From the musicians and bands to the surprised collaborations to the songs, The Matinee ’21 v. 140 edition can be described with one word – monumental. It starts with one of the most 21st Century’s preeminent artists.
Michael Kiwanuka – “Beautiful Life” (London, England)
RIYL: Curtis Harding, Elbow
Strength through adversity: this is the message Michael Kiwanuka is sending on his latest release. “Beautiful Life” is the first new music since his Mercury Prize-winning 2019 album, Kiwanuka. On this slow-burning epic, he maintains his signature style: mellow, contemplative, and soulful vocals paired with sweeping instrumentation. This is what endears Kiwanuka to fans. The richness of his sound mirrors his boundless talent and humble spirit. Just don’t confuse his humble mellowness with weakness.
“Beautiful Life” builds slowly with the first bursts of intensity coming at the chorus around the two-minute mark. Here the bold strings and percussion match the positivity of the message:
“I was caught in a nightmare
Now we’re breathing the same air
I live my life in a daydream
All the colors are so clean
And it’s a beautiful good life”
This song is featured on the new Covid-19 documentary ‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ from Oscar-winning British director Orlando von Einsiedel. It is streaming (along with another track, “All My Life”) on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon via Polydor Records.
Kiwanuka is currently completing his fourth solo album and will tour in the spring. His 2022 European tour dates are listed here.
Hamilton Leithauser & Kevin Morby – “Virginia Beach” (USA)
RIYL: Hamilton Leithauser, Kevin Morby, Bob Dylan
When Hamilton Leithauser and Kevin Morby announced a co-headlining tour, it was inevitable the two singer-songwriter giants were going to collaborate on a song. They could have easily covered a track from Morby’s sublime Sundowner or Leithauser’s endlessly searching The Loves of Your Life, but that would not have been an intelligent way to utilize the pair’s strongest gifts. They are, after all, among the greatest storytellers to grace Earth this Century, and together they create musical magic on “Virginia Beach”.
The twangy, spaghetti western-inspired Americana approach is the perfect meeting ground for the two. On the one hand, the song’s cinematic quality embraces the widescreen approach Leithauser has crafted as a solo artist and via The Walkmen. On the other hand, a toe-tapping intimacy filters through the tune, reflecting the warm embraces by which Morby has become to be known. Together, the soundscape could be that of the dusty, deserted towns that litter the US Southwest’s deserts or the rugged hills of the Midwest. The duo’s story, too, concerns a wandering nomad, who travels across America with the Devil next to him.
“I have been to a Carolina
‘Til a dark horse on a black highway pointed me Towards Paris, Tennessee
I have been through badlands Montana
From the white sands of a haunted Kansas covered snow Of Paris, Idaho
And never ever did I think I’d meet
Oh the devil from behind the sink
Just a smiling staring back at me
I put my hand to the mirror dear
And then he disappeared”
Land of Talk – “Moment Feed” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Flock of Dimes, Wye Oak, Feist
A year ago, Elizabeth Powell, who is better known as Land of Talk, released the immaculate Indistinct Conversations. It was classic Powell – bold yet beautifully intricate arrangements with powerful yet real stories of strength, perseverance, and triumph. The album’s ending, however, felt like it a cliffhanger with Powell having more stories to share. Or maybe more accurately, we wanted to hear more of what she had to share. Maybe the truth exists in both statements because yesterday the Toronto-based singer-songwriter announced a new EP, Calming Night Partner, is coming very soon. From the mini-record, she shares “Moment Feed”.
A blustery indie-rock arrangement sweeps across the track. It pops with a dazzling urgency, as Powell’s lush voice streams through the bouncy bass line and the gritty, over-driven guitar. At times, Powell sounds like she’s floating in a dream, elegantly singing, “I was walking on sunshine”. Another moment, she is drowning under a sea of conflicts, where she confronts the dilemma of trusting in a faith or controlling her own fate. She poetically shares:
“You’re the only one I care about
Make me wanna leave my faith
Make it so I don’t care what I figured out.
God, I see your face.”
What decision she decides is unknown. What we do know is that we put our faith in Powell’s tremendous artistry.
Black Country, New Road – “Chaos Space Machine” (London, England)
RIYL: David Bowie, Nick Cave and The Black Seeds, Arcade Fire
What do you get when you infuse a bit of dramatic whimsy into a glam rock/baroque pop cocktail? You get the spirit of David Bowie looming large over every delicious note. And lest you think this is concoction is no more than a fever dream, feast your ears on the latest from Black Country, New Road. The London art-rock outfit’s newest single is a sonic triumph meant to be played loudly and often.
“Chaos Space Machine” is the lead single from their Ants from Up There album that arrives next February. These guys are as talented as they are productive: their debut EP, For the first time, arrived in February of this year to critical global acclaim. There is not much we can add to their long list of well-deserved accolades. Every note of this track dazzles. Each verse allows the seven members to show off their talents while the chorus is where they collaboratively shine. Get to know Black Country, New Road now. They are bound for immense success in the very near future.
Black Country, New Road are: Isaac Wood (vocals/guitar), Luke Mark (guitar), Tyler Hyde (bass), May Kershaw (keys), Lewis Evans (sax), Georgia Ellery (violin), and Charlie Wayne (drums).
