As the days grow darker, The Matinee ’21 v. 128 features 9 songs that either will brighten your day or guide you through the looming shadows. The mini-playlist is an eclectic mix but all the songs are, in a word, brilliant.

Voka Gentle – “Respect My Eccentricity, Pt. 2” (London, England)

RIYL: Yo La Tengo, Red House Painters, Wilco

When a band is able to get Wayne Coyne to collaborate with them, like Voka Gentle did on the zany “Necrofauna / The Garden of Eden”, it speaks to their talent. Previously known as Wovoka Gentle, the trio of Imogen Mason, Ellie Mason and William J. Stokes have earned the reputation as musical chameleons. They are unpredictable, constantly evolving and experimenting. That is the sign of a band fully confident in their abilities and who refuse to be stagnant. So after delving into psych-rock realms, the London-based outfit turn the dial back to late-’90s and early-’00s college radio, slow things down, and release a melodic stunner in “Respect My Eccentricity, Pt. 2”.

The song is the fantastic mélange of Yo La Tengo, Okkervil River, and Wilco with dabs of Red House Painters-esque sadcore. It, as such, grabs hold of you, leaving you gasping for a breath during its most dreamy parts and bopping your head to the methodical rhythmic trembles. Very few tracks possess such a gravitational pull, drawing the listener in with its complexity and polarizing emotions. Not only is “Respect My Eccentricity, Pt. 2” retro in its approach, but Stokes’ story is also a look in the rear-view mirror. He recollects a time, August 19th to be exact, when everything changed and a tragic accident occurred. It’s a sombre story reminiscent of the powerful tales bands of the college radio days used to write.

The track is taken from the trio’s new album, WRITHING!. It drops out October 22nd on Leafy Outlook.

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Furrows – “Grey Cities” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Belle & Sebastian, Sufjan Stevens, Efterklang, Tunng

There’s a reason why mid-tempo, breezy pop is often featured in indie films. Songs that resonate with audiences can make an ordinary scene more pivotal. That instant connection is found on the new single from Brooklyn-based Furrows, the project of former Berklee School of Music jazz student Peter Wagner. On the lead single from his upcoming debut album, Fisher King, Wagner serves up dreamy indie pop worthy of the silver screen.

“Grey Cities” is a sprawling fever dream marked by cashmere-smooth vocals and layers of faintly psychedelic hooks. It would be easy to mistake them for a European baroque pop outfit as their tones evoke Belle & Sebastian, Tunng, and Efterklang in varying degrees. What makes “Grey Cities” so intoxicating is its vitality: every verse and chorus shimmers with perfectly nuanced touches. The instrumentation is bright yet never overpowers the vocals. Likewise nothing feels rushed. If anything, you may find yourself hitting play repeatedly to remain a while longer in this song’s blissful calm. You want to stay long enough to learn how the story ends:

“There’s a soft voice you can hear
So cold yet earnest
A solace that’s calling through your door
In the ruins of this living memory
We’re crawling up a stairway to something real”

If realness is what you seek, then look no further. Furrows gives listeners plenty of languid, lo-fi dreamscapes to explore. The song is out now from these links and Bandcamp. Fisher King is due October 15th.

Furrows are: Peter Wagner (vocals, guitars, keys, bass, electronics), Sahil Ansari (engineering, production, percussion), and Jon Nellen (drums).

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Sam Fender – “Get You Down” (North Shields, England)

RIYL: Gang of Youths, Sundara Karma, Bruce Springsteen

If all popular artists channeled and maintained their indie characteristics, top-40 radio just might be tolerable. That would mean mainstream music would sound like Sam Fender‘s craft. With each new song, he further demonstrates that he is not chasing after #1 hits. He is instead using his immense platform to write meaningful songs. Oh, his songs are still quite anthemic and made for stadiums and arenas, but they are filled with substance. He demonstrated this with the cathartic and introspective “Seventeen Going Under”, which reflected on his single mother’s struggles, and the politically-charged “Aye”. Now he sends an apology to a friend or maybe a sibling with “Get You Down”.

This soaring orchestral-rock number is a euphoric ride. It reverberates with the grand soundscapes of Gang of Youths and the booming anthemic qualities of Sundara Karma. As the sax wails and the strings rupture with urgency, Fender channels his inner The Boss and delivers a rousing vocal performance. He reflects on his tough upbringing and how another helped him get through each day despite his weaknesses, insecurities, and misadventures.

