The Matinee ’21 v. 104 offers breathtaking landscapes to explore. Lose yourself in new music from a critically acclaimed indie band while discovering fresh tunes from emerging artists, who offer everything from the trembling to the cathartic to the sultry.
The War on Drugs – “Living Proof” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Bob Dylan, My Morning Jacket, Strand of Oaks
When your band’s last release earned a Grammy for Best Rock Album, you might feel pressure to release an equally stellar follow-up. But not if you’re Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs. Rushing is not his style, as evident in the mellow tempo of most every song he writes. The peaceful hues of the band’s first new single in five years makes you forget the wait. It picks up the warmth of that 2017 LP, A Deeper Understanding, and reminds listeners why this band is so beloved.
“Living Proof” from the band’s upcoming fifth album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore, is Granduciel at his introspective best. Lines that seem more confessional than lyrical are sung to the accompaniment of a simple piano and acoustic guitar. You almost feel like an interloper hearing him announce his fears and shortcomings so honestly:
“What have I been running from?
I know the pain / the pain you’ve been feeling
I’ve been to the place that you’ve tried escaping
I can’t recall what I believe in
I’m always changing, love overflowing
But I’m rising and I’m damaged”
Fans of this band expect lyrical depth and sonic textures so rich you feel caressed by each note. The War on Drugs succeed yet again with Granduciel supported by bandmates Anthony LaMarca and Dave Hartley. They were joined on this song by Robbie Bennett (keys), Jon Natchez (sax), and Charlie Hall (drums).
Geographer – “Waiting For a Stranger” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Small Black, SYML, Novo Amor, Zola Blood
If you have ever lost yourself daydreaming of possibilities, then this new single from Geographer was written for you. Who hasn’t entertained the what-ifs of life, wondering how or when Fate might intervene with change? But few of us can turn those musings into something as deliciously hypnotic as frontman Michael Deni sings about on “Waiting For a Stranger.”
His vocals are an instant intoxicant, caressing listeners with the warmth of a Pacific summer breeze. The lyrics possess a similar gentle power. The yearning he conveys in every line creates bonds of emotional solidarity between anyone who wonders when their luck will change:
“The next person you meet could be the one who will save you
Everyone you’ve ever known was a stranger…
“What if I waited so long that I don’t see it when it comes?”
Plan to bask in these lush textures for a long, long time. Fans of downtempo indie pop purveyors like SYML and Passenger have a new artist to love in Geographer.
Treeboy & Arc – “Role Models” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Ought, Shame, Preoccupations, Gang of Four
We’ve often mentioned how some of the most creative music is coming from the UK. It seems like every other band coming from across the pond is channeling the music renaissance of the ’70s and early ’80s, which saw the likes of Joy Division, The Smiths, Pet Shop Boys, and The Clash emerge. Another group making a name for themselves are Treeboy & Arc.
These five lads are not the next boy band. On the contrary, James Kay, Ben Morgan, George Townend, Isaac Turner, and Sammy Robinson could be the next great art-punk outfit, and songs like “Role Models” could very well see them approach legendary status.
The off-kilter approach is wildly infectious and brilliantly conceived. Angular guitars criss-cross through the low synth hum and the stammering rhythms. On the one hand, it buzzes with the energy of a gang of suburban youths wanting to break free of the chains that pin them down – or the picket white fences that keep them confined to their homes. Telling their story is Morgan, who delivers some lyrical gems about young people’s desire to have 15 minutes of fame. After all, they’ve told that:
“If you try, you can do anything
If you die, you can come back like Jesus did
I heard a guy called Moses split the sea
So how hard can it be?”
The band’s new EP, Life Preserver, is out on August 6th. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
Pip Blom – “It Should Have Been Fun” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Courtney Barnett, The Ratboys, The Beths
We still remember five years ago when a young woman from Amsterdam was rocking her guitar and firing lyrical gems like Courtney Barnett. “Taxi Driver” made us flinch because it reminded us of the days when guitar-driven music ruled the airwaves and stellar songwriters were adored by all. Times have changed in terms of mainstream music, but within the indie world there will always be a place for Pip Blom. Maybe one day, the radio universe will turn right-side up and share songs like “It Should Have Been Fun”.
Like her idol Barnett, Blom is a master of melody shifts, using multiple transitions to reflect the topsy-turvy nature of her and everyone’s worlds. On “It Should Have Been Fun”, the melodic-rock tone reflects the apathy and confusion that consumes Blom. In one instance, she is defending herself from another person’s critique and another moment she’s a wallflower trying to have fun at party. Then the song intensifies to represent the turmoil in her mind. Should she stay or go? Would leaving been interpreted as her giving up on everyone or just a young woman needing to collect herself? Does she even know?
For 222 seconds, she tries to figure out these questions, but no answers are revealed. Instead, her journey continues right up to October 8th, which is when the band’s new album, Welcome Break, will be released on Heavenly Recordings. Pre-orders are available here.
