After all the fireworks, barbecues, and parties this holiday long weekend, The Matinee ’21 v. 097 offers a new music sampler that provides some relaxation and exhilaration. The mini-playlist offers a bit of everything for everyone.
Steve Gunn – “Reflection” & “Other You” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Kevin Morby, Ryley Walker, Pink Floyd
Steve Gunn is one of the most underrated artists in the business. Most know him as the lead guitarist of Kurt Vile’s backing band, The Violators, but Gunn is also an outstanding songwriter and musician in his own right. For instance, he’s released several trance-inducing, instrumental projects, including the Golden Gunn album on which he collaborated with M.C. Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger. Meanwhile, his 2019 album, The Seen In Between, was a critical darling. What draws listeners and critics to Gunn’s music is his willingness to be vulnerable and tell stories that are real and relatable. He demonstrates his skills on not one but two engrossing new singles.
The first, “Reflection”, is a melodic, psych-infused folk-rocker that sounds like a blend of Pink Floyd and Ryley Walker. As a couple of piano chords play, Gunn wonders aloud where he might be. “Often travel in my thoughts / All around oblivion / Lost of language, mysteria / Your brightness fills the afternoon / Reflection.” As the song builds and becomes trippier, the Philadelphia-born artist delves deeper into our collective psychosis.
“Other You”, the opener to Gunn’s forthcoming new album, is more of the singer-songwriter that people have come to love. Its tranquil, hazy tones project a warm calm. The arrangement is exquisite with each element complementing the others so the song sounds like a beautifully controlled chaos. This soundscape offers the perfect setting for Gunn’s tale about the flip side to the coin. In this case, he asks whether there is more to us than we know and that we might more to offer if we let ourselves go.
These two great songs from an outstanding artist raise the anticipation for Gunn’s new album, Other You. It drops August 27th on Matador Records. Pre-orders are available here and directly on Bandcamp.
CAPITOL – “Always Saying Nothing” (Hamilton, ON Canada)
RIYL: Nation of Language, Beach Fossils, Fazerdaze
Hamilton, Ontario is known as the “Steel City” in Canada. Like its American sister city, Pittsburgh, Hamilton’s music scene reflects its blue-collar, down-to-Earth nature – gritty rock ‘n roll. The urban center on the western edge of Lake Ontario, though, is full of surprises. Those who truly explore it will find quirky cafés, art shops, and an expansive, supportive music scene that allows bands like CAPITOL to flourish.
Forget about being Arkells imitators, CAPITOL are creating glorious synth-infused dreamgaze. They infuse Nation of Language’s synth-pop with the jangly sounds of Beach Fossils, and this brilliant concoction is displayed on “Always Saying Nothing”. Like these great bands, CAPITOL have created a rapturous anthem. The soaring synths, the crystalline guitars, the Peter Hook-ish bass line, and the jittery rhythms will lift the spirits of the downtrodden and catapult the most optimistic into the stratosphere. The music is beyond uplifting. Like Nation of Language’s Ian Richard Devaney, frontman Josh Kemp’s songwriting is stellar. There isn’t a single line repeated in the entire song, as Kemp describes the conflicting emotions and thoughts circling his mind:
“We will live in modest homes
And surround ourselves with coloured walls
I’ll depart from my habit of foolish jokes
If you pray for me (I’m only kidding, don’t)
Am I droning on? Am I thinking too much?
God damn, take a breath and shut myself up
I know I need to get it all right
But I just don’t have the energy now”
This song will energize you. We guarantee it.
CAPITOL are Josh Kemp (vocals/synth), Robert J. Kemp (guitar), Wes Lintott (guitar), Matt Lintott (drums), and Chris McLaughlin (bass). The band’s All The Rest Of My Heads EP is due September 17th, and pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
The Haunted Youth – “Coming Home” (Hasselt, Belgium)
RIYL: DIIV, Hibou, MGMT, Wild Nothing
Carefree summer days call for tunes that radiate bliss. Perhaps that’s why “Coming Home” from Belgian indie band The Haunted Youth has been in heavy rotation lately. The endless energy of this song makes it irresistible while its psychedelic dream-pop hooks guarantee you cannot listen just once. This is a keep-on-repeat track that sounds perfect for every summer activity. If someone made a film about your life in 2021, “Coming Home” would be featured on the soundtrack.
