The Matinee ’21 v. 121 is another sonic adventures, as the eight featured songs send us to the grave to the moon to alternate universes and everywhere in between. For more new music this weekend, check out the Songs of August 2021 on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Marissa Nadler – “Bessie Did You Make It” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Chelsea Wolfe (acoustic), Ashley Shadow, Emma Ruth Rundle
For as long as we’ve been listening to Marissa Nadler, which dates back to her 2011 self-titled LP, she has always startled us with her beautiful and haunting bleakness. These feelings are elicited not just in her complex compositions but also in the chilling stories she told. Her songs, as such, have always left us in awe, and we often have wondered from where she draws inspiration. During the multiple lockdowns of the past year-and-a-half, she answers this question, and the response and the results are completely unexpected.
While in isolation, Nadler started to work on her ninth album. The stories that comprise The Path of the Clouds are drawn from her binge-watching reruns of Unsolved Mysteries. With each episode, she realized how closely her life mirrored those of told on the popular series. And quickly, a record was born. Nadler, however, was not only inspired to write new songs, but she also has reinvented herself. The bleakness remains, but it is expressed in a gorgeous fashion on the LP’s lead single.
“Bessie Did You Make It” is a gripping, dazzling drama. Pristine guitars, a humming synth, and light rhythms float effortlessly in the air. The arrangement yields the feeling that we are levitating in an abyss of mostly still blackness. Piercing through the void, however, is Nadler’s ethereal voice. Like the late Robert Stack, she narrates the events of a crime. But this murder ballad has an unexpected ending as the protagonist is not the victim. She instead is the hero who lives to tell her tale of empowerment and survival fifty years later. Simply brilliant and a Song-of-the-Year candidate.
Petite Amie – “Elektro” (Mexico City, Mexico)
RIYL: L’Impératrice, Men I Trust, La Femme
With the weekend here, we also need a moment to just allow our minds to wander to carefree places and our bodies to easily sway in the wind. We need to be sent to a place where we can dream. And what better place to do this than at the disco? Granted, such clubs may not be the safest places to be at this moment, but we can still be mentally transported there and feel the glimmering colors and lights bouncing off the disco ball. Mexico City-based Petite Amie provide just the tonic to get us there with “Elektro”.
Normally, one would not look towards Ciudad de México for French disco-psych-pop. And yet, Charlie Medina, Aline Terrein, Isa Dosal, Santiago Fernandez, and Jacobo Velazquez are turning the Spanish-speaking city into an enclave of French trippy goodness. Delicate yet groovy synths, tantalizing beats, and the sweet, effortless vocals of Terrein and Dosal take us back to 1977 Paris. This was a time of liberation, of hope, of indulgence. For nearly 3.5 minutes, the quintet make us feel all these emotions and then some. They also make us believe that we can still look to the stars and make a wish in the hopes our dreams will come true one day.
“J’attendais le signal
Il n’y avait qu’une seule étoile
Je ne sais pas si on m’a vu
Mais ce soir j’ai disparu”
She Drew the Gun – “Behave Myself” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: Kae Tempest, Sleater-Kinney, Desperate Journalist
“Angry women will change the world.”
This is the first message presented in the video for “Behave Myself” from British rockers She Drew the Gun. Fierce is the key word here, both lyrically and musically. Louisa Roach has been directing her justifiable rage into her music for years now. It’s what landed her band on the main stage at Glastonbury after winning the Emerging Talent Competition in 2016. Now with two albums under their belt, the Liverpool-based outfit are on the edge of a massive breakthrough.
Along with the new album’s earlier singles (“Cut Me Down” and “Class War”), the title track holds nothing back. The punk-pop instrumentation full of heady riffs would make Sleater-Kinney and St. Vincent proud. Meanwhile, Roach’s Sprechgesang delivery on the verses calls to mind Kae Tempest: half spoken/rapped invectives tell a story and unite the “Resisterhood” of those who are sick of society’s bullshit:
“Under the skies and out of control
Get ready for my dangerous soul
Now I see the bars of this cage
I am the flame of erotic power in motion
I am the object of lust and the end point of loathing
I am the wave at the source of structural violence erosion
And I will not behave myself”
Make room for “Behave Myself” at the top of your Favorite Songs of 2021 list. We suspect the LP will rank high on our year-end lists as well.
Jaws the Shark – “Erase Myself” (London, England)
RIYL: Wavves, No Age, FIDLAR
When listening to Jaws the Shark‘s music, such as “Demon Dream” and “Loose Change”, one assumes the band consists of at least four members if not five or six. Surely it must take that many individuals to create speaker-busting noise and wall-shaking intensity? Right? Olly Bailey (vocal, guitar) and Elliot Rawson (drums) have shown that two blokes can indeed create as much noise as a full-blown band. Granted, they may have a friend join them occasionally to play bass or they’ll record the rhythm section and just loop it. After all, they’re the stars of the show, and the duo display their anthemic ferocity once again on “Erase Myself”
This quick, 132-second number is a super-charged, adrenaline-inducing garage-rocker. Raging guitar riffs, pummeling drums, and Bailey’s bursting vocals get us up on our feet, stomping, bouncing, and dancing around like it’s the final day of the work week. The song is essentially the jump-start we need to kick off the weekend, not just sonically but also lyrically. Mimicking the energetic approach, Bailey describes the many days he’s wasted away while being on social media. Now, though, he’s decided to take charge of his life and “shoot for the moon”. He’s going to get up off his keister, put his phone in his pocket, pick up his guitar, and “keep on singing”. This is the only way he and Rawson will become stars, which we think will happen.
