Bookend by two of indie finest with seven rising talent in between, The Matinee ’21 v. 124 soars at first before easing into a little fantasy. Allow these nine songs to be your retreat from another busy week and find them on the Songs of September 2021 playlist. It’s available on Spotify and SoundCloud.
POND – “Human Touch” (Fremantle, Australia)
RIYL: LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire (‘Reflektor’ era), Faust
In Shane Acker’s 2009 animated film, 9, a group of androids awaken in a post-apocalyptic Earth where all life is exterminated by the Fabrication Machine. Despite their synthetic form, the robots demonstrate the qualities of the best humans: compassion, understanding, strength, and altruism. They also reveal their desire for companionship. The film was smart, entertaining, and felt a little too real. POND‘s new album of the same name is shaping up to elicit similar reactions. With the slow disco rhythms of “Toast”, the spacy “Pink Lunettes” and the super groovy “America’s Cup”, the Western Australian quintet have combined widescreen catharsis with intelligent stories. They continue the trend on the LP’s final single before its October 1st release date.
Put on your favorite dancing shoes because “Human Touch” is psych-disco taken to the edges of the galaxy. It’s yet another demonstration of the band’s brilliance with euphoric electricity that ignites every cell in your body. This tale could very well occur in a post-apocalyptic reality where life has become altered by the digital world. As such, the narrator no longer knows what is real or fiction. He is like Don Quixote living his fantasies in real life:
“Like a wounded animal you try to scream but you just wanna sleep
You’re jolted awake with cum in your jeans
And a silent silver morning in a Comfort Inn
She was holding spark plugs making fire
I was watering my girlfriend’s plants
Off her fucking face but not a liar
She ripped out the glass with her bare hands”
POND are: Nick Allbrook, Jay Watson, Shiny Joe Ryan, Jamie Terry, and James Ireland.
Hot Garbage – “Sometimes I Go Down” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: INHEAVEN, Psychedelic Porn Crumpets, Wooden Shjips
How can you not love a band with the name Hot Garbage? It’s simple but effective. The Toronto-based quartet’s music is also quite excellent, particularly for people who love a mash-up of post-punk, psychedelic rock, and Krautrock. That blend of music belongs in the underground which is exactly where “Sometimes I Go Down” takes listeners.
Grizzled guitars, thumping rhythms, and ghostly vocals concoct a spell of delirious neo-psychedelia. This is music is hypnotizing, causing immediate delirium. The experience is an escape for listeners. It is also the band’s escape, as they find sanctity from the depression and anxiety through their instruments and words. They find their sanctity among and within us:
“If I pass your way
Please leave me because I’m not the same
I’m just feeling low
Low in a way I don’t want you to know
I’m now going down
Down to the valley where I can’t be found
No smile, just a frown
Frown all the time ‘cause
I’m going down”
Their new album, Ride, drops October 29th on Montreal-based label Mothland. Pre-order it on Bandcamp. Someone should call Stephen McBean and recommend that Hot Garbage open for either Black Mountain or the Pink Mountaintops on their next tour.
Hot Garbage are: Alessandro Carlevaris, Juliana Carlevaris, Dylan Gamble, and Mark Henein.
Silverbacks – “Where My Medals” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Tropical Fuck Storm, Protomartyr, Deeper
Post-punk quintet Silverbacks have been waiting patiently for their breakthrough. A decade into their career, the Dublin-based outfit began to gain momentum in 2018 with singles “Just in the Band”, “Muted Gold”, and “Drool” while their 2020 album, Fad, was nominated for Irish Album of the Year. Their popularity likely would have reached another pinnacle if the pandemic had not halted their tour plans. But instead of wallowing in their misfortune, brothers Daniel (guitar/vocals) and Kilian O’Kelly (guitar/vocals), Emma Hanlon (bass/vocals), Peadar Kearney (guitar), and Gary Wickham (drums) used the lockdown to their benefit. They got back to writing and recording, and the first byproduct proves why Silverbacks deserve more notoriety and praise.
