On this special edition, The Matinee ’21 v. 141 features some of indie’s finest superstars, who are artists and bands who even Pitchfork will take the time to talk about.
Speedy Ortiz – “Cutco” (Philadelphia, USA)
RIYL: Liz Phair, Hole, Swearin’
Some artists and bands feel like they’ve been around for decades, yet they’ve only been around for ten years or less. This says a lot about their music and talent since we can recall the first time we heard them and the lasting effect they’ve had on our lives. For us, Sadie Dupuis and Speedy Ortiz made us believe that authentic and meaningful music could be made once again. The band were part of indie’s renaissance in the early 2010s, and in the process they’ve inspired many artists and bands (including some listed below). Their influence is quietly everywhere.
While Dupuis has mostly focused on her alt-pop solo project, Sad13, of late and much of Speedy Ortiz’s music has remained offline, take one listen to any of Speedy Ortiz’s original songs and they possess a je n’ai sais quoi quality that only the classics do. That is, they are still very much relevant today and are timeless. To remind us just how great Speedy Ortiz were – and are – Dupuis is celebrating Speedy Ortiz’s tenth anniversary with the release of The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker…Forever. This double LP includes songs from the band’s debut EP, Cop Kicker, and debut full-length, The Death of Speedy Ortiz, and, of course, some bonus tracks. Although the band could share one of these new tunes, Dupuis has opted to re-unveil the song that got them noticed and compared to Liz Phair and Hole. And that made them the legends they are today.
“Cutco” is ’90s grunge re-imagined. Gritty guitars, churning rhythms, and Dupuis’ calm, almost nonchalant vocal are reminiscent of a time when angst inspired greatness. Such songs, including this one, were two middle fingers at all the naysayers and the overly critical, including our friends and parents.
“If all my friends wanna cut me into bits
They should throw me on the skillet
Make a dinner out of what they get
When they’re done they can flush me with the shit
It’ll be the same as always, I can’t see any difference”
Pre-order The Death of Speedy Ortiz & Cop Kicker…Forever, which will be out digitally on November 12th and physically as a double LP on January 28th via Carpark Records, here. The video for the song is Dupuis’ inaugural feature as a director, showcasing yet another side to her immense talents.
Sunflower Bean – “Baby Don’t Cry” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: No Doubt, Wolf Alice, The Orielles
From when they were teens until they turned 20, Sunflower Bean have been making the old new and cool again. They’ve taken the music of the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s and revitalized them for contemporary times and younger generation’s ears. Their first two albums, Human Ceremony and Twentytwo Blue, have become indie classics, and their retro-fueled rock landed on our Favorite Albums of 2016 and 2018, respectively. Their third album is still under development (or we think it is), but singer and guitarist Julia Cumming (she/her), bassist Nick Kivlen (he/him), and drummer Jake Faber (she/they) still have news to share. They’re going on tour!
Now a band cannot announce a tour without offering fans a carrot. Or in this case, Sunflower Bean offer a little ear-worm that sees the band crawl a little closer to modern times. Specifically, they channel the pop-rock of late-career No Doubt on “Baby Don’t Cry”. Like the Gwen Stefani-outfit, the trio deliver a tune that at first seems sweet on the ears with its sultry pop grooves and Cumming’s lush voice. A gritty edge, however, lingers under the service with the grimy guitar and Cumming’s intelligent lyrics. She shares how she feels trapped by her surroundings.
“Cooking dinner for one
Got the caretaker on
Lyrics make me exhausted
I just need to clear my head
TV makes me so mad
NPR is always telling me something bad
Everything made in boardroom gets pumped straight into my head”
The single is out on Mom + Pop Music. Tickets to see Sunflower Bean will be available through an artist pre-sale today (Thursday) at 10 AM EST. Sign up here. Otherwise, general on-sale is Friday at 10 am EST.
