The Matinee ’21 v. 146 is filled with great stories and messages, featuring empowering and powerful numbers to tales about love and hope. Like the themes covered, the music itself is quite diverse. As usual, find these songs on the Songs of October 2021 playlist, which is available on SoundCloud and Spotify.
Amber Jay – “Equal” (Liverpool, England)
RIYL: a young Billie Eilish, FKA Twigs, Japanese House
About five years ago, a teenager developed a viral, online following with her edgy alt-pop. Today, Billie Eilish is one of the most popular and influential artists around, and she’s still just 19 years old. As record labels and talent scouts scour the planet for the next teenage sensation, they should look no further than Amber Jay.
The young Liverpudlian is a music phenom, as she started playing the drums at the age of 8 before branching out to songwriting a few years later. By the time Jay entered her adolescent years, she released her debut EP, Never Too Far from a Dark Thought. It is honest, smart, and inventive, and rivals some of the best EPs of 2021. The mini-album, too, was mature – way more gripping and thought-provoking than what artists twice her age are writing. As additional proof of her talent, she shares “Equal”.
This alt-pop number is stark and mysterious, akin to FKA Twigs’ tantalizing broodiness with the edge of Eilish’s much earlier works. As hallow beats pulse, it feels like we’ve either entered into an underground labyrinth or a very exclusive secretive society. But this place that Jay sings about is the world we live in, where those who do not conform are left on the side. Jay, however, seeks to break down these barriers that still see women and men as being separate and unequal and how women must project a certain image. She seeks not just legitimacy or equality, but for all women to be in control of who they are. “My body doesn’t belong to you”, she calmly and assertively states before continuing to discuss issues such as gender identity and power structures. The topics she covers are the stuff of university lecture halls, yet they come from a young woman who still isn’t old enough to legally drink in the US.
Yep, there is very little stopping Jay from becoming a sensation.
Boy Harsher – “Tower” (Northampton, MA USA)
RIYL: Chelsea Wolfe + Alice Glass + John Carpenter
For eight years, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller have taken their bedroom project Boy Harsher and made it into one of the most sensational Gothic synth / coldwave bands around. Their music makes every day seem like it is Halloween eve, where their songs make our skin crawl, our spines tingles, and all the while leaving us gasping for more. The cinematic quality of their art explains how they can illicit such contrasting emotions, and the duo are only starting to reach the zenith of their powers if “Tower” is any indication.
The song opens with a stark, crawling mood. Dark synths patiently fill the air until Matthews’ haunting voice arrives. “Don’t you say my name”, she begs with an assertive yet vulnerable tone. As the song grows, the air becomes more mysterious as the plot thickens. “But can I believe you? Do I even know how?”, she asks the person that once loved her but now keeps her prisoner. He has become her tormentor, and his love now inflicts pain that results in Matthews unleashing a screeching howl. She pleads in the end, “Don’t you come around here / I just want to be free”, but we do not know if she gets her wish.
We’ll have to wait until January 21st, 2022 to find out what happens. This is when Boy Harsher’s new album, The Runner (Original Soundtrack), will be released on Nude Club Records. Pre-orders here and directly on Bandcamp.
Forever Honey – “Satellite” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Maple Glider, Wilsen, Alvvays
For many people, last year was supposed to be one of great opportunity and filled with momentous events. Weddings, graduations, or fulfilling life-long dreams, everything, however, was placed on hold. For Liv Price (lead vocals, guitar), Aida Mekonnen (lead guitar, vocals), Steve Vannelli (drums, keys), and Jack McLoughlin (bass), last year should have been a celebration, as their band, Forever Honey, released its debut EP, Pre-Mortem High.
While the mini-album is an alluring piece of dreamy jangle-pop, the foursome have opted to start fresh. This isn’t to say they’re ignoring the extended player was ever released. Rather, they’ve opted to re-boot the entire project where people can now pay more attention than the dumpster fire that was 2020. To re-announce their arrival, they share “Satellite”.
Although the band call their music, “sob rock”, “Satellite” is like a breath of fresh air. The swimmingly blissful melodies and harmonies are rejuvenating yet sublimely dreamy. This is music intended to lift us from our doldrums and guide us to greener pastures. With her stirring voice, Price likewise describes how another person was exactly that for her. But now, she must look to the skies to see them, where their twinkling light offers her a reminder of their past together and the lessons learned.
The single is out on Better Company Records. Here’s hoping 2022 sees the band deliver on its immense promise and for everyone to notice.
Ellevator – “Charlie IO” (Hamilton, Canada)
RIYL: Wye Oak, San Fermin, Quilt
When Ellevator released the Chris Walla-produced (of Death Cab for Cutie fame) “Easy” in August, it was a hint that the trio was going through a renaissance of some sorts. The song revealed a band moving out of the shadows of Metric and Broken Social Scene, to whom they’ve been compared, and it showcased a band looking to expand their craft. While “Easy” wowed with its shapeshifting characteristics, “Charlie IO” amazes in other ways.
“Charlie IO” just might be Ellevator’s most moving, graceful, and stunning number. While drums, beats, and dashes of a synth percolate in the background, the song’s centerpieces are front-person Nadi Sue Bersche’s moving voice, her immaculate piano playing, and her fantastic songwriting. Through a soothing, haunting soundscape that features a couple of breathtaking moments, Bersche sings about a person who seeks meaning in their lives, and they scramble to the place of their childhood to find it. As she tells it:
“The words don’t come so easy when I voice my doubts
Are they even worth repeating?