“Where My Medals” is a brilliant slice of off-kilter art-punk. It bounces with an infectious, jerky energy yet on its edges are jagged, propulsive post-punk layers. As such the song is made for gyrating and raging. But the band’s inventiveness does not stop there because in the song’s melodic outro lies another surprise – a flute-driven melody that soothes the nerves after the initial fury. It is the calm before the storm, or the realization that you cannot be all things to all people:
“I’m the heel to every fight
Blowing kisses to my friends
Hear my deep and raspy voice
And an entrance that kills
Pulled away on the deathbed
Tears for you were never shed”
The single is out on the band’s new host label, the great Full Time Hobby. Here’s hoping a new album (and tour!) is in the works.
Bleach Lab – “Talk It Out” (London via Buckinghamshire, England)
RIYL: The Cranberries, The Sundays, Letters to Cleo
In 1990 a little band from Limerick, Ireland realized they needed a new lead singer, preferably a female who could write original songs that would resonate with people young and old. An 18-year-old woman soon joined the band and catapulted The Cranberries to global stardom. Can we be witnessing the modern version of this success story in Bleach Lab?
We’ve been bullish on their potential for a year, naming them Artists to Watch in 2021. This was based on the expectation that they would release one EP, which they unveiled earlier this year in the form of the nostalgic and dreamy A Calm Sense of Surrounding. This young band comprised of Jenna Kyle (vocals), Josh Longman (bass), Frank Wates (guitar), and Shawn Courtney (drums) is restless, as they’re constantly writing. Their sophomore EP, Nothing Feels Real, arrives November 15th, and they’ve already shared gorgeous, coming-of-age single “Real Thing”. The second single is equally stunning.
“Talk It Out” features every trait that makes Bleach Lab future superstars. It is the definition of blissful and breathtaking dream-pop. From the taut, crystalline guitar notes, steady rhythms, and Kyle’s jaw-dropping vocals, every element leaves you awestruck inside the band’s gorgeous world. We feel like you’re walking in their shoes, much like we did when The Cranberries released “Linger” and “Dreams”. In this case, we walk with Kyle, who opens up about how her mental health is tied to the crumbling of a relationship:
“Help me to see
I need company
Take me away from this place
When my heart’s on my sleeve
And my eyes are opaque
Your thoughts, my mind
My life’s my mind”
Parker Millsap – “To Be Real” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Jim James, Langhorne Slim, Washed Out
Last year the Oklahoma native Parker Millsap released one of the year’s best Americana songs – “The Real Thing” – on his album, Be Here Instead. That instant classic acknowledged how technology is a poor substitute for physically being with the ones you love. Realness is a recurring theme with Millsap, which is understandable considering how topsy-turvy the last two years have been. His realness has been in check since Elton John first praised his talents in 2016. Since then, he keeps making music void of pretense and full of honesty. Just as he crooned on “The Real Thing” he again follows the winning approach of naming what is important on “To Be Real”:
“Give me eyes to see
Give me ears to hear
Give me a heart that beats inside
Give me limb and nerve made of endless curve
Code me to reason and decide
I’d like to find a love to call mine
We’d run through the field
I just wanna dance
Please give me the chance to be real”
Prepare to swoon over these woozy, kaleidoscopic dream-pop hooks. Between the warmth of the verses and the chorus that’s sure to remain stuck in your head for days, “To Be Real” is a last hurrah to summer. Its message tells us to seek what’s real, but it also reminds us to embrace what we have while it lasts.
Bess Atwell – “Red Light Heaven” (London, England)
RIYL: Lucy Dacus, Land of Talk, The Weather Station
Like many people, we’ve been scratching our heads every day since hear the engrossing “Co-op” from Bess Atwell. While she isn’t exactly a newcomer, the London-based singer-songwriter will be one of our Favorite Discoveries of 2021. It is unfair to say she’s a fresh new voice in the UK music scene. Rather, she’s a hidden gem who has hovered far too long under the radar, including our own. This is particularly evidenced after hearing the incredibly moving “Time Comes in Roses”, the crippling “All You Can Do”, and the delicate “Nobody”. Then there is “Red Light Heaven” a track that showcases the young artist’s talents.