Nicole Atkins – “Promised Land” (Asbury Park, NJ, USA)
RIYL: Regina Spektor, Laura Marling, Adele
Speaking of artists who are masters of turning back the clock, Nicole Atkins is one of them. Actually, she’s right at the top. Whether it’s swirling disco tunes as on Slow Phaser or ’50s rock ‘n roll on Goodnight Rhonda Lee, the New Jersey native consistently brings bygone eras to the present. She makes us momentarily believe we are living in the days of bell bottoms and polyester or leather jackets and bouffants. Last year, she took us back to the ’80s and rock ‘n roll’s last golden age on the acclaimed ITALIAN ICE. For her latest time traveling adventure, she heads towards a time when cinema was expanding but the theater was still the place to see the biggest stars. This is the ’20s and ’30s, and standing center stage is Atkins to share “Promised Land”.
With just a piano and a small string arrangement supporting her, Atkins delivers one of the most beautiful yet emotionally jarring songs of the year. It is the rare number that silences and paralyzes everyone, where not a single breath nor whisper can be heard. With her powerful and moving voice, Atkins’ words are even more devastating, as she shares how she was one stuck living someone else’s dream and ignoring her own. “You can’t drag my heart”, she calls out at the end to indicate that she will no longer hide behind the curtains and be subservient to another. Instead, she will assume control of her destiny and take her rightful place under the spotlight. She is, after all, one of the great artists of our generation.
Further displaying her talent, Atkins recorded the song live and in just one take. The performance is raw, real, and remarkable.
Snail Mail – “Ben Franklin” (Baltimore, USA)
RIYL: early Mitski, Soccer Mommy, TORRES
Lindsey Jordan’s project Snail Mail has won over numerous hearts with its relatable music. From the debut EP, Habit, to hearing them find their footing on Lush, the growth of the band’s sound has been notable as well. In September, Snail Mail released a single, the title track from their upcoming record Valentine, that revealed a band maturing into an indie titan.
Valentine began to take shape while Jordan was in rehab in Arizona. It’s not a fact Jordan shies away from on “Ben Franklin”. It’s perhaps Snail Mail’s hardest hitting track lyrically, but it takes the band into some new territory. With some synthesizer, a great bass groove and slower pace, it’s surprisingly danceable. It’s not the guitar rock that we’re used to from Jordan, but it shows a maturity and a willingness to try new sounds that really fit her songwriting style and her voice. The early Snail Mail releases were great records, but there’s so much potential in Lindsey Jordan’s songwriting, to keep it within one genre would only restrict it. Whether “Ben Franklin” is a sign of things to come or an outlier on Valentine, it’s a great track that only amps up the excitement for Valentine.
“Sucker for the pain, oh honey
But you said you’d die
You want a little same, forever,
But you said you’d die
Said you would havе died for me”
RIYL: Iceage, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Nick Cave on an adrenaline rush
Few bands can match the gripping darkness and drama of Bambara. The NYC-based trio turn post-punk into a bone-chilling, big-screen experience with their searing sonic fireworks and incredible storytelling. Their sophomore album, Stray, which was beyond imaginative and enthralling, showcased the group’s immense talents, and unsurprisingly the LP landed on our Favorite Albums of 2020. With Halloween a little more than two weeks away, it is only fitting that Bambara return to once again make our skin crawl and the hairs on our arms stand upright.
Don the cowboy hat, put on the boots, and head into the darkness that consumes the desert with “Mythic Love”. Psychedelic-rock and spaghetti western vibes weave across pulsing post-punk to create a bit of spooky, tantalizing, and entertaining cinema. With the Frigs’ front-person Bria Salmena sharing lead vocals with Reid Bateh, the band deliver a tale of seduction, desire, and obsession. But is this experience real, a figment of Bateh’s imagination, or something more seraphic?
“I know one day when I wake up,
There’ll be a hole in the sky.
And from that hole will come angel
With bright, strobing eyes.
And in those eyes will flash the brake lights
You were bathed in that night
With the trees along street
And I’ll let loose the reigns of life.”
