We aren’t superstitious on this Friday the 13th, so nothing spooky on The Matinee ’21 v. 115 edition. These songs, instead, confront reality and our greatest fears as well as provide a bit of optimism.
Lala Lala – “Color of the Pool” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Vita and the Woolf, Porridge Radio, Hana Vu
On her outstanding sophomore album, 2018’s The Lamb, which was one of 2018’s best, Lillie West took her project Lala Lala to places that only the likes of Kurt Cobain, Alanis Morissette, and Mitski entered. It was raw and emotional, striking and vulnerable, and completely enrapturing. It was the work of not just a great singer-songwriter but a genius. Like all creative masterminds, West continues to evolve. On “DIVER”, the lead single from West’s forthcoming new album, I Want To Open The Door, the Chicago-based artist turned to delicate and sublime synth-pop, creating a world of beautiful mystery and enchantment. On her latest single, West heads in the opposite direction, setting foot into the world of darkwave and delivers, unsurprisingly, a startling stunner.
Patient beats and synths and West’s dour voice stream through the jarring “Color of the Pool”. Restraint and subtlety are the tools that West uses to create the uneasy atmosphere. It is like entering a dark, dank dungeon and realising this prison is where we’ll live out the rest of our days. But for West, an accident and a memory are the steel bars and concrete walls. West’s words in describing the incident are crushing (and the video is also equally powerful):
“What is sick
What is part of it
I want to be the color of the pool I want to hold
The fire part of fuel
And I can’t see a place where I wouldn’t let it follow me
Moving currents in in the air sensing shifting energy
The moment before a crash
The sound of breaking glass”
I Want To Open The Door will be released October 8th on Hardly Art. Pre-orders are available here and directly on Bandcamp. The record features contributions from Ben Gibbard, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Meg Duffy, Sen Motimoto, Christian Lee Hutson, and many more.
Indigo De Souza – “Real Pain” (Asheville, USA)
RIYL: IAN SWEET, Cherry Glazerr, Stef Chura
Great, meaningful music is as dependable and comforting as a best friend. It can lift our spirits, make us realize we’re not the only ones struggling, and even give us a bit of hope. This is Indigo De Souza, who has quickly developed into the companion we all need to help us get through the tough times and with whom we can share unforgettable memories. The dream-like whirlwind “Kill Me” described the emotional scarring associated with an abusive relationship while the uplifting “Hold U” beautifully celebrated our collective diversity and our individuality. The Asheville, North Carolina-based artist again extends her arms and wraps us in her warmth on “Real Pain”.
This mini-epic is a wave of emotions. It commences with a lush, grunge approach, as just a steely guitar and De Souza’s brittle voice are heard. “When pain is real, you cannot run / You can’t cover, but come undone”, informing us that she empathizes with our ordeal. Drums, bass, and a second guitar enter the fray, and the song gradually escalates into a wall of reverb-drenched noise. De Souza’s voice, meanwhile, turns into a primal scream, as if he’s absorbing our pain and releasing us from its tension.
Like all painful experiences, there is light at the end of the tunnel. With little foreshadowing, the track transforms into a brimming, illuminating indie rocker. This is the parting of the clouds and the welcoming of the sun, at which point De Souza sings, “I wanna know it’s not my fault / I didn’t mean it”. Relief has arrived, and it is because one of the great young singer-songwriters has taken it upon herself to free us of the burden and to carry it for us. Just like what a best friend does.
Day Wave – “Before We Knew” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab For Cutie, DIIV, Washed Out
Forward momentum is one of the many reasons to love the music of Day Wave: every song that frontman Jackson Phillips releases reliably lifts us from whatever rut we are in. His debut album, Headcase, made our list of Favorite EPs of 2015, and he joined the list again in 2016 with Hard to Read. Since then he has been charming fans with dream-pop and sun-kissed indie fare that buoys your spirit. On his newest single Phillips proves he still has the songwriting Midas touch.
