych-pop connoisseurs SPACEFACE tell us on “Happens All The Time”.
Since we were first introduced to them back in January 2017 and many times thereafter, the band have a way of putting smiles on our faces and making us feel good about our situations. With “Happens All The Time”, psych-pop collides with disco-pop to form one trippy and delirious number. The song isn’t so much one to break out your best dance moves, but rather it is made for standing under the midday sun and just basking under its warmth, daydreaming what the next hour and days may bring. It’s made to make us believe that the worst is behind us and better things await us. We just need to be patient.
The single is out on Mothland. SPACEFACE are Jake Ingalls, Matthew Strong, Eric Martin, “Big Red” Daniel Quinlan, and Katie Pierce.
Pip Blom – “Keep It Together” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: The Beths, Illuminati Hotties, The Ratboys
We still remember the day when Pip Blom first blew our minds like it was yesterday. It was nearly five years ago when the Amsterdam-based artist delivered an anthemic rocker with “Taxi Driver”. That song literally rocked, as did much of what followed. From those innocent days, Blom (vocals/guitar), Tender Blom (guitar/vocals), Darek Mercks (bass), and Gini Cameron (drums) have become indie darlings, as evidenced by them signing with Heavenly Recordings. The lauded label will release Pip Blom’s new album, Welcome Break, on October 8th, which seems like a long ways away. To tie us over while giving us a sneak peek at what is to come, the band share “Keep It Together”.
Whereas Blom’s earlier music resembled Aussie indie-rock, guitarist, and songwriter extraordinaire, Courtney Barnett, Blom heads across the Tasman for inspiration. Channeling The Beths, she and her band mates deliver a summery piece of guitar-pop perfection. Its delightful intro feels like a technicolor skip through the park before the intensity ramps up. The song shifts between joyful to urgent, and during these latter moments we feel like running. We’re in the race to stay ahead of our emotions that constantly change and beat us into submission. If we stay in front, maybe, just maybe we can for once beat back the feelings that keep us down. We can instead find a bit of glee, like how this song warms us up and makes us believe we’re o.k.
Pre-orders for Welcome Break are available here. It could be the feel-good album of the year.
Overcoats – “Used To Be Scared Of The Dark” (feat. Middle Kids) (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Middle Kids, Wild Reeds, River Whyless
Over the past six years, Hana Elion and JJ Mitchell’s project, Overcoats, has skyrocketed to being one of the great indie duos on the planet because of their versatility. For instance, they can deliver a ’90s Swedish-pop banger in one instance and then immediately create a sublime piece of folktronica. So when they started writing and recording their latest EP, they reached out to some of their favorite indie artists and bands to perform on the record. Used To Be Scared Of The Dark features some stunning collaborations, including with Tennis and Dizzy. It also features one of Australia’s finest bands, and the pairing of Overcoats with Middle Kids is a match made in heaven or any proverbial celestial place.
“Used To Be Scared Of The Dark” actually sounds like a song that Hannah Joy, Tim Fitz, and Harry Day could have written for their outstanding new album, Today We’re The Greatest. A warm indie-folk-rock vibe emanates from the start, making it the perfect track to hear at the end of a long, hard day. The harmonies of Elion, Mitchell, and Joy, meanwhile, are spectacular, and they’re reminiscent of the beautiful power of The Highway Women. They don’t just rely on their lovely vocals, but they also craft a tale that many can related to in these times. It’s a song about one person realizing that a relationship has come to an end. She must now step alone into the bleak world, understanding that a leap into the unknown is the only way for her to move forward.
Lex Helgerson – “Pistol Pete” (Portland, OR USA)
RIYL: Tristen, Blouse, Cults
Once upon a not-so-distant time, watching women athletes on TV was limited to the Olympics and major tournaments in golf, tennis, and figure skating. Twenty-five years ago, the Women’s FIFA World Cup was barely an idea, the WNBA didn’t exist, and forget about seeing women’s softball on the television. While there is still a long ways to go before women athletes are treated on the same level playing field as men, today’s young, aspiring, female athletes have role models to look up to. Even the discourse in sports circles is whether Simone Biles or Serena Williams is the greatest athlete – man or woman – of all-time.