Makthaverskan – “Closer” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Amason, The Sundays, Lush
After four years away, Makthaverskan triumphantly announced their in September with the euphoric track “This Time”. It was a reminder of the quartet’s ability to make dreamgaze even more dazzling than its namesake. It was also a reminder of how vocalist Maja Milner, guitarists Hugo Randulv and Per Svensson, drummer Andreas “Palle” Wettmark, and bassist Irma Krook were at one time like The Cranberries of the 2010s, where their music swept us off our feet yet shared painful experiences that we knew all too well. They were our journals and diaries. Check that, they are our journals and diaries, as they prove again on “Closer”.
This stunning number sounds like it was transported from 1993. Gorgeous, shoegaze guitars interlace with a Peter Hook-like bass line, the light bellows of a sax and a synth, and percolating drums, creating a wonderfully nostalgic atmosphere. As the song wraps its warmth around us and sends us into a haze, Milner’s transcendent voice slightly hollers out to the one walking away. Her tale, too, is wonderfully nostalgic, as if it was taken from one of our favorite coming-of-age films of the era.
“The real meaning
Is you and me
The truth honey
Lies in your eyes
In the day time
And in the night
I walk with you
On my mind
Yes you make me want to try”
Hannah Jadagu – “All My Time is Wasted” (New York, USA)
RIYL: Frankie Cosmos, Snail Mail, Stef Chura
Hannah Jadagu’s What’s Going On? may be one of this year’s finest EPs. Jadagu is a fantastic songwriter, and learning about how she put together the record only makes it more obvious. It defies logic that the lush sounds, vast soundscapes, and immersive sounds on the EP were recorded and produced an old iPhone. What’s Going On? is proof that good music always shines through, especially in the hands of someone as skilled and determined as this 18-year-old New York-based artist.
On her latest single, “All My Time is Wasted”, Jadagu gets a production assist from John Wolfe (Huck), plus backing vocals from Frankie Cosmos’ Greta Kline. The early moments are laid-back but soon break into a fantastic chorus that alternates from minimal to huge, lush sounds with synthesizer, bass, and harmonies adding depth. The song ends in a bigger way with great guitar work and a catchy synth line. Jadagu says the song is about how she feels like she’s wasting her time despite all of the positive changes in her life. We can assure her this song is anything but a waste of time.
Cassandra Jenkins – “Hailey (premix)” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Fickle Friends, Maggie Rogers, Tennis
Cassandra Jenkins’s An Overview on Phenomenal Nature is one of the year’s sleeper hits. At just around a half hour, it’s a short, gorgeous record that welcomes listeners in with its warm sounds and Jenkins’s unparalleled storytelling. This week, Jenkins has announced that she will be releasing a companion to An Overview on Phenomenal Nature, the long-winded, but aptly titled (An Overview on) An Overview on Phenomenal Nature. The new record will contain early recordings, demos, and even a song left off of the original album.
To give us a preview of what to expect, Jenkins released “Hailey (premix)” as the first single. It has proven that we should only expect the unexpected from this record. An early version of “Hailey”, the gorgeous acoustic penultimate track from the original record. This “premix” version is much more electric of an affair. Drum machine, a lush synthesizer, and a great groove transform the song into something completely different. It’s a great twist on an already great track that makes it exciting to hear what other turns these songs can take.
Jaws The Shark – “Cold Feet” (London, England)
RIYL: FIDLAR, Wavves, Drenge
Yeah, the music world has its share of two-piece rock outfits that can make arena-size rock. The Black Keys, Japandroids, Deap Vally, and Drenge are four such examples. While they can crush it, Jaws the Shark take garage-rock and blues-rock to another stratosphere when it comes to noise. Olly Bailey (vocal, guitar) and Elliot Rawson (drums) are more like FIDLAR, who make manically intense alt-rock as a four-piece. The pair have already demonstrated their wall-shaking intensity on singles, “Erase Myself”, “Demon Dream” and “Loose Change”, and they add another sonic explosion to their arsenal in the form of “Cold Feet”.
Seismic guitar riffs and bombastic percussion blare through the amps and speakers at the start. The surging forcefulness sounds like a band that is about to never see the light again. But jst as the song is about to go over the edge, the duo slam on the brakes. This unexpected calmness provides a moment for reflection, as Bailey shares his emptiness. Despite having a house and a car, he feels incomplete. He feels unsatisfied, where he ponders what more could he do with his life. We have one suggestion – continue to blow people’s minds because one day he and Rawson will be standing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury and during the same to tends of thousands of music fans.
The single is out on Nice Swan Records, who will also release the duo’s debut EP in 2022.
Spirit Was – “Stranger to the One” (New York, USA)
RIYL: LVL UP, Kal Marks, Big Ups
Spirit Was have released some great tracks in the lead-up to the release of their new album, Heaven’s Just A Cloud. This project led by former LVL UP member Nick Corbo isn’t afraid to chart new territory. “Come Back Up to the House” tiptoes between distortion and pop while “I Saw the Wheel” delivers heavier moments.
On their latest single, “Stranger to the One”, they continue to perfect their raw sound. Brooding guitar riffs explode into the distorted chaos of a great guitar solo. Another section with some harmonies adds a peaceful quality amid the noise. The lyrics feel just as heavy as the track itself:
“So I write it down for later
Feels like I wander all the while in dreams
How long will I feel like a stranger to the one who loves me?”
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