Recover from the sugar overload of Halloween weekend with some bubbly fare, raucous anthems, and embracing classics, which are all featured on The Matinee ’21 v. 149. These tunes also kick off the start of our Songs of November 2021 playlist, which can be found on Spotify and SoundCloud. Give them a follow to hear what we’re spinning this month.
Hurray For the Riff Raff – “Rhododendron” (New Orleans via Bronx, USA)
RIYL: Gillian Welch, Nanci Griffith, Erika Wennerstrom
By the time Alynda Lee Segarra releases her new Hurray For The Riff Raff album in 2022, nearly five years would have passed since The Navigator was released. That LP was powerful, emotional, and real, making it one of our Favorite Albums of 2017. The Navigator was a concept album with a story rooted in Segarra’s own experiences. The creativity and storytelling solidified Segarra as one of this generation’s finest songwriters.
On the latest Hurray For The Riff Raff single, “Rhododendron”, Segarra sings of the importance of finding connection with nature. In her words, the song is about “finding rebellion in plant life”. In a world where things seem to be less connected with nature, a simple act of embracing our surroundings truly can be rebellious. The song’s centerpiece is Segarra’s mistakeable and powerful voice, which is joined with acoustic guitar and some drums. The combination creates a feeling that nails those long days out in the sun. While it’s different than the gritty cityscapes of The Navigator, Segarra proves that there is still rebellion to be found in everything.
Mall Girl – “Bubbly Cool Drink” (Oslo, Norway)
RIYL: Broken Social Scene, Kluster B, A Sunny Day in Glasgow
We may have found our new music obsession from Scandinavia, and unsurprisingly they hail from the country that introduced us to Jenny Hval, Highasakite, Team Me, Röyksopp, among others. Also unsurprisingly, they don’t sound like a band one hears on mainstream radio. Instead, Mall Girl‘s music fits the mould of those songs played on Triple-J, KEXP, NPR, and BBC Radio 1, so expect to soon hear “Bubbly Cool Drink” on these media.
Just as the title indicates, the song is a cool and reinvigorating art-pop number that never stays stagnant. It shifts from calm, breezy moments, descends to a recess of quietness, and then escalates to a riveting climax where the song opens up. As the angular guitar chimes in the background, the reverb kicks in on the rhythm guitar, and the rhythms pulse, front-person Bethany Forseth-Reichberg sweetly describes how she wishes to fast-forward time so she can find resolution and peace.
“Makes me want to live my life on a sunny beach all day and night
And watch myself grow old
Makes me want to settle down, find a real good life for nights and days
While I drink my bubbly cool drink”
Mall Girl are: Iver Armand Tandsether, Hannah Veslemøy Narvesen, Eskild Myrvoll and Bethany Forseth-Reichberg. The band’s debut album, Superstar, will be released April 29th, 2022 via Jansen Records. Pre-orders are available here and on Bandcamp. Soon Mall Girl will be everyone’s obsession.
Oddkin – “Yada Yada” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Sons of an Illustrious Father, Arcade Fire (‘Neon Bible’-era), The Cure
Why would a successful band change their name as they enters what should be their peak years? Why would a band that has helped change conceptions about the relationship between music, gender, and sexuality as well as raise awareness on other critical social and political issues re-brand itself? The answer lies beyond economics, marketing, or even the creative process; it can be found in the very foundation of the group’s existence.
For more than a decade, Lilah Larson and Ezra Miller created music as Sons of an Illustrious Father. But in an era where the resistance against social change has intensified, they wanted their project to represent their community. More importantly, as they explain, they wanted a name “best suited for the band’s community of collaborators and fans, an evolving, queer-centric space open for any-and-everyone.” Thus, the duo have evolved to become Oddkin, which comes from Donna Haraway’s term “for relationships other than biogenetic/anthropocentric/patriarchal.” While Larson and Miller’s moniker has changed, their purpose has not. If anything, they are more confident and willing to lead from the front, as they demonstrate on their newest single.