In addition to Pip Blom (vocals/guitar), the band includes Tender Blom (guitar/vocals), Darek Mercks (bass), and Gini Cameron (drums). Their new album,
James Leonard Hewitson – “Commercial Vibe” (Hartlepool, England)
RIYL: Talking Heads, Shopping, LCD Soundsystem
If 2020 belonged to post-punk, 2021 might be the year of art-rock. Last year was filled with significant challenges to say the least, while this year has seen more positive developments (notwithstanding the latest wave of new cases across the globe). The old adage does say that music mimics the times, and there is a more jubilant and creative buzz in the air. Artists, after all, are now performing in front of live audiences and recording their songs in a studio. In addition, they are writing stories about other aspects of life, which to be honest is refreshing. And it’s always great to head a songwriting tackle our self-absorptive nature, which is what James Leonard Hewitson has done with “Commercial Vibe”.
Channeling his inner David Byrne and James Murphy, Hewitson has crafted one infectious and quirky number. The off-kilter melody is jittery yet made for awkward dancing. The low-throbbing, Peter Hook-esque bass line, meanwhile, gives the track a post-punk vibe and, therefore, anchors the track firmly on the ground. Hewitson’s lyrics are just as witty as the arrangement, as he discusses how commercialization still rules even in chaotic times. There could be a war or a pandemic happening, and people will still want to have the finer things in life.
“It’s the time that I spend waiting in line
That I wish I could just get back
I think I really like the threads you wear
Next to me you make me look like a hack
All the time
Run for your life”
Johnny Hunter – “The Floor” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: The Ninth Wave, Blinders, Walt Disco
Halloween is still more than three months away, but is there ever a bad time to hear a spine-tingling number? Not in our opinion because we always need something, anything to keep us on our toes and our Spidey senses on high alert. When a song can combine these sensations with an electrifying catharsis, it cannot be pigeonholed as an October tune. Instead, it is one to be heard on any day of every month of the year, just be prepared to have the hair on the back on your neck stand tall. This will likely happen when spinning “The Floor” from Johnny Hunter.
A mix of post-punk, psychedelic, and electric-rock, this song is equally meant for vast stadiums and creepy, bleak basement bars. Regardless of the venue, everyone will be dancing or potentially parading like an army of zombies. A trembling tone immediately fills the air with the stark bass line and throbbing percussion before the overdriven, guttural guitar enters the fray. They create the harrowing atmosphere for front-man Nick Hutt’s booming baritone and his tale of a man who has hit rock bottom. He has reached the floor of his own oblivion.
“The medicine is
I am my God
A poisoned clown
An aging whore
A ghost of town
The defaced grave
To the fallen brave
An impurity in a Symphony”
This awesome single is out on Cooking Vinyl Australia. Jonny Hunter are: Nick Hutt (vocals), Ben Wilson (guitar), Xander Burgess (guitar), Nick Cerone (bass), and Gerry Thompson (drums).
Film School – “Isla / Superperfection” (San Francisco & Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Slowdive, Beach House, Quivers
It’s hard not to gush when writing about Film School. The indie band comprised of Adam Wade, Greg Bertens, Jason Ruck, Justin Labo, and Nyles Lannon doesn’t make music; no, what they create is closer to sonic magic. Their latest effort, a split single featuring “Isla” and “Superperfection”, offers all the proof you need. So if you aren’t familiar with this California band (despite two decades together, they remain criminally underrated), the introduction they offer here should be enough to convert you into a diehard fan.
The brighter tones of “Isla” have the allure of a siren’s song from Greek mythology. The lines “Can you find us, we’re waiting” invite listeners to dive into the breezy, indie pop textures. But the tonal shift halfway – a brief diversion into minor keys – adds a swirling effect to the gentle churn of the instrumentation. At the song’s conclusion you want to bask in the sunshine on whatever deserted beach you have washed upon. You then find rest in the lush textures of “Superperfection.”
The fuzzed-out intro offers a hint of the brilliance that will follow, though it’s far from sufficient preparation. Once the vocals begin you can only surrender to the head-spinning shoegaze lushness. For nearly four minutes your reality becomes defined by delirium and bliss. The words “wild times” are your new mantra as the song maintains its mesmerizing effect. You may not be able to focus clearly, but when you’re floating amid tones this sublime, do you even mind?
Morly – “Wasted” (Los Angeles via Minneapolis, USA)
RIYL: Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Claire George
Back in 2017, we were introduced to Katy Morley – or simply Morly – in 2017 when she released “Sleeping In My Own Bed”. At the time, she was unsigned, but that wasn’t going to last long due to her classic soul and R&B approach and smokey voice. Fast forward four years, and the Minneapolis native is now part of Cascine‘s roster. The label that is home to Half Waif and Yumi Zouma is the perfect place to help Morley become a household name. Or maybe her new single, “Wasted”, is the ticket to her future stardom.
Whether you listen to music from the ’60s, the ’90s, or 2020s, you will agree that “Wasted” is timeless. Its piano melody and Morley’s stunning voice are reminiscent of Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, and Etta James. Like these great’s music, the song could be played in a jazz club, Rockefeller Center, or Wembley Stadium and leave all its patrons gasping for a breath and wanting to hear the song again and again. It’s not just the song’s intimacy that grabs hold, but Morley’s lyrics, too, are relatable.
“How do I stop
When will I learn
I’ve had enough?
I swore just a little more
and you’d feel it too
But I was just wasted
(Ooh ooh ooh wasted)
Oh I was just wasted
Morley’s debut album, ‘Til I Start Speaking, arrives August 20th. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
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