“Before We Knew” finds the California artist embracing the path ahead. During the last year Phillips found himself with plenty of time to create new music. And like many musicians, he wanted to explore new directions. The sound here is more Death Cab For Cutie than DIIV, with bolder guitars setting the tone instead of gauzy synths. That shift amplifies the energy in positive ways. You sense the urgency to move in both the music and in the video. He is seated during the intro but begins moving as soon as he starts to sing. Onward he moves through each verse and chorus, a reminder that the best adventures lie ahead.
Tropical Fuck Storm – “Bummer Sanger” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Black Country, New Road; Black Midi; Murder Capital
Where some bands like to stick with a formula or at least stay within the same genre, Tropical Fuck Storm are not stationary. Like their moniker, Gareth Liddiard, Fiona Kitschin, Lauren Hammel, and Erica Dunn are always shifting. Their music can be a monstrous thunderstorm, a raging blizzard, or an uncomfortable mist. They also can be a refreshing shower, like they showed on the espionage-like thriller, “New Romeo Agent”. They can also be a tumultuous system that shifts between raucous and calm, which is what the Melbourne trailblazers do with “Bummer Sanger”.
“This was supposed to be a summer banger / How you going with the cabin fever?”, Liddiard growls near the start of the song as a gritty, off-kilter arrangement whirls behind him. His voice rages with the frustration of a man who has been cooped up in his home for way too long. This song, after all, is about the endless lockdowns and isolation caused by the pandemic, and how other people’s mistakes cause millions of people to suffer. As the song intensifies and turns into a twister of chaotic noise, Lilliard rhetorically hollers, “Why waste time?”, which is what he’s doing every day. Kitschinn, Hammel, and Dunn, meanwhile, act like his subconscious, telling him to “Relax / Kick back”. He, however, cannot, as he seeks to live an ordinary life. That’s all he wants, but at least he can “clean the gutters in my underpants” and no one will judge him. That’s the world we live in.
More of TFS’s brilliance arrives August 20th. This is when their new album, Deep States, will be released. Pre-order the LP at Joyful Noise Recordings‘ store, the band’s merch store, or directly on Bandcamp.
The Third Sound – “Dissociation” (Berlin, Germany)
RIYL: Brian Jonestown Massacre, Sisters of Mercy, Singapore Sling
As the season of cooler weather and longer nights fast approaches, our thoughts turn to music with a darker edge. Fans of The Third Sound will soon have a new album to savor: the Berlin-based group lead by Icelandic musician Hakon Aðalsteinsson (of Brian Jonestown Massacre) will release their fifth album, First Light, later this month. If this single is any indication, our autumn nights now have an official soundtrack.
“Dissociation” features the band’s signature fusion of post-punk and edgy psychedelic rock. These dynamic textures are rich and engaging, keeping listeners fully hypnotized from the first note. Instead of building up to a thunderous release, Aðalsteinsson delivers medium-intensity chaos. The band hint at fury yet maintain restraint.
This song should be played at top volume, perhaps on a night drive. Hit the road and let the rumbling riffs and percussion sync with your pulse. Lose yourself in a dissociative state as every note reverberates through you. It’s one hell of a cathartic experience.
The Third Sound are: Hakon Aðalsteinsson (vocals, guitar), Robin Hughes (guitar, organ), Andreas Miranda (bass), and Fred Sunesen (drums).
Art School Girlfriend – “Is It Light Where You Are” (London, England)
RIYL: The Japanese House, Portishead, Ghostly Kisses
For some artists, finding their sound is a lifelong process. They may start playing one instrument that leads them in a specific direction and then learn another instrument and enter a whole other realm. For Polly Mackey, her musical journey started at the age 8 and a snare drum, leading her into PJ Harvey’s indie-rock world. The guitar took her to the land of Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, and Lush, at which time she co-founded a Welsh shoegaze band called Deaf Club. After it disbanded in 2014, she was drawn to electronica, specifically trip-hop and darkwave. This is where we still find the producer and multi-instrumentalist and her project Art School Girlfriend.