What makes this song shine is the seamless fusion of dream-pop and shoegaze in ways that pair the past with the present. The rich vocals of frontman Joachim Liebens enchant listeners as layers of reverb-drenched instrumentation prolong the magic spell cast by Tom Stokx (guitar), Stef Castro (bass), Hanne Smets (keys), and Nick Caers (drums). One moment their textures evoke Cocteau Twins then a chord change transports you into the modern era with elements that call to mind DIIV and Wild Nothing. It’s a dizzying thrill from start to finish.
This five-piece group is not a global household name yet because they are so new. One thing is certain: their days of low-key obscurity are numbered now that “Coming Home” is getting increased radio airplay in the USA and abroad. This builds upon the excitement that followed the January release of their debut single, “Teen Rebel.” Both releases signal that The Haunted Youth are an emerging band to watch.
Shadowlark – “Come Around Here” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier (Christine and the Queens) + Future Islands, Bats for Lashes, London Grammar
Each new month brings another exciting young UK band to the forefront. Leeds-based outfit Shadowlark have been around for a few years, but only in the past three months have Ellen Smith (vocals, guitar), Chris Quick (keys, programming, synths) and James Warrender (drums) started gaining traction. It began with the announcement that the trio’s debut album, Avalanche, will arrive later this month. Accompanying the news was the release of the alluring title track then “Without Your Love”. Comparisons to London Grammar, Portishead, and Bats for Lashes inevitably followed, and the list of comparisons grows with “Come Around Here”.
This Gothic synth-pop beauty is reminiscent of Future Islands’ more recent foray into darker tones while Smith’s soft, vulnerable delivery recalls Héloïse Adélaïde Letissier at her brittlest. It commences with a melancholic, chilling environment before the soundscape opens up. Smith’s voice is engulfed by a surge of urgent synths, keys, an escalating percussion line, and the harrowing hum of a guitar. At this point, she sings, “So come, come fill me up / With that good love / That I can be sure of”. This isn’t a typical love song, however, as the lyrics hint at a lonesome person seeking to make amends a bit too late.
It’s never too late, however, to jump on Shadowlark’s bandwagon. Actually, get on it now because in a year or two you might see them on Jools Holland.
Vital Music Group will release Avalanche on 30th July.
Hater – “Bad Luck” (Malmö, Sweden)
RIYL: Red House Painters, Makthaverskan, Chapterhouse
Hater are one of the most outstanding indie bands to emerge from Europe in the past half-decade. Their first three records – LPs You Tried and Siesta and the EP Red Blinders – were remarkable. Last year’s standalone single, “Sift”, meanwhile, was beautifully dreary, as the quartet channeled their inner Red House Painters. It was a microcosm of Hater’s brilliance, where every song possesses an emotional intensity that hits the soul hard. Between the stirring arrangements and Caroline Landahl’s interpersonal songwriting style, every track feels personal. This is what makes Hater such a rarity today: they craft songs that represent all of us. They do it again on “Bad Luck”.
Written during the height of the pandemic, Landahl examines the unquantifiable force called luck and how it affects us daily. From love and health to employment and friendship, success requires a bit of good fortune. At the same time, bad luck can cause us to constantly be “feeling low”, which Landahl sings about with much anguish. As she shares the multiple ways she tries to “live with it” (the bad luck), Måns Leonartsson, Adam Agace, and Lukas Thomasson envelop Landahl’s voice is a dreamy yet downtrodden melancholy. It is sadcore elevated to a dazzling level, where you feel both remorseful yet awestruck. Indeed, we are once again in awe of what Hater have crafted.
The single is out on Fire Records. Here’s hoping a new album is coming.
Opus Kink – “This Train” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Iceage, Bambara, Team Picture
It may seem premature to say, but Opus Kink are one of our favorite discoveries of 2021 based on one song. “Wild Bill” was brilliant. It is best described as frenzied, gypsy post-punk or Gogol Bordello on Red Bull. Now in a testament to how gifted they are, the sextet from Brighton outdo themselves on their newest single.
Like their first number of the year, “This Train” is one whirling, wild ride. Right from the start, a manic urgency is heard in the quick stutters of the percussion, the vocals, and the blaring horns. Frontman Angus Rogers’ vocal helps fuel the grand mystery and mania. As the song becomes increasingly frenetic and then channels a George Michael sexiness, Rogers sings of what we can only guess is post-apocalyptic London, where Caligula, Rasputin, and every mad man walks freely.
To get away, people get on board a train. It’s kind of like the movie/TV show, Snowpiercer, but the problem is that this train is likely just the tube. Eventually, it will have to stop and we will have to look our oppressors in the eye. When we do, the band remind us to, “Don’t lose yourself to everyone else”. In other words, don’t become one of them.
