The Matinee ’21 v. 110 kicks the week off with songs that will make you go “Wow!”, whether from the sonic explosions or the powerful songwriting. Several newcomers occupy the mini-playlist, offering you the chance to be an early member of these rising stars’ bandwagons.
Ve & Fasa – “Juli” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Mogwai, I Break Horses, M83
Ve & Fasa was a project three years in the making for original members Ella Munday, Gustav Sandell, and Marcus Andersson. But with Mats Danielsson, the band had a clear vision, which was represented in their remarkable debut single, “Under lysande skyltar”. Now with clarity of mind, the quartet are not taking three years to release another single. Instead, only a single month has passed, and Ve & Fasa has once again wowed. Let us rephrase that, they have WOWED with “Juli”.
The group’s newest single is post-rock dream-pop taken to the brink of oblivion, and it is magnificent. “Juli” is what could we imagine a collaboration between Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck of I Break Horses and legends Mogwai would resemble. It dazzles and awes for the first four-plus minutes, sounding like the most tranquil yet extraordinary cruise through the cosmos. The instrumentation is beautifully serene while Munday’s stirring vocals recounts what may be a memory or the longing for someone far, far away. This calmness then gives way to a gradual sonic explosion. The moment is like watching a star slowly develop into a super nova, and it is jaw-dropping. It is unforgettable.
With “Juli”, we have to say that Ve & Fas are one of our favorite discoveries of the year. Hands down. We have Mara Sounds to thank for this.
Trophy Wife – “I’m Getting Better” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: IAN SWEET, Palehound, Florist
Speaking of new discoveries, everyone should be writing down the name of McKenzie Iazzetta and her project Trophy Wife. The Boston-based singer-songwriter already has one EP to her credit, and last Friday she released her sophomore mini-album, Bruiser. It is quite a remarkable effort that brims with raw emotion and poignant songwriting. Think IAN SWEET, Florist, Snail Mail, and Lucy Dacus in their early years, where every second rattles the bones. The EP’s closing track perfectly encapsulates power.
“I’m Getting Better” is an epic, tour-de-force indie-rocker. It’s 6-minute, 47-second running time races by due to Iazzetta’s masterful orchestration and pacing. An uneasy urgency rings through the melancholic first half, as the steely guitar shakes and Iazzetta’s gorgeous voice aches with pain, despair, and guilt.
“And this couldn’t be better
I know I let it die
And I couldn’t feel better
You know I lied”
For the final three minutes, the song spirals into an emotional tornado. Through the wailing noise, Iazzetta’s vocal trembles with the intensity of a person seeking to be heard. “I know I picked this / I lit my candle / And I knocked it over!”, she hollers as she watches her life disintegrate before her eyes. But before our eyes, we are witnessing possibly the next great indie artist from New England.
Winston Churchbus – “Where Do I Begin” (feat. Olivia McGraw) (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
RIYL: Mercury Rev, Sparklehorse, Radiohead
If asked to name an indie band from the state of Oklahoma, The Flaming Lips come immediately to mind. Some may mention Broncho, too, but the Sooner State’s music scene is undergoing a renaissance thanks in large part to the emergence of Horton Records.
Founded by Brian Horton and registered as a non-profit organization, this little label is punching well above its weight, and in the process giving Oklahoma-based artists and bands a chance to be heard. Twenty years from now, Horton Records just might be mentioned in the same breath as Sub Pop for turning local musical outfits into national and possibly international stars. And maybe, just maybe Winston Churchbus could become the label’s equivalent of Nirvana.
Such words are aspirational, but it only takes one major taste-maker or MTV to turn the impossible into reality. Maybe someone out there will give the project of Nicholas Foster, who plays drums in a band called Knipple, a chance to be heard. Heck, everyone should hear his newest single, “Where Do I Begin”. The song is hypnotic, psych-infused art-rock, and it is brilliant. Driven by a Colin Greenwood-esque (Radiohead) bass line and the scintillating delirium of Mercury Rev, the track tiptoes the fine line between reality and the imaginative.
What takes the number to another level is the gripping yet stunning voice of guest singer Olivia McGraw. She sings about a relationship on the rocks, and how the growing discomfort between the two people is about to become physical. Listen carefully, as some of her lyrics are powerful, particularly:
“Don’t touch me, I’ll come out of my head
Your ballast, you put me down instead
Now should I beg that tourniquet will save me again?