Atwell sets aside the melancholy of her previous songs in favor of a more upbeat rocker in the style of Lucy Dacus and Land of Talk. Despite the quicker tempo, beauty and intimacy still exist due to Atwell’s soothing vocals and impeccable songwriting. As the song builds she reveals her endless journey to connect with her environment and find spirituality. It’s not a religious song, but rather a relatable tale of discovering your purpose:
“You believe in nothing and I’m the same
But, unlike me, yes I know you like it that way
I heard something about a saving grace
In my self-help phase
But I missed that page
I can’t stop looking for that red light
Heaven is below my feet
And I could beat around the fucking bush all week”
THE NINTH WAVE – “Piece and Pound Coins” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: The National, Gang of Youths, City Calm Down
For as long as we’ve shared The Ninth Wave‘s music, the Glasgow quartet have time and time again blown us away with their widescreen and anthemic approach. Whether through the prism of post-punk, krautrock, or electro-rock (such as on previous single, “Maybe You Didn’t Know”), they knew how to either raise the hairs on our arms or get us up on our feet. Beyond the sonic fireworks lied moving and often emotional stories. Some were introspective (“Happy Days”), others felt like one spiraling towards oblivion (“Swallow Me”), and many were reminders of our collective vulnerability (“A Wave Goodbye to the People Who Said I’d Win”). It is the latter where we find the band, who dial down the noise and reveal a tenderer side on “Piece and Pound Coins”.
The rattling percussion and urgent keys cut through the brooding melancholy that filters across the track. The arrangement represents a brilliant juxtaposition of emotions – of anxiousness and urgency vis-à-vis mournfulness and remorse. Of the desire to move on with our lives while still holding on to the past. Front-man Haydn Park-Patterson’s mind is caught in this middle ground, as he writes about a friend that passed way too soon years ago. The song is one that Park-Patterson avoided writing, but in the end he memorializes him in a stunning and remarkable fashion.
“I couldn’t think about you for a long time
Death makes some people sad and some people ugly
And some people took your name for their own sake
But I remember the days when your name was just your name
And I remember the days when it didn’t take so much just to say your name”
The Ninth Wave are: Haydn Park-Patterson, Millie Kidd, Kyalo Searle-Mbullu, and Calum Stewart. The single is out on Distiller Music, who will hopefully release the band’s new album before Christmas (we’re hoping that’s the case). In the meantime, those in the UK can catch the band on tour in October. Dates and ticket information are available here.
METHYL ETHEL – “Matters” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, James Supercave, Everything Everything
While most associate Perth’s music scene with Kevin Parker’s project Tame Impala and POND, Jake Webb is their equal. The mastermind behind Methyl Ethel consistently delivers music that pushes the boundaries of accessibility. His 2019 album, Triage, is an escapade of catharsis and flamboyance. Last year, he released a mind-bending, musical tapestry with the Hurts to Laugh EP. These albums reveal why Webb is a star on both sides of the Tasman Sea and regularly heard on Triple J. Further exhibiting his incredible craft, Webb unveils the vibrant “Matters”.
This nearly four-minute track is made for moving. Disco-pop textures weave between late-’80s synth-pop, yielding a frenetic yet nervous energy. Feelings of urgency prompt a rush to our next destination, whether that is within our minds or physically outside. The building desperation echoes Webb’s Inception-like tale, where reality is constantly bending:
“Right at the door
There’s something wrong again
I’m lost in that
Harm is at the wide open door
There’s something wrong again
And I’m nervous at the thought
Of something wrong”
Andy Shauf – “Spanish on the Beach” (Regina, SK Canada)
RIYL: Damien Jurado, Patrick Watson, Clem Snide
A seaside holiday can be so idyllic you want it all to be permanent. It’s easy to lose yourself amidst warm breezes and exotic locales, especially in Spain. This is the setting for the new Andy Shauf single, a lighthearted tale of modern romance.
“Spanish on the Beach” imagines an almost proposal on a television comedy scale. As Shauf sings over sun-kissed guitar, the plan involved a grand gesture worthy of a romantic comedy or musical:
“I wondered what you would have done
If I had bought the ring and decided to go down on one knee
And in an operatic voice I would start singing with the band
It would be so mortifying – it makes me laugh
I wished it could be permanent”
Shauf’s delivery here is carefree, both vocally and musically. That lightness is enhanced by Daniel Pencer (woodwinds) and Josh Daignault (bass) whose talents will transport you to this imagined resort locale. “Spanish on the Beach” is summer escapism at its finest.
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