Bambara are Reid Bateh (vocals, guitar), Blaze Bateh (drums), and William Brookshire (bass). Their new EP, Love on My Mind, will be released February 25th, 2022 on Wharf Cat Records. Pre-order it at the label’s store or on Bandcamp.
Emma Ruth Rundle – “Blooms of Oblivion” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Emma Ruth Rundle
The casual observer may note that Emma Ruth Rundle has become mellower with each album. While it is true that the heavy Gothic overtures of her Marriages day are temporarily behind her and her solo work has gradually become more stripped down, Rundle is finding new ways to startle and devastate. On the raw and stripped-back “Return”, she showed that she could still make listeners crumble to the ground with simplicity and powerful songwriting. She replicates this successful formula on the beautifully haunting and vulnerable “Blooms of Oblivion”.
With solely an acoustic guitar and an occasional piano stroke and cello strum, Rundle immediately stuns with her words. “Judas come close to me / Visit in visions / Tell me the story of how you swing like an actor in the greyest of gardens / Your tongue hanging free from you mouth”, she quietly sings at the start, directing her sneers at her tormentors. The entire song is filled with Biblical references, focusing on betrayal, redemption, and the self-imposed imprisonment known as faith.
“And we bring flowers from Albion up to your vision
Hold back the love that you’ve never known
you’ve only this prison
Straight to the hangman’s noose, are we born this way?
Handing down a fistful of sorries you will never say”
Kills Birds – “Cough Up Cherries” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Hole, My Bloody Valentine, Bikini Kill
What do Kim Gordon and Dave Grohl have in common besides being two of the most influential rock stars in history? The answer is that they are huge fans and endorsers of Kills Birds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why they’ve explicitly supported Nina Ljeti (vocals), Fielder Thomas (bass), and Jacob Loeb (guitar), which includes Grohl lending his studio to record the band’s sophomore album. When a band can release a titanic number like “Rabbit”, any alt-rock fan would also become an admirer. If that wasn’t enough, then “Cough Up Cherries” should do the trick.
The song title should at a minimum be enough to grab one’s attention. After that, it’s the over-driven, power guitar riffs, the pummeling drumming, and the angular bass that one notices. The arrangement is electrifying, as the instrumentation shifts between blistering catharsis and unsettling desperation. Ljeti’s voice similarly rises and falls, sounding like an individual that is constantly on the run but needing to pause to catch one’s breath. The roller-coaster approach reflects the mental exhaustion many experienced during the pandemic. It is a scream for help and a whisper seeking relief, and these emotions are reflected in Ljeti’s lyrics:
“Us in our empty rooms
All is so full of doom
A lonely virus culture
Puppets and dirty vultures
Us and our stupid brains
Our dramas, anxious pains
Waiting for affectation
Scream out for your attention”
Sam Evian – “Never Know” (New York, USA)
RIYL: Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Connan Mockasin, Chris Cohen
Within the indie music landscapes, there are few certainties. Just as you think a band will have a trademark sound, they suddenly shift gears and surprise with something totally unexpected. Sam Evian, however, is dependable. Like many indie artists, he often shifts between genres. He traversed the psych-folk realm on “Time to Melt”, strutted through glam-rock on “Easy to Love”, and offered some soulful neo-psychedelia on “Knock Knock”. No matter the approach, Evian has always made us smile and feel good about life. His music is the equivalent of the morning’s first sun – warm and revitalizing. He delivers another inviting number in “Never Know”.
Not since Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Multi-Love has any artist deliver such groovy yet blissful neo-psychedelic pop. All one can do is smile and relax, appreciating every jangly guitar riff, the smooth pitter-patters of the percussion, and the disco vibes of the keys. All one can do is feel refreshed to get through another tough day, and Evian provides the motivational speech when he sings:
“Isn’t it painful, watching the blind lead the blind lead the blind
As long as I’m able, I’ll keep time, no I don’t wanna die
Though its tempting to drift away
Is there life in the great wide open
I saw some in the sky today
But my eyes are always joking”
This is the perfect song for mid-autumn and really any month because Evian’s music is timeless.
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