“Where Do I Begin” is taken from Winston Churchbus’ forthcoming, new album, Trophy Husband. It is out August 20th. Pre-order it on Bandcamp.
Bloodslide – “How Glad I Am” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: My Bloody Valentine + Indigo Girls, Explosions in the Sky, Slowdive, Protomartyr, Preoccupations
When a super-group that features AJ Lambert (vocals, bass), who is Nancy Sinatra’s daughter (which obviously makes her Frank Sinatra’s granddaughter); Protomartyr’s Greg Ahee (guitars); and Preoccupations’ Mike Wallace (drums), one would think the internet would be buzzing about their new EP. Maybe people are too busy trying to live an ordinary life in these very unusual times or their interests lie elsewhere. Hardcore music fans, though, talking about Bloodslide and exuding the greatness of their previous single, “MVP”. They should also be exalting about how marvelous “How Glad I Am” is.
Whereas as “MVP” was a propulsive mind-bender, the trio’s latest single is a dazzling, extravagant experience of post-rock shoegaze. It is the brilliant calm that follows a raging storm. At this moment when the rains dissipate and the clouds gradually move westwards yet the backdrop is still grey and black, the birds emerge from their hiding and their song overtakes the thunder. Or in this case, Lambert’s lithe vocal shines above Ahee’s reverb-drenched, searing guitar and Wallace’s pummeling rhythms. She calls out to a loved one, expressing her undying love. But can he hear her through the ravenous noise?
To find out, listen to Bloodslide’s eponymous debut EP, which is available digitally now on Bandcamp. Physical copies drop September 17th.
Finnegan Tui – “MORE” (London, England via New Zealand)
RIYL: Hozier, James Blake, Billy Raffoul
Kiwi ingenuity is not just a slogan, but it actually exists. For the five million people who live on various islands in the far southwest corners of the Pacific Ocean, they’ve made their relative isolation an asset. They’ve invested the time and space to invent and be innovative. Peer around the music industry, and one likely will encounter a song that involvew a New Zealander. Soon, more people will be exposed to Finnegan Tui, who brings theater, cinema, and the afterlife to music.
The 21-year old now calls London home, moving to the British capital in order to further refine his approach and to introduce more people to his genre-less world. On “More”, he melds together folktronica, soul, trip-hop, and glitch into a mesmerizing sonic cocktail. It is dark and gripping, where at times it feels like an everlasting hallucination and other times like an episode of wallowing despair. Yet throughout the song’s nearly three minutes, we remained paralyzed because this world is our self-imposed prison. We are in this place trying to determine our purpose while stepping outside our comfort zones.
“The truth not yours
But you keep it safe
You’re all too safe”.
The young man has the chance to be another great Kiwi export that redefines how we experience music.
Ada Lea – “damn” (Montreal, Canada)
RIYL: The Weather Station, Land of Talk, Feist
Canada has no shortage of great female singer-songwriters, and most are known by a single name. Joni, Alanis, Martha, and Feist are just a few. Montreal-based singer-songwriter Ada Lea could join them very soon. Like these legends, Lea has proven in her some five-plus years to be an incredible storyteller. Her previous release, “hurt”, was a jaw-dropping, kneel-buckling number. For her latest single, she continues to startle with her impeccable lyrical prowess.
Take a deep breath and inhale the gorgeous, dream-rock layers of “damn”. Do not, however, become completely immersed in the trembling guitars or the delicate touches of the keys and rhythms. Instead, turn your attention to the story that Lea paints. She recounts her endless efforts to help a friend overcome his addiction and other struggles. Her lyrics are powerful and should be read in their entirety, particularly these words:
“Living in the background
Hanging with a rough crowd
Thinking of the times you had it all figured out
Now everyone is passed out
Blurry on the edge now
Empty as an effigy waiting to come down
I’ve had it with this place
We’re all going insane
I’ve had it with this place
We’ve all gone insane”
More of Lea’s great songwriting is coming September 24th, which is when Saddle Creek Records will release her new album, one hand on the steering wheel the other sewing a garden. Pre-saves and pre-orders available here or directly on Bandcamp.
