The Matinee ’21 v. 111 features songs that redefine what summer tunes are. Some groove, others are dreamy, a few exhilarate, and they all rejuvenate the soul. We kick things off with a song that was released at midnight EST.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – “That Life” (Portland, USA and Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Tame Impala, Dirty Projectors, Pond
Over these past 18 months, we can safely say that Ruban Nielson, Jacob Portrait, and Kody Nielson – a.k.a. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – were not sitting around idling doing nothing, even if the band’s Instagram account was littered with Ruban doing various dad things. Heck, even their previous single, “Weekend Run”, was the most ultra-cool dad yacht-rock ever created. But like the rest of us with plenty of times on our hands, the band had to find inspiration in anything and everything. For their latest number, “That Life”, one of the great Dutch painters and a pop-culture slogan inspired them. Instead of interpreting what led to the song, we defer to Ruban to say it all:
I saw this painting by Hieronymus Bosch called The Garden of Earthly Delights and in the painting there was a mixture of crazy stuff going on, representing heaven, earth, and hell. When I was writing this song, ‘That Life’, I was imaging the same kind of ‘Where’s Waldo’ (or ‘Where’s Wally’ as we call it in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK) of contrasting scenes and multiple characters all engaged in that same perverse mixture of luxury, reverie, damnation, in the landscape of America. Somewhere on holiday under a vengeful sun.
While the song’s origins and accompanying video, which features a puppet that could be on Fraggle Rock or The Muppets, are inventive, “That Life” is 100% UMO. Cool, funky, and vibrant rhythms collide with silky smooth, psych grooves. Calling this a feelgood, summertime track would be an understatement, especially considering Ruban’s lyrics center on the hyperbole and contradictions that exist in our world. His songwriting is a bit trippy yet, as always, on point. Would anyone expect anything different from one of the great bands of the 21st Century?
The single is out on their long-time label Jagjaguwar. We’re still hoping a new album is on the way.
The Wilderness of Manitoba – “The Alchemist” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: José González, Sufjan Stevens, Great Lake Swimmers
Summertime usually yields big, loud anthems, as we’ve been trained to believe the hot months are met for huge parties. This time of year is also ideal to escape the crowds and find a place where one can take a deep breath, recharge, and reflect. And most importantly, take a timeout to reconnect with loved ones because this mad, mad world is increasingly becoming unpredictable. Whether you’re sitting at the edge of a lake, hiking across a mountain range, or settling in for a quiet night at home, let The Wilderness of Manitoba‘s new single, “The Alchemist”, be the soundtrack that eases your nerves and takes you away.
From its dreamy and lush moments to the booming percussion, “The Alchemist” is simply beautiful, sonic poetry. Like all great works of art, it is made for all seasons. In the dead of winter, the euphoric dream-folk approach warms the soul with each note wrapping itself around us like our favorite blanket. For days like these, the stunning, angelic harmonies shower one with a cool tranquility. As the song gradually builds in intensity, we close our eyes, we listen, and we think about those we’ve loved and to whom we’ve said goodbye.
“Through the hours of sleep
Whispers sent to keep me
Drawn to dreams of you
Fading out of view in … summer skies”
The Wilderness of Manitoba are Will Whitwham (vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Victoria Carr (vocals, acoustic guitar), Tavo Diez de Bonilla (bass, vocals), and Adam Balsam (drums, vocals, guitar, keyboards). Their new album, Farewell To Cathedral, is out on October 29th via Popguru Sound & Vision.
Hand Habits – “Aquamarine” (Los Angeles & Upstate New York, USA)
RIYL: Nation of Language, Young Galaxy, Angel Olsen
Despite a pandemic, Meg Duffy, the mastermind behind Hand Habits, has kept incredibly busy. Prior to the day the world stopped, they were in New Zealand, performing at house shows and festivals. After finding their way home, Duffy released an excellent EP earlier this year in Dirt. Despite their quiet demeanor, the LA-based singer-songwriter is a restless soul. They’re also unpredictable. While long-time fans will associate Duffy with folk-rock and indie-rock, they head in a completely different direction, and it is marvelous.
