Magical is the word to describe The Matinee ’21 v. 100, which features nine songs that rekindle forgotten memories, take us on glorious adventures, and deliver us to enchanted gardens. What a way to start the week.
Strand of Oaks – “Galacticana” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Big Star, The War on Drugs, R.E.M.
Rock ’n roll is an ever-evolving genre comprised of myriad sub-genres orbiting within a galactic cosmos of sound. So what should an artist do when their new sound no longer fits within their former parameters? Strand of Oaks frontman Tim Showalter pondered this while recording his eighth LP, In Heaven. Never content to dwell within confined expectations, Showalter forged into the unknown. He then applied his newly coined genre term to the title of the album’s lead single.
“Galacticana” is the essence of everything fans love about Showalter’s music. Hope and magic are woven into each lyric and riff. The tune is built upon the guitar-driven Strand of Oaks signature sound. There are layers of reverb to become immersed in that offer a heady listening experience. But longtime fans will notice a revitalized warmth here – the kind of breezy electricity that accompanies a brewing storm.
Anyone who has experienced a Strand of Oaks live show can attest to the sparks that fly both on stage and in the crowd. That energy is the heart of this song. “Galacticana” was written and recorded last year when we collectively mourned the loss of concert catharsis. Showalter first captures our shared emotions in the lyrics then delivers sweet sonic release throughout:
“I believe that ecstasy happens when we all get together
Standing right in front of me
Feeding off the energy together
Looking for identity
Freaking out a little bit together”
It won’t be long until we can all freak out together to a new Strand of Oaks album. In Heaven features longtime collaborators from My Morning Jacket (Carl Broemel, Bo Koster) along with Cedric LeMoyne (Remy Zero, Warpaint), James Iha (Smashing Pumpkins), and more.
The album arrives October 1st via his own label Galacticana Records in collaboration with Thirty Tigers and Cooking Vinyl. Pre-orders are available here and directly on Bandcamp. Keep an eye on his website for details about the upcoming tour.
Wednesday – “One More Last One” (Asheville, NC USA)
RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Pinkshinyultrablast, Blankenberge
If you lived in the ’80s and ’90s, chances are good you have created a mix tape. This started with popping a cassette into the tape deck and waiting to hear our favorite song on the radio. CDs, CD burners, and Napster made the process easier in the ’90s not to mention improving the sound quality. So what does this nostalgic memory have to do with the Karly Hartzman-fronted outfit Wednesday? The answer is simple – from what we’ve heard so far, their upcoming new album, Twin Plagues, seems to be recapturing the magic of the mix tape.
Wednesday have already shared the belter “Handsome Man”, and they followed up with the intimate yet explosive “Cody’s Only”. Now with “One More Last One”, they display another layer to their talents in going full shoegaze. The song is like being taken back to 1990 and the rise of bands like Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, Ride, and My Bloody Valentine. The reverb-heavy guitars, the deft rhythms, and the fuzzed-filled vocals are reminiscent of a time when guitar-driven music was unstoppable and everyone wanted to be the next Bilinder Butcher or Peter Hook. Where everyone’s heads nod back and forth while their minds float in a haze. We are, however, listening intently to what Hartzman has to say. She tells us that she’ll “be waiting for the call” and to be the shoulder we lean on as we share the pain that eats at our soul. Kind of sounds like the music of the ’90s.
Bad Waitress – “Delusions Of Grandeur” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Bikini Kill, Slaves, The Paranoyds
The best songs, in our humble opinion, are those that tell an imaginative tale. It’s one way for a band to rise above the pack and be noticed, and Toronto’s Bad Waitress are making a lot of people acknowledge their talent. For newbies like us, the Stephen King’s Carrie-like punk blazer, “Strawberry Milkshake”, made us take notice. If people were not already on their bandwagon back in June, then “Delusions Of Grandeur” should get you on board this rapidly moving tour-de-force.
This tantalizing piece of punk-rock is dark, heavy, and suspenseful. In many respects, it sounds like an extension to “Strawberry Milkshake” at first, as the band tell the story of a person entering a world that seems to be too perfect. Through the harrowing noise highlighted by an outstanding pulsating bass and a scintillating guitar line, we’re told how great we are, how we can be anything we want to be, and given false hope. Bad Waitress, though, have not taken the blue pill, but they’ve instead opted for the red one to see the world as it is. This place is where “Morals have been shot down a well / All these politicians are gaining”.
