Let’s get ready to roll into the weekend, and The Matinee ’21 v. 133 sets the tone with some startling blazers and soothing notes.
Parquet Courts – “Black Widow Spider” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Pavement, Ought, Ultimate Painting
Where do we begin remarking on Parquet Courts‘ decade-plus career? Unlike most bands, the Brooklyn-based group shun social media. They’ve followed the Sonic Youth playbook of letting their music speak for them and having fans extol their greatness. To get to the point of receiving prime festival slots, such as at Pitchfork and the upcoming WOODSIST Festival (they’re headlining the latter), they must have a wide-ranging portfolio. Each of their first six albums (if you include their one-off LP as Parkay Quarts) have spanned the broad landscape of indie rock, garage rock and punk rock. Their seventh album is shaping up as another diverse enterprise, as evidenced by the funkefied combustion of David Byrne and Blur on “Walking at a Downtown Pace” and now “Black Widow Spider”.
This jittery, infectious tune rocks! A blend of a late-’80s indie rock and early ’90s college-radio rock, “Black Widow Spider” was made for a Quentin Tarantino movie. This tune belongs in a Pulp Fiction sequel where the heroes (would Tarantino dare resurrect Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega?) race off to fulfill another contract. All the while they’re suffering a midlife crisis, which is what frontman Andrew Savage cleverly shares as he and his bandmates rock out like Pavement in their prime:
“I’m trying to save the money for something I want
Something I hope will give peace of mind
But, peace comes in pieces and pea-sized bits
Will I get enough in time?
I go out to a movie in the city and I can’t seem to shake off the mood
I like to watch an actor and act like them
Pretend I’m a different dude”
Well, different or not, these four dudes are, to us, at the top of their game.
Parquet Courts are Andrew Savage (lead vocals/guitar), Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Max Savage (drums). Sympathy for Life arrives October 22nd via Rough Trade Records. Pre-orders are available here and at Bandcamp. Let the celebration begin!
FUR – “Anybody Else But Me” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Ritchie Valens, The Growlers, The Kinks
What is old is new again, so seems the trend in music these days. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The key is to make the classics feel as inviting as their origins yet fresh for a new generation. Young upstarts FUR have been perfecting this craft over the past few years, which made them a Favorite Discovery back in 2018. Now they are more than just a hidden gem – they are one of the best bands in the UK with a sizable following. How could anyone not like a band that delivers boisterous fun like “The Fine Line of a Quiet Life” and sweet, surf-rock grooves on “When You Walk Away, Pt. I”? How could anyone not be delighted by “Anybody Else But Me”?
Sun-kissed beach vibes radiate from this groovy surf-rock tune. It recalls the days when Frankie Valli got young adults dancing and twirling with his infectious energy and cool demeanor. His songs always had a chorus where everyone shouted out loud, which FUR replicate on the song’s wildly addictive ending. Where FUR deviate from Valens is that he was not singing about forgotten partners or missed opportunities. Instead, despite the song’s upbeat and sugary nature, frontman William Murray articulates an identity crisis where he is never happy within his own skin:
“All of my life
All the people in my mind
Were always so much better than I
Could ever be if I tried
I’ve always dreamed of being
Anybody else but me
I’m painting pictures of the people I’d like to be
Fake conversations with everyone that I’d meet”
We hope FUR don’t dream about being someone else because they’re doing things only a few bands are doing today.
FUR are: William Murray (vocal), Josh Buchanan (guitar), William ‘Tav’ Taverner (bass), and Flynn Whelan (drums). Their new album, When You Walk Away, is due November 5 on Norwegian label 777 Music. Pre-save or pre-order the LP here or from Bandcamp.
Geese – “Projector” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Iceage, Television, W.H. Lung
Forget being considered one of the most exciting new bands to arrive or favorite discoveries of the year: Geese are setting themselves up to be THE band of 2021. The Brooklyn-based group comprised of Cameron Winter (vocals, keyboard), Max Bassin (drums), Gus Green (guitar), Dominic DiGesu (bass), and Foster Hudson (guitar) have already release two song-of-the-year candidates with the exhilarating yet chaotic “Disco” and the icy cool disco-punk of “Low Era”. Now they make it a hat trick with “Projector”.
Whereas the first two singles exploded, Geese ease us into a sinister world on “Projector”. The chiming, guttural tone of the post-punk guitar slices through a silky smooth soundscape. This place could be the home of the Don of the underworld or one’s self-imposed prison. For Geese, it is both, as Winter describes how he is unable to get away from the eyes that watch him and from his own demons:
“Underneath the basement
I am the king of sensation
Underground for another few years
Slowly as the glaciers
I crack my skull on the hard wooden corner
Even when I start to waver
You watch me dance, and catch my hands every time”
This song is a microcosm of Geese’s brilliance, where they pair inventive soundscapes with equally imaginative stories. The band of 2021 indeed.
Andy Shauf – “Jaywalker” (Regina, SK Canada)
RIYL: Damien Jurado, Dan Mangan, Sufjan Stevens
One of Canada’s premier songwriters continues his winning streak today. Andy Shauf has been making excellent though underrated music for years, and his newest single showcases his talent for making stories come to life. Familiar characters also make an appearance because Shauf, in true storyteller fashion, is both an artist and an entertainer.