“I never fought back
Just stood there humiliated
From the school yard to home
On the streets that we roamed

And I get you down
I catch myself in a mirror
See a pathetic little boy
Who’s come to get you down”

Through all that Fender has experienced, he has persevered and found success. Maybe that’s why he’s sharing great stories because he’s a survivor. He has come of age, and hopefully others will follow suit.

Fender’s new album, Seventeen Going Under, is out October 8th via Polydor Records and Interscope. Pre-order and pre-save links are here.

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Mac McCaughan – “Burn a Fax” (feat. TORRES & the Mountain Goats‘ Matt Douglas) (Chapel Hill, NC USA)

RIYL: Wye Oak, Beck, Future Islands, TORRES

Raise your hand if you dreamed of living the life of Mac McCaughan. We certainly have. Who would not want to be the front-man of a legendary indie band in Superchunk while also co-founding one of the most influential record labels of the past 30-plus years in Merge Records? Needless to say, McCaughan is a legend in his own right. His solo work, however, has often been overlooked, and that’s likely because he has detoured away from the familiar. With his vast exposure to so many artists and bands plus various sounds, approaches, and techniques, he takes these interactions and little lessons to create something unique. To create something extraordinary like “Burn a Fax”.

McCaughan sets aside his Gibson in favour of synths and keys. He’s channeling his inner Wye Oak and Beck, creating a luxurious piece of eclectic dream-pop. The key to the song, however, resides in McCaughan stepping aside for the guest collaborators to star. As lovely as the arrangement and McCaughan’s ghostly voice are at the start, the song ascends to another level when Torres’ Mackenzie Scott assumes lead vocals. She gracefully reminds us to look beyond the obvious to find color and hope.

“I can’t bear remembering
Oh no, it pulls me too far back
If all you see are rainbows on the wall
Turn around now, somewhere there’s a crack”

As she sings, the Mountain Goats’ Matt Douglas arrives with his bellowing saxophone. And the song turns from a dream to a monumental, ethereal experience. All we can do is smile and think that brighter days lie ahead.

We won’t have to look too far in the future to find them because on September 24th Mac McCaughan’s new album, The Sound of Yourself, will be released. Pre-order links available here and on Bandcamp.

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LUCKY LO – “Sunrise/Sunset” (Copenhagen, Denmark via Umeå, Sweden)

RIYL: Aldous Harding, Christine & The Queens, Jenny Hval

“Give even more / Share even more / Live even more.” That is the life advice of Lo Ersare, the Copenhagen-based Swedish artist who performs as Lucky Lo. She pays tribute to a dear friend on her newest track, and it’s a lovely summation of those maxims set to music.

“Sunrise/Sunset” is mellow and gentle, as remembrances often are. The subject of the song is Lo’s musician friend who, despite passing at age 33, continues to inspire. Some people shine brilliantly during their time on this earth. Their exuberance and passion are tiny sparks of inspiration that touch everyone they know. The warmth of this song is an example of how those sparks ignite new creative content. The intimacy of her alto vocals compels you to listen closely as she recalls the friendship:

“I can feel a woman loving every second of this
And if she had my breath now 
How would she make use of it?
She was sadly way too young when she died
Stepping like a sunrise / sunset through our lives

Tricky to avoid death so go ahead 
Live on the tip of your toes
But as she left this earth and us 
We have to live even more”

What better way to honor our late loved ones than to live on the tips of our toes? Having this advice delivered in such a touching song is its own special gift.

“Sunrise/Sunset” is out now via Tambourhinoceros from these links and Bandcamp.

Lucky Lo includes: Lo Ersare (vocals, keys, banjo), Asger Nordtorp Pedersen (bass), Mads Nørgaard (guitars), Anja Backmann (backing vocals), and Casper Henning Hansen (drums).

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Wallners – “Dracula” (Vienna, Austria)

RIYL: Still Corners, Daughter, Elena Tonra

Music history is filled with sibling bands. The Jackson 5, Bee Gees, The Osmonds, The Neville Brothers, Oasis, Hanson, The Corrs, HAIM, and Kings of Leon are some of the most notable brother-sister groups to fill airwaves. Could Viennese siblings Wallners join this select group? Time is on the side of Nino (20), Max (23), and twins Anna and Laurenz (25), but they’ve already started turning heads in Central Europe as they’ve signed with powerhouse Universal Music Austria. More recently, they performed at the Amadeus Music Awards. One day soon, the quartet’s mantle will be littered with trophies and plaques, especially if they continue to make music like “Dracula”.