As usual, the foursome share a pretty cool video, which shows Kali-Ann Butala, Katelyn Molgard, Nicole Cain, and Eva Moon in a cult. Soon, the quartet will have their own massive cult following once their debut album, No Taste, drops September 3rd. Royal Mountain Records will release it. Pre-orders are available here and on Bandcamp.
Deafheaven – “The Gnashing” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Deafheaven, My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver
After surprising everyone with the cosmic shoegazer, “Great Mass of Color”, blackgaze pioneers Deafheaven showed a “softer side”. Of course, the lead single from their forthcoming new album, Infinite Granite, was anything but light, intimate, and nice. On the contrary, it was illuminating and devouring in its approach. It was an awesome introduction to George Clarke, Kerry McCoy, Daniel Tracy, Shiv Mehra, and Chris Johnson’s new chapter, and they add to their fifth volume’s growing legacy with “The Gnashing”.
Hold on tight and get ready to be jettisoned into another dimension because this song is a full-throttle, shoegaze hydrogen bomb. It commences like a mammoth epic of explosive guitars, throbbing rhythms, and Clarke’s surprisingly embracing vocal. Everything is dialed up to the nth degree, and the wall of intergalactic noise is mesmerizing. Instead of ratcheting up the intensity, the band do the opposite and slow things down. Our spaceship has hit the brakes as it confronts an unexpected presence. After a brief pause, the track turns dark, gripping, and sinister. At this point, Clarke sings, “Now I see you’re weeping with reason”, as he finally understands that no matter where we go in the future our past will catch up with us.
in tender oceans spilling crimson
A leaking thimble flowing fragile
Oozing tension into blue”
This is just another display of Deafheaven’s incomparable brilliance. More will be revealed when their new album, Infinite Granite, arrives August 20th on Sargent House. Pre-orders and pre-saves here and directly on Bandcamp.
Evann McIntosh – “Electricity” (Kansas, USA)
RIYL: Arlo Parks, Aaliyah, Brandy, Boyz II Men
Some TikTok stars draw a huge following for, well, no one really knows why. Others gain a legion of fans because they ooze talent. Without this medium, they would continue to be anonymous dreamers, hoping for a big break. The world would likely never knew they existed, but fortunately for us this technology has introduced millions of people to Evann McIntosh, who might surprise people that within their 17-year old body lies an old-school soul.
McIntosh lists Prince as their biggest influence, which explains the sultriness of their music. But on their newest single, “Electricity”, they rekindle the intimate, R&B coolness of the ’90s and the music of the late Aaliyah, Brandy, and Mary J. Blige. The piano-driven melody is classic and embracing like a blanket on a cool summer’s evening. It’s beyond lovely. The song, however, it taken to a whole other level with McIntosh’s gorgeous voice and superb songwriting. Through their knee-buckling delivery, McIntosh describes how two people have grown apart. “Where did our connection go?”, they innocently ask as they confront their partner’s infidelity. The tale is one of heartbreak, but McIntosh has made the experience memorable.
“Electricity” is out on the outstanding Mom + Pop Music. Details of McIntosh’s debut album are unknown, although being in a military family has made recording an album a little difficult. Then again, McIntosh’s family’s constant moving around has not stopped this young talent from becoming a star.
Amyl and The Sniffers – “Guided by Angels” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, Cable Ties, Dentist
Amyl and The Sniffers openly say they are a “pub rock and punk band.” This description should not mistaken them as a group of friends who try to emulate the music of popular outfits. On the contrary, it is a reference to the blue-collar nature of their punk music. Like Iggy and The Stooges, The Ramones, and The Buzzcocks, their music represents the people who every day do the dirty work and toil behind the scenes. Amy Taylor (vocal), Bryce Wilson (drums), Dec Martens (guitar), and Fergus Romer (bass) also are a band never afraid to confront truths. They do this on “Guided by Angels”.