“Aquamarine” bursts with the buzzing delirium of mi-fi synth-pop and cold wave from the ’80s. With its delicate beats and bursting synths, the song is equally made for the dance floor or idling away the day. It leaves one in a state of bliss and awe. Duffy’s lyrics, though, are anything but joyful. They share memories from their past, including a tragic death, being tossed out of their home, and sharing their identity.
“Why can’t you talk about it?
I got used to being on the other side of truth
Maybe it’s too painful
And that’s why you’re so unable a little bit of her inside”
This is one of the songs of the year, and it will be featured on Duffy’s forthcoming, new album, Fun House. It is out October 22nd via Saddle Creek Records. Pre-orders and pre-saves are available here.
Public Service Broadcasting – “Blue Heaven” feat. Andreya Casablanca (London, England)
RIYL: Frightened Rabbit, Manchester Orchestra, Mastersystem
After inviting Norwegian singer-songwriter EERA to perform with them on the groovy, French disco-inspired “People, Let’s Dance”, post-rock connoisseurs Public Service Broadcasting continue the collaborative route with their new single. This time, Berlin-based artist Andreya Casablanca, who is one half of awesome garage-rock duo Gurr, has the honors of being our guide into more previously unexplored territory by PSB. So instead of preparing to be launched to the cosmos, get ready to ride a monstrous wave of exhilarating and cinematic indie rock.
“Blue Heaven” is completely unexpected, but it demonstrates the genius and versatility of J. Willgoose, Esq. (guitar, banjo, other stringed instruments, samplings, electronic musical instruments); Wrigglesworth (drums, piano, electronic musical instruments); and J. F. Abraham (flugelhorn, bass guitar, drums and assorted other instruments including a vibraslap). Whereas their previous song filled the void left by Daft Punk, “Blue Heaven” temporarily fills the enormous void left by Frightened Rabbit. Like the great Scottish band, PSB meticulously ease listeners in with subtlety. A low hum of keys is eventually accompanied by a trembling guitar. All the while, Casablanca’s stirring vocal tells a tale of self-empowerment.
“I know I’m different
I do as I please
A spark inside that I can’t hide
A mystery I dream of the big screen
Marlene up in lights
I am my own creation
I’m in my blue heaven”
From there the song builds, as guitars gradually erupt and rhythms explode. The intensity temporarily subsides, but then it returns, reaching a glorious finale. And it is Frightened Rabbit-like awesome. While we don’t know if the track is dedicated to Scott Hutchison, we cannot help note how this song honors him sonically and lyrically.
Wallace Morgan – “Heartbreak Suicide” (Los Angeles via Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Clairo, Tristen, JEEN
A great guitar riff, a brilliantly brooding bass line, a perfectly pummeling percussion, and a vivacious vocal are all things that make a terrific song. What takes it from excellent to astounding is the songwriting, especially when an artist can craft a great story and include one unforgettable line. This is what newcomer Wallace Morgan has done on her debut single, “Heartbreak Suicide”.
The urgent, pop-rock approach immediately grabs hold as does Morgan’s deftly autotuned vocal. Raw, vulnerable emotion pierces through the glimmering guitar and the delicate keys, and all the while the arrangement ebbs and flows as somber, brittle moments are interrupted by illuminating catharsis. The approach reflects Morgan’s tale of a losing someone she loved; someone whom she lived through but can no longer. Her love is undying, as represented when she sings, “I’m wearing white to your funeral like it’s my wedding night”. This is one of the best lines of the year.
This may be Morgan’s first song, but she has 59 sitting in a safe somewhere. Let’s hope these tunes features more memorable lyrics.
Beauty Queen – “Real Life” (Los Angeles via Hawaii, USA)
RIYL: Hatchie, Fazerdaze, No Vacation
Speaking about an artist who needs to be heard by the masses, Katie Kai Iannitello has been making music as Beauty Queen for nearly five years. The Hawaiian native has done everything from space-country to indie rock to psych-pop. Now Iannitello is tackling dreamy synth-pop, and she just might have found her sweet spot if “Real Life” is any indication of her future.