Matt the Electrician – “Home Again” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: The Jayhawks, Grandaddy, Sea Wolf
Artists who perform at the acclaimed Newport Folk Fest earn the designation “One of the Folk.” While this artist was not on the lineup this year, Matt The Electrician is a two-time veteran of those stages where current and future legends play. That’s because Texas-based artist Matt Sever makes the kind of feel-good indie folk/pop the festival is known for. If you’re not already familiar with him, one spin of his new single will turn you into an instant fan.
“Home Again” delivers the goods in a big way, both lyrically and musically. The vivid imagery is what first captures your focus. His every word comes alive, giving you plenty to enjoy but also much to ponder:
“Red skies over the ocean blue
Long drive trading the wheel for two
And every night is a forest fire
Close your eyes until the flames expire
If you’re gonna be here now
You better take a deep breath
If you’re gonna stick it out
It’s gonna take some good work
Wonder if the wandering will ever bring you home again”
The phrase “some good work” is more than crafty writing. Matt Sever began his career more than 20 years ago, playing in coffee houses while still wearing his electrician’s work clothes. He has put in plenty of good work since then, releasing a dozen albums since 1998. His next LP, We Imagined an Ending, is produced by Tucker Martine and should arrive later this year.
“Home Again” is streaming now from these links. You can purchase it from Bandcamp while you wait for the album. Hopefully his wandering will lead him back to Newport – and all the other cool indie festivals – next year.
A Great Big Pile of Leaves – “Hit Reset” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie, Dismemberment Plan, Sunny Day Real Estate
The upside to being an indie music fan is the endless supply of artists making incredible tunes. This also proves problematic, especially with lesser-known bands from major cities. Too often the brilliance of their work is overshadowed by the mainstream or overlooked altogether. Maybe that is why A Great Big Pile of Leaves has remained under the radar for so long, at least for us. The Brooklyn-based indie trio will soon release their third album, Pono, an LP full of summer soundtrack-worthy delights.
“Hit Reset” is pure sonic refreshment. With its balance of intricate guitar work and breezy vocals, every note is an invitation to escape the mundane and dive into sun-kissed bliss. The melodies memories of carefree days and electric nights, of solo road trips and adventures with friends. Meanwhile the percussion keeps you moving and smiling as the backing harmonies linger long after the song ends.
It seems unfair to apply the nondescript “indie pop” label to this song as it hardly fits the effervescent instrumentation on display here. Smart and sophisticated with just a hint of melancholy, the music that Pete Weiland, Tyler Soucy, and Tucker Yaro creates transcends genres for the most part. We cannot explain why A Great Big Pile of Leaves aren’t better known. One thing is certain: “Hit Reset” is a treat for all music fans. Hopefully their new album will bring them the acclaim they deserve. Considering it’s been 11 years since their debut, it’s high time.
Izzy Heltai – “Met on the Internet” (Northampton, Massachusetts)
RIYL: CAAMP, Mt. Joy, Dr. Dog
Being true to yourself is sometimes the hardest thing to do. We grow up trying to please our parents, peers, and teachers. In the process, we sometimes hide our true selves. Singer-songwriter Izzy Heltai knows this all too well. But unlike most, Heltai is able to tell their tale and do so with a bit of humor, plenty of truth, and a ton of humility. They do this on “Met on the Internet”.
“I know that I’m not / Boy, I was trying to be a man I’m proud of “, Heltai sings, as they share with their family their long-held secret. This is one of several moving moments on this folk-rock tune that echoes the passionate styles of CAAMP and Dr. Dog, as the artist explains:
“I was a super shitty teenager. I exhibited pretty standard teenage boy toxic behavior, especially when it came to dating. As men, we are consistently shown portrayals that equate masculinity with emotional aloofness, entitlement disguised as confidence, and a general lack of communication skills. As a trans teenage boy, I unfortunately internalized a lot of those ideas, trying to overcompensate for my lack of inherent ‘manness’ – being born a girl and all. To put it in fewer words: this song is my apology to anyone I tried to date in high school.”
There is no need to apologize for this song. Instead, we applaud Heltai for sharing their story and hope it helps others persevere and to be true to themselves.
Heltai’s new EP, Day Plan (5 songs written 4 the end of the world), is out now and available on Bandcamp. Pick it up because it is both entertaining and moving.
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