“Jaywalker” pairs a wild story with playful, off-kilter instrumentation. If you think suspense and whimsy cannot coexist, this tune proves you wrong. The tale of a jaywalker who “never saw it coming” wakes in hospital with a broken arm courtesy of Shauf’s lyrical muse, Judy. Fresh off her appearance in “Spanish on The Beach” earlier this month, Judy returns here for a memorable reprise. Shauf’s newest album, Wilds, should reveal more answers to the Judy saga. We are ready to be captivated by his inventive craftsmanship.
Hana Vu – “Keeper” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, St. Vincent, Imogen Heap
Get to know Hana Vu now: trust us when we predict she is headed for superstardom. The emerging talent from Los Angeles is more than a self-taught musician who happens to have mesmerizing vocals. The 21-year-old artist delivers a fresh, engaging sound on her debut album, Public Storage. One spin of the LP’s latest single will have you hooked.
“Keeper” defies genre labels much like the album’s other singles. Vu can deliver Americana rock hooks (“Maker”) and pop noir (“Everybody’s Birthday”) with equal aplomb. Here she serves up modern, synth-accented pop that you might expect from St. Vincent. “Keeper” is sleek and sophisticated. Its languid coolness only heightens its allure. The production from Jackson Phillips (of the underrated indie pop project Day Wave) keeps the spotlight on Vu’s warm alto voice as the instrumentation shines throughout.
You can listen to this track a dozen times and still find new facets to absorb and appreciate. This tune will sound just as engaging on a brisk autumn evening as it will on a sunny spring day. That timeless appeal is a sure sign that Vu’s debut will rank high on our Favorite Albums of 2021 list.
Mandy, Indiana – “Bottle Episode” (Manchester, England)
RIYL: Girl Band, Warsaw, Crystal Castles
Shortly after releasing the gritty, industrial-infused “Alien 3” Gary, Indiana changed their name to Mandy, Indiana. For those who know U.S. geography, this was to avoid confusion with the city of Gary, Indiana. While their band’s new moniker might sound nicer, the music has not changed. Valentine Caulfield (vocals), Scott Fair (guitar/production), and Liam Stewart (percussion) still are crafting harsh, stark, experimental electronica. As good as “Alien 3” was, “Bottle Episode” is a body trembler.
Industrial, glitch, and even post-punk are forged together on this bone-jarring, mind-rattling epic. A military-like snare drum opens the track and sets the foreboding tone. Caulfield’s hallow vocal then joins the fray, and she describes a place that reeks of death. A wailing siren and electronics then enter the fray, taking the song from uneasy to unnerving. Caulfeld’s voice also rises, and she is now narrating a group of young soldiers walking to their inevitability. While she never speaks of the battle or the war, we all know what is to come. There will be no graceful ending, just shock and awe, which is what Mandy, Indiana do once again.
The band’s debut EP, …, is out November 19th on Fire Talk Records (yes, the EP’s title is …). It should be awesome.
Cuffed Up – “Bonnie” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie + The Joy Formidable + Protomartyr
When Bonnie and Clyde are mentioned, they are often known as doomed lovers and bank robbers. They are legends within American modern history and cinema. Now they become immortalized in music in the most anthemic of ways thanks to Cuffed Up.
“Bonnie”, however, is not the story you know. Instead, the LA-based quartet enter the world of the “multiverse” and offer an alternative story. Instead of dying together, Clyde leaves Bonnie behind, saving his own skin at the expense of his partner and lover. With feverish guitars, pounding drumming, and an awesome post-punk bass line, the song rages for its entirety. It rages with the ferocity of a woman who has been betrayed by the least likeliest of individuals.
When the chips are down and you’re left without a warning
You’re a fiction prize, that left me in the dust for dead
Put it on the right track, I’m here to take back what you ripped from me
I apologize for the lies wishing we never ran at all”
And it rages of a band with nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Noah Gundersen – “Sleepless in Seattle” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Gregory Alan Isakov, Jason Isbell, Julien Baker
The city you live in has probably changed a lot in the last two decades. Many cities no longer hold their former charm due to expansion and commercial growth. Seattle-based singer-songwriter Noah Gundersen puts a sadly beautiful spin on those truths in his newest single.
“Sleepless in Seattle” is an ode to his old stomping grounds. This moving ballad reminds you that the people and places you love can morph into something unrecognizable. As he drives around visiting familiar haunts – his first apartment, landmark Seattle locales and music venues – he reflects on the loss of vibrancy.
“Does anyone care anymore? This city was built on the back of a spirit that I can’t feel anymore,” he sings on one verse. Gundersen has always succeeded at turning his intimate thoughts into critically acclaimed indie folk masterpieces. This song is no different. Soft piano and slide guitar enhance the melancholy tones while his lyrics tug at your heart.
The spirit of Seattle will never die as long as artists make music on this level that steals listeners’ hearts. The best music is honest and raw, whether it’s strummed on an acoustic guitar in a coffee shop or blasted through giant amps at a festival. This ballad from his upcoming fifth studio LP, Pillar of Salt, acknowledges the past but isn’t giving up on the future. Like all of us, Gundersen is just looking for a place that feels like home.
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