With its crisp production (Henry Moser, the bassist from Day Wave, is the producer) and radiant, dreamy vibe, the song could be the third track of every ’90s coming-of-age film soundtrack. Iannitello’s soft vocal swims through the gentle, summery melody, and the heavenly atmosphere is ideal for reminiscing about life’s lessons. For Beauty Queen, however, this song is a dedication to the people to whom she said goodbye. It’s a celebration of a life that was and what is to come.
“Feel it all, take your time
Even when you say goodbye
It’s all part of a real life
Not everything’s gonna be alright
Everybody pays their price
It’s all part of a real life”
What awaits Iannitello, hopefully, is indie success, which hopefully will happen with Sleep Well Records supporting her.
Xenia Rubinos – “Sacude” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Cold Specks, Kahdja Bonet, Angelica Garcia
On the road to her upcoming release, Una Rosa, Xenia Rubinos has released a diverse set of singles that have showcased what makes Rubinos such a remarkable artist. From the heartwrenching “Did My Best”, the groovy “Cólego Suave”, to the witty “Working All The Time”, it’s shown that the only thing to expect from Rubinos is the unexpected.
That continues with her latest single, “Sacude”. With Rubinos’ vocals layered with the expert precision only Rubinos offers, “Sacude” is an impressive sounding track. As the song builds, its under layers of electronic drums and bass become more prominent, and the song reaches a great, heavy groove. It even takes a break and dives into a latin vibe before its refrain kicks back in to close the song. “Sacude”, like the singles that have preceded it from Una Rosa, paint a picture of an artist who continues to push boundaries, both within her own creative world and for listeners of her music.
Breathe Panel – “Love You I Love You” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Belle & Sebastian, Tunng, Jacco Gardner
Loud bands tend to attract more attention early in their careers. When you have an explosive sound like IDLES or Fontaines DC, your volume is its own introduction. So how does a less raucous emerging band get noticed? When you’re Brighton-based Breathe Panel, you make songs so irresistible that listeners are enthralled from the first note. The newest single from their upcoming sophomore LP, Lets It In, does just that.
“Love You I Love You” serves up sunny pop hooks yet never veers too far from its lo-fi indie rock roots. While they initially evoke certain American groups (imagine a Beach Boys/Wilco hybrid), Breathe Panel’s sound is original and refreshing. You may detect their folk inspirations one moment followed by subtle psychedelic tones. The warm vocals are an instant allure further enhanced by the chorus harmonies. Each repeated listen offers a new facet of musical craftsmanship to appreciate, from the intricate guitar and bass lines to the impeccable percussion. You expect this level of talent from groups who have been together far longer. Breathe Panel only released their self-titled debut album in 2018, so clearly the sky is the limit for these guys.
Breathe Panel are: Nick Green (vocals, guitar), Josh Tyler (guitar), Alex Turner (bass), and Benjamin Reeves (drums).
Penelope Isles – “Sailing Still” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Daughter meets Slowdive
Ethereal vocals. Mesmerizing instrumentation. Lush, sweeping textures. If your new music quest includes these qualities, then prepare to be wowed by the latest Penelope Isles single. The sibling duo of Lily and Jack Wolter yet again remind the world of their immense talents on “Sailing Still.”
This song takes listeners on a five-minute fever dream journey. Lily’s voice soars from the intro throughout the first half, guided by a languid tempo. As the textures deepen in the second half, feelings of tension rise as you ponder where the song is taking you. Taking cues from post-rock, the Brighton-based pair continue exploring the depths of the soundscape they have created. When the vocals become more of a haunting refrain, you may feel chills ripple down your spine. The final two minutes prolong those feelings of electrified suspense until the melody crashes and dissipates. It is only then that you remember to breathe again.
“Sailing Still” should leave audiences awestruck when the band resumes live shows later this year. Their UK tour kicks off in November with ticket info listed here. Their newly recorded album should be out by then. For now you can grab their 2019 debut release, Until The Tide Creeps In, on Bandcamp via Bella Union.
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