A frenetic energy fills the track, as Martens’ grimy, overdriven guitar, Wilson’s propulsive drumming, and Romer’s hammering bassline level jackhammer-like jolts into our bodies. Their ferocity provides the foundation from which Taylor tells her story of being lost, alone, and in search of answers. She is stuck, as wildfires burn around her but a pandemic keeps her stuck at home. Only one thing can save her – divine intervention or is it just a belief in herself? With a furious intensity and via a chant-like energy, she hollers:
“For the angels guiding my energy
They’re so heavenly
I love their energy
Angels return my energy heavenly
Angels on my body
And they’re so heavenly
And I pray for forgiveness
Never give it, never want it
From the angels heavenly guided
GOLDEN – “Callus” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Wet, deryk, Chinah
When we first heard “Hate” from Bailey Cooke’s project GOLDEN, we said she was a talent to closely watch. Sure enough, she was signed soon after by Future Gods, which is home to She Keeps Bees. The young artist who calls Brooklyn home possesses the ability to take a couple of instruments and a simple arrangement and turn them to a superb experience. It is simplicity made beautiful, which is one way to describe “Callus”.
With a few beats, her keyboard, a guitar, and MacBook, Cooke has made lo-fi bedroom-pop even more intimate than we could imagine. Each note is executed with the delicate hand of a grandmaster artist, where each stroke is striking to behold. Even when the song rises slightly and becomes a little unsteady, it remains alluring on the senses. This is due to Cooke’s distant and whispery vocal and her tale of living each day as if it could be her last. “I’m living on borrowed time”, she says with a brittle softness. Every day is a trial for her, but hopefully soon she’ll have the wind behind her sails because she’s an artist to watch closely.
Make Friends – “Call Me Out” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: The Night Café, Grizzly Bear, Slowdive
It was only a month ago that we came across a band that left us wondering why we had not heard of them before. With “Sleep Sound”, Bristol-based Make Friends created a song that represented the greatness of indie music. It was jubilant, euphoric, and desperate. It was a roller coaster of emotions that is not replicated on top-40 music. After all, only a truly independent band could create music that stretches imaginations and causes several gasps for breath. So deeply inhale and then ride the majestic waves of “Call Me Out”.
Part dream-pop, part cinematic indie, the single is a glamorous escapade into the far, unknown reaches of the galaxy. Tom Andrew (vocals, bass), David Thomas (guitar), Connor Crabb (guitar), and Max Lewin (drums) ease listeners in with a lush dreaminess, as the guitars shimmer like the stars on a clear night. Meanwhile, the rhythms explode like shooting stars entering the atmosphere and narrating the adventure is Andrew with his angelic-like voice. When the song reaches its crescendo, the moment is one of awe – like witnessing a supernova exploding before our eyes. This replicates the power of this tale of friendship, trust, and finding a reason to live again. “You talked me down / You called me out / Showed me how”, he passionately sings. It’s fitting that a band named Make Friends reminds to look after one another.
The song is taken from the band’s new EP, which is expected in September.
Grawlixes – “Honey Bees” (Wellington via Dunedin, New Zealand)
RIYL: Oh Pep!, Womb, The Wild Reeds
When Grawlixes first introduced themselves to the Wellington music scene, they were a playful, summery folk band. Their music was made for hearing in backyards and open parks. Now they’re creating music that can also belongs in the most secretive and exclusive venues. Forget pixies and fairy dust but instead think of the mysterious underworld of Pan when hearing “Honey Bees”.
A darker, more haunting tone fills the air. Despite this, Penelope Esplin (accordion/vocals), Robin Cederman (guitar/vocals), Alex Vaastra (violin), Emma Hattaway (bass), and Hikurangi Schaverien-Kaa (drums) still deliver magic. The serene approach gradually gives away to a moment of pure exhilaration, as Esplin’s intimate voice rises and accompanied by Cederman and a rising chorus of wonderful sound. In some ways, this song has an air of Pan’s Labyrinth, where one finds solitude in the harbors of an enchanted garden.
“You’ll start a fight, you’ll make a scene
To defend your right to obscurity
We worry only for these newfound needs
But in the garden you can write
And feels the sweat drip down your spine
Hearing honey bees”
Magical indeed. The quintet’s new album, Love You To Death, could very well be this. It is out this Thursday, July 15th. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
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