In a genre made famous by Portishead and Massive Attack, the London-based singer-songwriter has carved out a niche within the UK underground and indie scenes. Touring with Marika Hackman and The Japanese House evidence Mackey’s potential and power. For those who need to be convinced of this just have to spin “Is It Light Where You Are”.
Deft beats and shimmering synths seamlessly merge and create a beautifully suspenseful and breathtaking world. This place Mackey has crafted feels like the divide that separates reality and dreams. On the one hand, we are easily dancing and swaying to the tantalizing grooves, yet, on the other hand, our minds have drifted to an unknown dimension that we only know exists. This experience is one we don’t wish to leave because it is pure escapism. For Mackey, though, the song represents her coming to terms with the end of one important event and the start of another. It isn’t escapism for her but confronting her reality and existence.
“I always wake up for no reason
Think it out into the dark
I go changing with the season
Won’t you look back on me some timеs?”
SLOMO SAPIENS – “We Could Be Gone” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Wand, The Growlers, Skegss, Hockey Dad
So a New Zealander follows a woman from Australia to America to win her heart. Sounds like one of those “bar” jokes, but that’s the real life tale of Ceallaigh Manaaki. The two did fall in love (they recently celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary), but Manaaki found more than he bargained for when he landed in the Land of the Free. He also found his music soulmates in Greg Geiger and Jon Pritchard, and this threesome make some sweet melodies as SLOMO SAPIENS. Actually, their music isn’t sweet (although they’re probably three sweeties as individuals), but rather they take sludgy garage-rock and make it fun and anthemic. Think Ty Segall, Wand, and The Growlers with a heavy dose of the Skegss and that’s the trio, who have become must-see live performers in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond. Even if you cannot get to Philly, their songs are boisterous enough to think you’re actually attending a gig, which is what “We Could Be Gone” does.
Imagine you’ve descended into the great dive bars of LA, New York, or London, where all the patrons are casually dressed and drenched in sweat. That’s because the band on stage has them riled up with the fun, exuberant noise. Fuzzy guitars, crushing drums, and a booming bass line fill the airspace, and all one can do is thrash one’s head, jump around, and smile. The whole tune is manic, including Manaaki’s insightful lyrics. Leave it to a Kiwi to observe the contradictions of American life, where people buy guns and preach to a God at the same time. But to break the endless cycle of fear, Manaaki offers five wise words of advice: “You’ve got to love somebody”. And we imagine that fans from across the globe will one day love this band.
SLOMO SAPIENS once again are Ceallaigh Manaaki (vocals, guitar), Greg Geiger (bass), and Jon Pritchard (drums). Let’s hope Ty Segall invites them to open for him on his next tour.
Trace Mountains – “America” (Kingston, NY, USA)
RIYL: LVL UP, Alex G, Bellows
Trace Mountains’ Lost in the Country was one of last year’s best records. In a year of turmoil and isolation, former LVL UP member Dave Benton captured the complexities of life on the road, pre-pandemic. It painted a complex picture of the country with honest lyrics and relatable stories of life between shows. It shined a light on what the year would bring us, in a way that Benton never expected. It was all wrapped up in a package with some of the most inviting sounds and wonderful riffs we heard all year.
Those inviting sounds are front and center on “America”. Much like Lost in the Country, “America” tackles the complex feelings of being an American these days. Benton wrote “America” after losing his job during the pandemic. It’s a song about the fading American dream, especially lately where many people find themselves with little hope, laid off due to a pandemic, eviction moratoriums expiring, and a perpetual feeling of helplessness. Musically, it hits on all of the qualities that made Lost in the Country such a great record, pristine guitar work, a great groove, and Benton’s warm vocals.
“America” will be on Trace Mountains’ upcoming record House of Confusion, due out October 22nd on Lame-O Records. You can pre-order it here or on Bandcamp. “America” is accompanied by a great music video written and directed by Slight Of’s Jim Hill.
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