The single is out on Nice Swan Records. As we’ve stated before, this band will one day being sending the tens of thousands of Glastonbury patrons into a tizzy.
Hand Habits – “No Difference” (Los Angeles & Upstate New York, USA)
RIYL: Big Thief, Julia Jacklin, Mega Bog
Whoever coined the term, “Music as an art form”, must have had Meg Duffy and their project Hand Habits in mind. Whether crafting intimate folk-rock ballads, like on the superb “Wildly Idle (Humble Before the Void), or unexpectedly turning to dazzling synth-pop on “Aquamarine”, Duffy’s music touches every emotion, stimulates the imagination, and unlocks long-forgotten memories. And we have not even discussed the great videos that accompany the song, as most are like short films. Duffy’s artistry is once again fully exhibited on “No Difference”.
Returning to their folk-rock roots, the LA-based singer-songwriter delivers an immersive and intricate portrait of one’s duality. It is, in other words, turning Frida Kahlo’s classic painting, The Two Fridas, into song, where one just gazes at every masterful stroke and contemplates the meaning of the imagine. Or in this case, we get lost within the delicate guitar chords, feathery rhythms, and Duffy’s stirring whisper. We get lost in their words, particularly as they say:
“I could never hear her, no matter how loud
Screaming- I’ll always be the anchor you drag around
Oh oh oh
Well it’s too late now
Too many times we drowned”
And we drown once again within Duffy’s beautifully crippling art. Within her masterpieces.
Saint Etienne – “Penlop” (London, England)
RIYL: Camera Obscura, Massive Attack, Slowdive
Indie dream-pop mainstays Saint Etienne continue to impress fans, even thirty years into their career. The trio comprised of Sarah Cracknell (vocals), Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs (keys) rose to prominence in the ‘90s, and that is where they return on “Penlop” from their upcoming tenth studio album, I’ve Been Trying to Tell You. It comes five years after their last LP, Home Counties.
“Penlop” is a fever dream made all the more vivid by the Alasdair McLellan-directed video. While the cast of characters is new, their dialogue is not. They speak in Saint Etienne song lyrics from the ‘90s, a strategy that bridges the gap between the past and present. So, too, does the music. You hear Cracknell’s voice some two minutes into a languid intro that channels Massive Attack’s sleek electronic vibes. The overall sound is timeless; its effect is ethereal.
Nostalgia can be a tricky thing: too much melancholy indulgence becomes maudlin. Saint Etienne steer clear of this with a wink and a nod to their past. The result is a brilliant output from a band whose influence spans generations. Nothing can stop them.
Black Marble – “Ceiling” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Nation of Language, Prefab Sprout, The Blue Nile
The synth-pop revival is upon us, and fans of the genre popularized by ’80s coming-of-age movies are rejoicing. This development has enabled bands outside Future Islands’ bubble to be heard and for a younger generation to appreciate the genre’s dreamy goodness. If people have either forgotten what it all sounded like or are late to the party, then Black Marble‘s newest single provides the gateway.
At an exact five minutes, Chris Stewart and his band-mates send us into a state of blissful delirium on “Ceiling”. This is pure escapism, where we get lost in the swirling, intoxicating melody and Stewart’s warm vocal. For a brief moment, we feel like we can turn back time, correct previous mistakes, and step into a world of unlimited possibilities. We feel reinvigorated, dancing in this alternative universe where our deepest sorrows and pains do not exist. Instead, this is a place that “in silence are the wounds that we leave behind”. This is a great thought to have as the weekend arrives. For that, it is one we can think about every day.
Cleo Sol – “Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” (London, England)
You may recognize British artist Cleopatra Nikolic – aka Cleo Sol – from the mysterious post-punk/soul outfit Sault. Her sultry vocals stand out on that project’s albums, the most recent being Nine that was released in June. Now the rising star has shared her second solo album titled Mother. Inspired by Sol’s recent motherhood, it showcases her incredible vocal range while the myriad genre influences give the album its richness.
“Don’t Let It Go To Your Head” could be the musical love child of Stevie Wonder and Minnie Riperton. Soulful, jazzy rhythms are accented by bongo drums and minimal instrumentation. What stands out most about this track is its irresistible grooves. Percussion this potent combined with silky smooth vocals is a combination no one with a pulse can ignore. From the first beat you are transported to someplace warm and tropical, and there you stay, awed and enraptured. Even the lyrics move your spirit to say amen to its uplifting message:
“Don’t let it go to your head / love is stronger than fear
You are never alone / even when nobody can see
You’ve gotta wait your turn / to set yourself free
Take control of your heart / take control of your life”
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