In this last weekend of spring, The Matinee ’21 v. 090 takes you on a sonic adventure. It spans parking lots, celestial bodies, the furniture in our living room, our cars, and even on a spaceship doubling as a disco club. The weekend has arrived, so let your imagination run wild.
Husbands – “Must Be A Cop” (Seattle & Oklahoma City, USA)
RIYL: Adult Books, Acid Dad, Methyl Ethel
Oklahoma’s Husbands are more known for positive, upbeat pop-rock. They’re the band one turns to for a pick-me up. Like everyone else, however, Will Norton and Danny Davis see how some abuse their positions of authority and the inequality that pervades across our society. They may naturally be optimistic gents, but they’re not immune to the troubles of this world. Granted, and they’re the first to admit, the troubles they see pale in comparison to what others experience daily. This explains why they call “Must Be A Cop” their “punk song”.
The duo’s latest single obviously isn’t a punk song in its approach. On the contrary, it’s a beachy, surf pop-rock number that, like their past tracks, made to make you smile. But beyond the jangly guitar, the lithe percussion, and Norton’s crisp, feelgood falsetto, Norton shares a tale of a police officer pulling a power trip and his fellow officers turning a blind eye to the issues that cause communities to fall into decay.
“Circle the lot
Must be a cop
With Grizz in his teeth
As he jacks the last spot
Take another lap
Curse karma, she has failed you again”
As the old saying goes, never judge a book by its cover because its contents may surprise you.
Nik Freitas – “Good News (Waiting For You)” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: The Shins, Grandaddy, Bright Eyes
Nik Freitas‘ cultural impact runs a lot deeper than it seems on first glance. The talented musician and songwriter ‘s 20-year musical career features countless records and even a film score to his credit. He’s played with Conor Oberst and Broken Bells. He also was a staff photographer for Thrasher Magazine in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a time synonymous with the breakout of skateboarding into the pop-culture mainstream.
Whether it’s the folk stylings of his most recent record, Cavalo Morto, or the more raw and eclectic sounds of his earlier records, Freitas’ music sounds like someone who’s been creating art with no compromises for decades. On “Good News (Waiting For You)”, his latest single, Freitas keeps that unapologetic style. Drawn ahead by heavy guitar strumming and bass, “Good News” is an upbeat toe-tapper. It’s a song about trying to get some good news, in a world full of news that can barely be considered “news”. From the TV channels to the endless streams of misinformed social media posts, Freitas attempts to navigate these strange times.
I don’t know how to deal
With all these moving mouths that feel
What they say means anything
I hoping for some good news
I’m here waiting for you”
CLAVVS – “O” (Brooklyn via Atlanta, USA)
RIYL: London Grammar, Maribou State, Sylvan Esso
When thinking about the great electro-pop / synth-pop outfits of the past decade, Amber Renee and Graham Marsh’s project CLAVVS often gets overlooked. We’re not exactly sure why since they can spin a dreamy number in the CULTS and Cannons mould or take people on an adventure like London Grammar and Still Corners often do. They can also make us think we’re attending a glitzy, massive dance party, as they do with “O”.
Like London Grammar collaborating with Maribou State’s Liam Ivory and Chris Davids, the song is made for an intergalactic dance club, where the entire ship is illuminated in rainbow colors while glitters of the disco balls flash in every direction. The bodies of all the patrons onboard are moving to the throbbing pulses, but their minds are lost in another dimension thanks to Renee’s lush voice. As we hurtle to the end of the galaxy and potentially our oblivion, she encourages us to “keep holding on” because “by the time you’re done / you’re bound to get it”. Get what? The answer to our life’s purpose. We will get our epiphany, which hopefully others will soon receive when naming the great electro- and synth-pop bands right now.
The duo may receive this recognition when their sophomore album, O, is released July 29th. The LP will be distributed on CLAVVS’ own label, Turn to Wind Recordings.
Midnight Machine – “Things” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Frankie Rose, Nite Jewel, Soft Cell
From the future, we now go back in time to when synth-pop was transformed into cinematic escapades. We’re talking about the ’80s, of course, when every other synth-pop number was made for a movie soundtrack or a television series. While some of the songs were pure euphoria or intoxicating dazzlers, the best ones, in our opinion, had the rush of a lonely drive in the wee hours of the morning. So either stay up as long as you can or set your alarm for 2AM, and spin Midnight Machine‘s debut single, “Things”.
The duo who make up Midnight Machine are not new to the industry. On the contrary, it includes acclaimed Norwegian singer-songwriter Hanne Kolstø (who we’ve actually featured before) and Pow Pow’s Sigurd Thomassen, which explains how they could make such an immersive, wondrous, and exhilarating number. The synths burst like it is 1985, reflecting the restlessness and energy of youth at that time. Kolstø’s sizzling voice takes the song to another level, as she sings with the urgency of a woman seeking the answers that will mend her heart. It’s a tale of loss and desire, of dreams made and shattered.
Given the themes addressed and the song’s nostalgic style, this track would have been perfectly placed in a John Hughes movie. If we had to choose one, it would be when Claire Standish, Andrew Clark, Brian Johnson, Allison Reynolds, and John Bender dance around the library while serving detention in The Breakfast Club. This song is made for such iconic moments.