We cannot, however, forget the times when women and girls were not given a fair shot. They instead were run off the court or field even if they were better than the boys. Instead of giving up, though, they persevered, paving the way for future generations. These game- and barrier-breakers are the subject of Lex Helgerson‘s new song, “Pistol Pete”.
While the song’s title is dedicated to NBA Hall of Famer Pete Maravich, he was Helgerson’s idol when she was growing up. She wanted to be a basketball player, and she emulated her style after the leading NCAA scorer of all-time. But there were few avenues available to her, so she quit after playing one year at Cal Berkeley. She lived and breathed the game. “You can’t tell me it’s just a game”, she softly says over top a calm, embracing electro-pop melody. Her voice and the arrangement are simultaneously full of memory, regret, and hope.
While she didn’t get to professionally play the game she loved, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Cheryl Miller, Lisa Leslie, Jamila Wideman, and many others did. They in turn have inspired generations of new stars. Maybe, we all can draw inspiration from Helgerson’s story that although things didn’t work out for us we can celebrate the successes of others.
Ghost Woman – “Dead & Gone” (Arizona, USA)
RIYL: Mikal Cronin, Black Lips, New Candys
In April, we were first introduced to Ghost Woman, who released the perfect road-trip tune with “Demons”. That song was awesome. Now can Evan Ushenko (vocal, guitar), Travis Salty (guitar), Nick Hay (guitar), Jon Lent (bass), and Eli Browning (drums) replicate or even exceed what they achieved? We’ll let you be the judge with “Dead & Gone”, but we wouldn’t be sharing this if we thought this song fell short.
This song is also awesome. It’s only 108 seconds long, yet the quintet utilize every second to deliver a head-shaking and invigorating piece of psych-rock. The tune is groovy at first, but then bursts of fuzzy guitars arrive. It’s like we’ve been gliding down Route 66 before an unexpected, brief storm pummels the car. But this storm isn’t scary but rather refreshing, awakening our senses to the possibilities that exist on this journey. For Ushenko, though, this trip is about trying to make moving on and racing towards the horizon. There’s no time to look in the rear-view mirror because the excitement of the unknown lies in front of us.
HESS – “Somedays” (Dallas, TX)
RIYL: Doosu, Jump Rope Girls, Burden Brothers
If you are from the Dallas area and were any part of the last 20 years of the local music scene, you know Casey Hess. He is a pretty stellar guitarist who has been in past bands Doosu (that one local band that should have gotten famous), Jump Rope Girls, and most recently Burden Brothers. He is known for giving impressive live sets and fully displaying his guitar skills. This past year gave him the time to craft his own music and style. In May, he released an album under simply HESS. “Somedays” gives fans just what they expect from Casey Hess – fully displaying his guitar prowess, smart songwriting and smooth vocals. Even though Hess has lent his vocals on past songs and material, we hear a much more commanding baritone, which sounds super polished.
HESS will also be performing on August 28 in Dallas for his album release. You can get tickets here.
“Somedays” is from Goddess Built and is available via Bandcamp. The tagline of the album is mostly written and recorded during a pandemic in a black bedroom and he had the help of Taylor Tatsch to finish out the production.
White Denim – “Crystal Bullets” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: The Dirty Projectors, Olden Yolk, Woodes
Austin-based White Denim return after an unexpected hiatus. “Crystal Bullets” is so smooth yet psychedelic. The sound combines a nostalgic rock vibe from the past woven with a definite modern spin. The choppy layers make for a unique and impressive overall sound. The track is also written by another Texas gem, Andy Pickett, who is definitely an underrated talent.
Frontman James Petralli shares about the newest track:
“The music for ‘Crystal Bullets’ was inspired by the groove of the great Bernard Purdie and the signature chopped and screwed (slowed and throwed) production techniques of Houston, Texas’ Robert Davis Jr., better known as DJ Screw.“
For all of you Austin lovers, the video was shot at the famous Mohawk venue and is a love letter to in person rock ‘n roll which we are all hoping to see more of this year.
White Denim are James Petralli, Steven Terkbecki, Michael Hunter and Gregory Clifford.
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