But it’s okay to be like Angus Rogers (vocals, guitars), Sam Abbo (bass), Jazz Pope (keys, synth), Johnny Giles (trumpet), Jed Morgans (alto saxophone), and Fin Abbo (drums), who are musical geniuses.
The single is out now on Nice Swan Records.
Liily – “I Am Who I Think You Think I Am” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: IDLES, Fontaines D.C., TV Priest
For more than half a decade, Liily have brought the edge and grit to LA’s electronic- and pop-driven music scene. Where many bands sing about broken hearts, parties at the beach, and joyriding along Sunset Boulevard, Maxx Morando (drums), Sam De La Torre (guitar), Charlie Anastasis (bass), Aaron Reeves (guitar), and Dylan Nash (lead vocals) address society’s decay, the corruption of the presidency, and families arbitrarily torn apart. These guys are not here to play nice. They are here to keep us alert and avoiding complacency, something they achieve on “I Am Who I Think You Think I Am”.
The song is not a raging, window-shattering number. Instead it rattles with a plodding ferocity that comes from the jackhammer rhythms, the scorching guitars, and Nash’s wailing vocals. The lyrics are also jarring, as every word is meant to shake the cobwebs from our assimilated minds. They are meant to take our attention away from our phones and wake us from our stupor. Or in other words, consider “I Am Who I Think You Think I Am” as the red pill, freeing our minds from the people and machines that control us:
“The search for worth and its cult
Comes around to set you free
Of all you know and all you need, its worst
Gives you all its vaccine fees, gets worse
Computer screens, their blinding lights
The past won’t matter with a your hand in the jar of right”
This single is out on Flush Records.
Dontmesswithjuan – “Young Lady” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: Atoms for Peace, Massive Attack, Amon Tobin
Never judge a book by its cover, and similarly never judge an artist by their name. At first glance, you might assume Dontmesswithjuan is a young Thom Yorke in the making. And indeed the Montreal-based artist’s trajectory is pointing in that direction, but this individual is no man. Instead, Dontmesswithjuan is a young woman who at this time chooses to remain anonymous. As her press release says, “Dontmesswithjuan is the project of a girl who likes to stay in the shadows.” We’re not sure if she’ll be able to remain unknown for long because songs like “Young Lady” will have people wanting to not just hear her music but to see her perform.
Your attention never deviates from this exquisite piece of art. The delicate beats, the low yet intoxicating synths and vocals create an atmosphere that is surreal, dreamy, and suspenseful. With each note, we crawl deeper into the artist’s mesmerizing world. Exactly what awaits is unknown, but that is what makes this song so great – it is filled with unexpected surprises and comes from an artist who knows no boundaries.
The single is out on SONO Music Group, who will release Dontmesswithjuan’s debut album, Juan & the Pursuit of Happiness, later in 2021.
The Ophelias – “Neil Young on High” feat. Julien Baker (Cincinnati, USA)
RIYL: Sun June, Wilsen, Lightning Bug
With a smaller version of Newport Folk Festival only a few weeks away, our minds wander thinking about which young artist or band will make their inaugural appearance there. They don’t necessarily have to be folk artists – NFF has become more eclectic over the years – but their music must be engaging and endearing. The Ophelias are one group we think deserve to be performing at one of the world’s finest festivals. We can imagine the faces of Spencer Peppet (she/her; vocals/guitar), Jo Shaffer (they/them, bass), Andrea Gutmann Fuentes (she/her, violin), and Micaela Adams (he/him, drums) taking their first steps at Fort Adams. We can picture them taking a deep breath and ripping off a remarkable 40-minute set that wows the audience. One song sure to have people rushing to the merch tent is “Neil Young on High”.
The track is brittle and vulnerable in its effect yet stunning in its execution. The mournful wail of Fuentes’ violin contrasting with Peppet’s shallow guitar form the song’s melancholic yet emotional foundation. As Shaffer’s angular bass and Adams’ feathery percussion enter the fray, Peppet shares the memory of separation and the effects it had on her.
“I saw you on high, I was waiting outside / What a strange thing to remember”, she sings at first. There is no regret, however, in her words. She instead would live them all over again: “I regret never celebrating smaller victories that we saved / I would do that part over.” As these lines are sung, we can only imagine the quietness that sweeps over the crowd, as eyes and ears are fixated on the four young, talented artists on stage (and maybe Julien Baker will join them for the chorus, as she does on this rendition). A new memory for another song, in the process, may be born.
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