The single is out on Jansen Records. Here’s hoping the duo will release an album of ’80s-inspired material.
Wet Leg – “Chaise Longue” (Isle of Wight, England)
RIYL: Pom Poko, Dry Cleaning, Shopping
A duo would need to have a ton of talent to be signed by a great label like Domino Recording Co. before even releasing their debut single. They don’t only need talent, but they would have to be creative and offer something fresh. As such, you might want to set aside all notions that Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, who comprise Wet Leg, are just another Icona Pop wannabes. On the contrary, these two young artists from a small town on the Isle of Wight channel the likes of David Byrne, St. Vincent, and Dry Cleaning to create a brand of music that can only be described as art-punk. So loosen up those limbs and get ready to jerk around like you never imagined.
“Chaise Longue” is one fun, off-kilter number made for bopping around. With a killer bass line driving the track, you literally might find yourselves hopping around the kitchen or the neighborhood while wiggling your head from back-and-forth. As the electric guitar arrives like lightning slicing through the pitch blackness, the song takes on an even more jittery mood. The pair’s lyrics are equally amusing, as they start off with explaining how they got their “Big D” (i.e., degree) after going to school, yet they’re no further than when they started university. Instead, they’re asking questions to their lazy bosses like, “Is your muffin buttered? Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” As they do the grunt work, their superiors chill out on the couch. They may as well be part of the furniture.
This band is going places. Far places with their wit and ingenuity.
La Luz – “In the Country” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Habibi, Shannon & The Clams, Tacocat
La Luz‘s 2018 record Floating Features was one of the year’s breakout records. For the band, they had been making some really great ’60s-influenced guitar rock for a while, 2015’s Weirdo Shrine was also a fantastic record. It all seemed to come together on Floating Features. From its more mature and tighter sound to its excellent production, there was plenty to dig on Floating Features.
In their first release since Floating Features, La Luz release the fantastic “In The Country”. It seems like many people are leaving cities to head out to the country lately. That’s the path frontperson Shana Cleveland took, and the path that inspired “In The Country”. Cleveland describes the setting, “Being out in the middle of nowhere makes it easy to imagine how it would be possible to leave society all together.”
The song channels that energy in its lyrics, singing about wanting to disappear, and also in its sound. Reverbed guitar chords and its rattling drums give it a western desert vibe. The vocals have a bit of a dreamy quality as well, thanks to its fantastic harmonies. “In The Country” has an escapist quality to it, and it has us excited for what will come next from the band.
La Luz are Shana Cleveland (lead vocals/guitar), Alice Sandahl (keyboard), and Lena Simon (bass). The single is out on Hardly Art.
Favours – “Left Behind” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Pr0files, Nation of Language, New Order
Summer officially arrives on Monday, but given this is Friday let’s make the solstice this weekend. Pack up the bags and let’s go on a little trip with that special someone in our lives. As we head out the door and start our little getaway, we need music that gets the adrenaline rushing, the excitement boiling, and the smiles beaming. We need a song like “Left Behind” from Favours.
While we have long expressed our fandom for Nation of Language and anointed them as THE great synth-pop band of our time, the Toronto duo of Alex Zen and Jacq Andrade aren’t too far behind. “Left Behind” showcases the pair’s ability to create surging, cinematic tracks. At first, the smooth melody and arrangement create the feeling that we’re effortlessly gliding across the water. Nothing can stop us with the wind behind our sails. As the synths, the delayed guitar, and the 808s simultaneously soar, the song overwhelms you. The ocean has enveloped us, but it is a refreshing moment. It is a moment of awe.
The band’s lyrics, though, point to wanting to have that “awe” moment with someone, but s/he has walked away. “I want you to hold me all the time, I don’t want to be left behind”, they plead to that special someone. Will that person turn around and come racing back? We have no idea, but we do know that those who hear this song will be racing back for more.
Ve & Fasa – “Under lysande skyltar” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Still Corners, Beach House, Cannons
Great music has no boundaries. We don’t even need to speak the language to realize that we’re hearing something great, if not special. Besides a great arrangement and a stunning melody, the song evokes emotions in you while you can also feel the pain, desperation, or happiness in the vocal and the sound. So while we speak only about five words in Swedish, newcomers Ve & Fasa‘s new single, “Under lysande skyltar” blew us away.
Formed three years ago by Ella Munday, Gustav Sandell, and Marcus Andersson, and now also including Mats Danielsson, the band had designs of releasing an EP in their early years. Those plans were put on pause, but the pandemic brought them clarity on what they wanted to create. And that was music that would make people, like us, go “Wow”. Meaning under luminous skies, “Under lysande skyltar” is indeed a stunner. It weeps of the enchanting mystery of Still Corners yet features the mournful intimacy of Beach House. Every element, particularly Munday’s soft yet vulnerable vocal, numbs your senses. As we lay paralyzed, they take us from the depths of our own despair to the exhilaration that awaits in the place where the stars shine.
And once the quartet firmly get their feet set, they’ll soon be mentioned alongside some of Sweden’s very best bands. They’ll be stars.
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