“Yada Yada” is an intense tour-de-force. An urgency fills every nook and cranny of the track, including the opening, calmer moments right up to the song’s electrifying climax. Elements of ’80s synth-pop, art-rock, post-punk, and Goth-rock collide, giving the song both a darkness and an illuminating quality. It’s like a thunderstorm where the lightning brightens the black skies while the thunder adds the jarring aftereffect. Through the gradually tumultuous affair, Miller and Larsen sing about an oncoming revolution. An awakening that is making its way over the horizon:
“Trying to show us
Something that we weren’t trying to see
We say we want to know the truth
But they don’t think we’re ready for it”
We, however, are ready for Oddkin, whose eponymous EP will be released November 19th. Pre-orders and pre-saves are available at these links. In the meantime, watch the dream-like video for “Yada Yada” here
Chris Liebing – “Circles” (feat. Tom Adams) (Frankfurt, Germany)
RIYL: Maribou State, Underworld, Prodigy, Phoria
We normally don’t delve into the electronic sphere unless the number enlightens our mind, steals away our souls, and causes us to move in unexpected ways. Few bands have been able to do this to us, namely Maribou State, Phoria, and Mt. Wolf, as they combine cinema to their enrapturing darktronica. Maybe we should be paying more attention to the music coming from this genre because then we would have known about Chris Liebing, who is only a star DJ in Europe. We also would have shared his latest single much sooner because it came out nearly three weeks ago. Better late than never, right? With that, prepare to lose yourself within “Circles”.
Written in collaboration with singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Tom Adams, the duo have crafted an out-of-body experience. Harrowing synths, stuttering beats, and Adams’ haunting timbre send us down the rabbit hole and back to 1989 Berlin. This was a time when krautrock, synth-pop, and Gothic came beautifully together to reflect the glimmering hope of a people that resided on both sides of the Wall. Darkness still covered the landscape, but a belief that something monumental was about to happen percolated beneath the surface.
As the song builds, we get lost in its own immersive and mesmerizing arrangement, believing that something great is about to happen today. Or at least for six minutes, such an event happens inside us, where “Sometimes I’m rising / Sometimes I’m falling / Within the night when we are dancing / I feel all right / Feel alive”. If a song can make you feel Adams’ words, then it truly has given you, us, something monumental.
SLANT – “Eat The Moon” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: The Regrettes, Bad Waitress, Kevin Morby
If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably encountered endless posts where a radio station or some nondescript site asks the question, “Name your favorite band and see if they respond”. Most people tag a superstar hoping they’ll reply, but of course they don’t (their management runs their FB accounts). Up-and-coming bands, however, have been shouting back the shout-outs, and we’re pretty sure SLANT would be reciprocating the love.
This young outfit has a couple of songs to its credit, and they are fun and smart. If people listened to their ’50s / ’60s-inspired pop-rock, they would likely be proclaiming SLANT as their favorite band. Maybe the fandom reaches a feverish pitch with their third single, “Eat The Moon”.
This tune may sound like it belongs on an episode of the Happy Days but it is very 2021. Sure the frenetic jitterbug vibes recall the days of puffy dresses and leather jackets, but the song also features a heavy dose of ’90s angst. So while we jump around and furiously dance to the groovy guitars and rhythms, Frankie Stanley’s voice bellows like a young Glen Stefani during her No Doubt days. Forget a love-stricken song. This band has bigger fish to fry, namely the onslaught of trolls and gastlighters that exist all around us. “I think they’re all machines!”, she hollers, and she might be right. Yet, they’re also guys who hide behind an alias to bully others. “I wish they would get out sometime / I’m telling you boy I’m tired of listening to them whine”, she later states.
Like we said, pretty soon, this band will be everyone’s favorite, especially if they continue to pair catchy melodies with insightful lyrics.
SLANT are Katy Smith, Frankie Stanley, Aurora Bennett, James Virtue, and Jamie Broughton.
Bluephox – “Touched by Neon” (Los Angeles, USA via Stockholm, Sweden)
RIYL: Berlin, Kim Wilde, Belinda Carlisle
A year ago and under the moniker Bluephox, Philippa Magnussen released one of 2020’s great songs in “Paul’s Boutique”. It was ’80s synth-pop re-imagined into a dreamy yet vibrant number. The Swedish expat, however, is not finished turning retro music into contemporary classics. On the contrary, she’s only getting started, becoming the 2020s’ answer to Stevie Nicks, Belinda Carlisle, Kim Wilde, and Berlin as she reveals on “Touched by Neon”.
Soft synths, a lithe bass line, and the echoes of the dissonant guitar and the low electric drums are familiarly nostalgic for those who grew up in the days of denim jackets, acid-washed jeans, and neon colors. For those who are too young to know this feeling, find a copy of Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Top Gun, or better yet Dirty Dancing and listen to how the music represents the characters and their interactions with each other and the moment. Likewise, “Touched by Neon” possesses these same traits. It connects us with our situations, making it the soundtrack for our lives today. Her story of overcoming heartbreak and finding optimism in one’s new circumstances is as familiar as the classic guitar lines and the rumbling percussion that reverberate during the chorus.