This stunning mix of dark-pop and trip-hop is made for the early hours of the morning. But instead of panic, horror, or devastation, Wallners cast a dizzying yet alluring spell. A calm urgency builds at the start, driven by a pulsating rhythm section, a shimmering guitar line, and Anna’s whispery vocal. She recounts the story of a person who only reveals his true self when the sun goes down. It is in the darkness when he can feel alive, feeding on the terror that comes with nightfall. But is he truly a monster or someone who fears being seen?

Look out for this band because their story has only started to be written. They, too, could become legends in time.

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Breeze – “Come Around” (feat. Cadence Weapon) (Toronto, Canada)

RIYL: Stereo MC’s, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth

We’ve been fans of Josh Korody for years. The Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist first wowed us as part of indie duo Beliefs (the songs “1992” and “1994” are must-hear tracks), and continues to impress with his other project, Breeze. Last month, he released the second Breeze album, Only Up, which features this vintage-inspired banger.

The Britpop-influenced “Come Around” finds Korody teaming up with a star-studded roster of Canadian musicians, including members of Broken Social Scene, Orville Peck, and more. But the standout cameo comes from Toronto rapper Rollie Pemberton – aka Cadence Weapon – whose rapid-fire delivery infuses extra pizzazz.

Fans of ‘90s-era Britpop will savor the retro tones that echo Stereo MC’s and The Stone Roses. The dizzying layers and pulsing energy provide a welcome escape from the reality of our modern world. The line “You really did a number on this one” certainly sums up Breeze’s success on this track. 

The album Only Up is out now via Hand Drawn Dracula on Bandcamp, Apple Music, and these other links.

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Biffy Clyro – “Unknown Male 01” (Kilmarnock, Scotland)

RIYL: Fatherson, Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic

“Unknown Male 01” is quite a surprise from Scottish trio, Biffy Clyro, as they released their last album, A Celebration of Endings, just last August. Their first single from their newly announced album is a great theme of introspection. The lyric, “The devil never leaves”, reminds us we all have choices and struggles in life. The track is questioning everything with “Isn’t it time we made up our minds?”

The song builds slowly but of course erupts with those excellent harder edges that Biffy Clyro have perfected in their 20+ year career. The last few lyrics do offer up a bit of hope:

“Step out to the unknown
I’ll catch you on the way down
Aim high, look out below
I’ll be there with you wherever you go

Jump out to the unknown
I’ll catch you on the way down
Hold tight, I won’t let go
We’re on our way together into the unknown”

The single is the perfect one for any type of motivation. It will help you to channel being productive or possibly working through any negative emotions as well.

The trio’s upcoming album, The Myth of the Happily Ever After, which will be out October 22nd via Warner Records. Biffy Clyro are: Simon Neil, James Johnston and Ben Johnston.

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Central Heat Exchange – “Dusty Glass” (feat. Fran)
(Austin & Chicago, USA & Winnipeg, Canada)

RIYL: Hovvdy, Varsity, Nap Eyes

Now that fully-vaccinated people can move across the US-Canada border, Current Heat Exchange can now practice together and even tour. Its four members, who are part of other cool indie bands, live in various cities across the Central Standard Time Zone. Despite their distance, they’ve found ways to create songs that sound like they were recorded in a studio, as they did with “Tulips at My Bedside” and again with “Dusty Glass”.

The song is a classic slice of indie rock. This unhurried, dreamy tune sounds like early autumn with its cool, breezy vibes and and Santiago RD’s calm and serene vocal. Its made for listening to while spending one last weekend at the cottage or on the veranda for a late-season barbecue with friends. Despite the song’s tranquility , the band tell the tale of a person who is “stuck in some malaise”. But as the four have shown via their main projects, they aim to lift their friend’s and our spirits with some tender, jangly guitar and words of advice.

“So get the haircut make the purchase
At the store, drop your dollar on the floor
Run back home and wake up sore

Or don’t do anything you don’t really wanna do
Mean who am I to tell you
You’re on a roll just push on through”

Central Heat Exchange are: Adam Soloway of Living Hour, Santiago RD of Daphne Tunes, and Jacob and Paul Stoltz of Varsity and Pool Holograph. Their self-titled debut album is out now on Birthday Cake. Get it on Bandcamp.

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