Old flames keep you believing
But when they burn out
I’d hate to watch you fold into yourself
Charlie I, Charlie O, Charlie Ayahuasca
Hold your tongue, bite your lip, start moving faster Charlie I, Charlie O, Charlie Ayahuasca
Hold your tongue, bite your lip”
We’ll repeat ourselves and say: Nabi Sue Bersche, Elliott Gwynne, and Tyler Bersche are well-positioned to be one of Canada’s great indie-rock bands. The trio’s debut album is expected early in 2022 via Arts & Crafts.
Foyer Red – “Blood” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Palberta, Luge, Dick Diver
What do you get when you combine the math-rock of Canadian legends Luge, the melodic indie folk-rock of Palberta, and the jangle-pop delights of Dick Diver? If you answered Foyer Red without having to look at the sub-title, then give yourself a back on the pack for knowing about the latest under-the-radar gem from Brooklyn. For those who answered correctly despite having no clue who the band are (which is where we were at not so long ago), you’ll soon be asking your friends the same question we did because the trio could become your new favorite discovery.
Consisting of Elana Riordan, Marco Ocampo, and Mitch Myers, Foyer Red are unconventional. Their brand of indie pop-rock is not made for mainstream radio, but it sure belongs on KEXP and NPR. The group recently released their new EP, Zigzag Wombat, via Terrible Records (available here and on Bandcamp), which is, in a world, amusing. Some may also say bewildering because of the band’s refusal to follow standard pop structures and rock arrangements. This is what makes them stand out from the pack, particularly when they can make the quirky awfully fun and entertaining as they do on “Blood”.
Made for venues like NYC’s Baby’s All Right and D.C.’s 930 Club, the song moves from hip-shaking, Williamsburg chic to wallowing in gloomy despair like Toronto’s Queen Street in the midst of a blizzard. As the song wavers between moods, Riordan, with Ocampo providing backing vocal, recounts a late-night accident. Returning after a night out, she decides to take her puppy out for a walk. The little one, however, was too excited, and Riordan, who was a bit tipsy, stumbled down the stairs and got hurt pretty badly. “Howling through the night / Will I be all right?”, she asks herself. She also tells her puppy that it was her fault for the accident, but rather Riordran’s own lack of maturity.
Despite being bloodied and bruised, the band has a story for everyone to hear. The self-deprecating nature will yield Foyer Red plenty of fans, including us.
Luke Rathborne – “Tell Me Not To Go” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: The Zombies, Timi Temple, Ezra Furman
It’s been some time since we’ve shared anything from Luke Rathborne, who eight years ago gave us one epic interviews. While growing up in a small town in Maine, Rathborne had big dreams of making and producing music, which he’s been doing now for a decade. Boy does time go by quickly. While a little older and wiser, two things have not changed about the now NYC resident – his music still has a retro vibe and he continues to craft great little stories about you, me, and everyone else. His songs, as such, are – or should be – heard by all, and this applies to his latest single.
“Tell Me Not To Leave” belongs in every jukebox. It combines the pop-rock pageantry of The Zombies with modern indie-rock. As such, when it’s heard throughout the bar or restaurant and the patrons hear the jangle-pop goodness and the rocking guitar solo near the end, they will think they’ve heard this song before. Obviously they have not, yet it places everyone in a place of familiarity. The song makes us realize how important music is in our lives, and how it has come to fine much of our lives. Rathborne’s tale, too, is a defining moment for him and Carolina. It concerns the understanding that at one point everyone must leave the nest to chase one’s dreams and find happiness. The story is close to Rathborne’s heart, who, too, is still chasing his own dreams. Then again, aren’t we all?
Rathborne’s new album, Again, is expected early 2022. While waiting, take a gander at the music video for the song on YouTube.
Roller Derby – “Something True” (Hamburg, Germany)
RIYL: Molly Burch, Weyes Blood, Edith Piaf
One of our favorite discoveries of the past year are undoubtedly Roller Derby. This young band, who may be in their early 20s (or even younger), are making nostalgic extremely present, turning the music our grandparents and parents listened to into endearing, modern-day classics. Previous singles – “Flying High”, “Can’t See You”, “Underwater”, and “Whatever Works” – evidenced their immense talents, but they showcase another side to their craft with “Something True“.
Whereas Roller Derby’s past songs took us to America in the ’60s and ’70s, this time they turn back the clocks a couple of decades earlier and to the era of great French chanteuses like Edith Piaf. A blustery warmth emerges from the sun-kissed pop melodies and Philine Meyer’s wonderful voice. As the guitar, rhythms, and strings dance among themselves, she sings about falling in love every night with the same person. Her tale, though, is not simply about the the most powerful emotion but also concerns how we are only as strong as the people with whom we surround ourselves.
“Laisse-moi dire la vérité
J’ai l’air fort et décidé
Mais je suis absolument sans espoir
Quand il s’agit de toi
Let me say something true
I might seem strong and stable
But it’s absolutely painful when you’re gone”
Roller Derby are Philine Meyer (vocals, keys), Manuel Romero Soria (guitar), and Max Nielsen (bass). Maybe their debut LP will arrive next year. In the meantime, enjoy not just their songs but their videos, which are on YouTube, including for this latest number.
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