The single is out on Bolero Recordings. Here’s hoping an album or EP is coming.
Lauran Hibberd – “Charlie’s Car” (Isle of Wight, England)
RIYL: Caroline Rose, Coach Party, Weezer
There is always the fear that when an artist signs with a major label their ingenuity and creative autonomy would be completely lost. We should not fret such things with Lauran Hibberd, who might be a millennial but creates smart and catchy pop music. It’s pretty obvious her goal is to not just be another pop star but one celebrated for her creativity, which she displayed in spades on “Boy Bye”, “Call Shotgun”, and, more recently, “Bleugh”. Those songs helped land her a deal with Virgin Music, and to prove that she still has creative license over her music she unveils “Charlie’s Car”.
This rollicking, anthemic pop-rocker is, well, immensely fun and intelligent. A jerky, Weezer-like bop opens the track, through which Hibberd immediately introduces us to a young man Charlie. Her companion has some significant anger management issues with Hibberd recalling him grabbing the baseball bat when he loses, getting jacked up in the hallway, tearing the radiator off the wall, and how “he’s smoking from his head”.
As the song builds and reaches its hip-shaking, raucous peak, Hibberd admits that she likes it that “he’s kind of messed up”. That despite how hard he tries to look perfect, he is imperfection personified. Charlie is a reminder of the people and behaviors for her to avoid – or at least to minimize as she works her ways towards stardom.
Hibberd’s debut album is expected some time in 2022.
Smokey Brights – “Unity” & “Honey Eye” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: The Joy Formidable, Dear Rouge, The Dig
Seattle may be home to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains, and Fleet Foxes, but another band also deserves its day under the spotlight. They are Smokey Brights, who for the better part of a decade have added a shine to the Emerald City’s music scene. From rock ‘n roll to psych-rock to immersive pop-rock, they’ve helped make Seattle more than just an alternative city. While their sound is different, Smokey Brights share one quality with the aforementioned bands – they remind us how music can bring people of different walks of life together. This past Friday, they shared not one but two songs aimed at uniting rather than dividing.
The melodic and slow-building “Unity” sees Kim West assume lead vocals and deliver an empowering message. As light synths pop and a spell is gradually caste, she tells us that “U-N-I-T-Y / Is how we’ll survive / Is how we’ll stay alive”. The words are simple but extremely accurate.
On “Honey Eye”, West’s husband, Ryan Devlin, takes the mic. The pace quickens, and the urgency similarly picks up on this artsy-rocker. Its approach is reminiscent of The Dig’s widescreen tendencies with the song shifting in unexpected directions, which in turn heightens the drama. But whereas “Unity” addresses the collective, “Honey Eye” focuses on two individuals’ shared journey through this dystopian world. “Honey, I want to rock this world before it splits in two”, Devlin reveals as the sun gets dimmer. For him, he’s going to spend the end of days with the one person he loves the most. Through her, he will find strength and maybe live another day.
Smokey Brights are Ryan Devlin, Kim West, Nick Krivchenia, and Luke Logan. The songs are out now on Freakout Records.
Benee – “Doesn’t Matter” (Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Arlo Parks, Lauryn Hill, Tasha
In New Zealand, Stella Rose Bennett is a massive star. Under the pseudonym Benee, her popularity is nearly on par with another famous young woman (we’re of course speaking about Lorde). Most of her songs to date have been of the electrifying pop and alt-R&B that gravitates to younger people, but she won older music fans over when she teamed up with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) earlier in the year. The collaboration reinvented her pop tunes into extravagant and often cinematic and theatrical affairs.
As she was about to embark on a national tour with the NZSO, she postponed it due to “personal circumstances”. While she never fully revealed the reasons, her newest single gives a hint at what she was affecting. “Doesn’t Matter” is Benee’s letter to herself and anyone willing to read her words. Through a warm and stunning arrangement reminiscent of Arlo Parks’ cool and serene R&B-pop fusion, Bennett softly shares with everyone her mental health. In the opening refrains, she sings:
“Maybe I’m consumed by my mental
Does it hurt me
Maybe, oh well
If I medicate would it help me
Cause I’m hurting
I feel unwell”
She saves her more devastating lyrics later in the song, revealing that “Have to check that the oven is off / This happens every night sometimes u tell me off”. Hopefully the 21-year old’s revelation will help others call a timeout and seek help when they need it. Phone numbers and websites to mental health support organizations from around the globe can be found here.
The single is out on Olive Records.
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