The Matinee ’21 v. 150 features multiple British artists with balance provided by new American, Canadian, and Irish works. As music fans consider their top albums of 2021, some of these artists remind us the year isn’t over while others have us looking ahead to 2022.

These songs are included in the Songs of November 2021 playlist, which can be found on Spotify and SoundCloud

 

Lanterns on the Lake – “Don’t Have Nightmares” (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England)

RIYL: Agnes Obel, Elena Tonra, Alice Boman

While a handful of songs from Lanterns on the Lake have been used in movie soundtracks, the group we’ve dubbed “The Thinking Person’s Band” have never scored the theme song for a series on any medium. It is only a matter of time because the band’s emotive music is made for the big screen, little screen, and the old-fashioned radio programme now called podcasts. It is on the latter where we hear them again after more than a year away.

Asked by BBC Radio to write the theme song for its new paranormal podcast series, Uncanny, the quintet craft “Don’t Have Nightmares”. This song is quintessential Lanterns on the Lake. Through patience and subtlety, band members Hazel Wilde, Paul Gregory, Ol Ketteringham, Bob Allan, and Angela Chan cast a dark and gloomy spell. Humming synths, deft rhythms, the light sear of Chan’s viola, and a piano surround Wilde’s delicate vocals. Her soft delivery increases the intensity, resembling a person who can only whisper a few words after a close encounter. “I know what I saw”, she repeats, attempting to convince others and herself what she experienced. There is no need to convince us, however, of Lanterns on the Lake’s greatness.

The single is out on Bella Union. It follows the band’s 2020 masterpiece, Spook the Herd, which was one of last year’s very best albums.

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Spiritualized – “Always Together With You” (London, England)

RIYL: Spacemen 3, David Bowie, Air

Three years have passed since J. Spaceman – a.k.a. Spiritualized – released his incredible And Nothing Hurt, which was one of our Favorite Albums of 2018. The LP was a microcosm of Spaceman’s art, as he has always had a way of turning a cosmic escapade into a personal experience. Few artists share his talents. Then again, Spaceman is no ordinary individual. He might be, like the late David Bowie, from another planet entirely. If so, he takes us on a journey through the cosmos on his “new single”, “Always Together With You”.

Fans of Spiritualized will recognize this song as it was originally shared though not formally released in 2014. At the time, “Always Together With You” was a stripped-back, intimate number made for humans with their feet firmly planted on the ground. On this rendition the song gets a massive makeover. Starting like a gentle flight through space, strings, synths, guitars, and percussion are gradually added, leading to sparkling moments and a wonderfully spiraling climax. Spaceman’s tale, however, is one centered on the strongest emotion. His words are like Major Tom’s love letter to his wife who lives in the world below his feet:

“If you want a satellite
I would be a satellite for you
If you want a universe
I would be a universe for you
Always together with you”

Spiritualized’s new album, Everything Was Beautiful, is due February 25, 2022, via PIAS Recordings and Fat Possum. Pre-orders are available here.

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Black Country, New Road – “Bread Song” (London, England)

RIYL: film scores, Jeff Buckley, Damien Rice

Next year someone in Hollywood will be tasked with choosing music for the next Oscar-nominated film. If the score is for a tense drama, the ideal song comes from Black Country, New Road. The London band’s latest delivers moody atmospheric tones fit for a big screen experience. 

BC,NR – comprised of Lewis Evans, May Kershaw, Charlie Wayne, Luke Mark, Isaac Wood, Tyler Hyde and Georgia Ellery – have already made a splash this year with the February release of their debut, For the first time. This critically acclaimed album garnered praise from critics and created instant fans drawn to their genre-melding sound. The hybrid fusion of art pop with indie folk and rock with classical elements is irresistible. But now their focus is on Ants From Up There, the follow-up release due in early 2022. Every note of “Bread Song” mesmerizes with an often haunting vibe. Its moody tones match the lyrical yearning yet leave listeners wondering how the scene will end. This kind of anticipation only heightens the anticipation for what comes next, both with the song and its talented creators:

“So show me the land you acquire
And slip into something beside
The holes you tried to hide
And lay out your rules for the night
Don’t eat your toast in my bed”

Place your bets now: we predict that this time next year, music critics around the globe will have Ants From Up There on their Best Albums of 2022 list. Get ready by pre-ordering it from these links ahead of its February 4th release on Ninja Tune.

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Curtis Harding – “Explore” (Atlanta, USA)

RIYL: Curtis Mayfield, Lee Fields & The Expressions, Durand Jones & The Indications

In a few days Curtis Harding will release his newest album, If Words Were Flowers, which is shaping up to be a stellar LP. At least that’s the indication given from “I Won’t Let You Down”, “Hopeful”, and the upbeat love letter “Can’t Hide It”. Each song brings retro-soul and classic R&B to the 21st century, where silky grooves harmoniously mesh with desperation and urgency. It’s as if Harding is advising us to live in the moment because tomorrow is not promised. To take a chance and “Explore” what is possible, as he shares on his latest single.

“I’ve heard it all before / There’s nothing left to do, but see / I’m down to explore / So let’s walk through a fantasy”, Harding sings to an unknown person in the song’s opening refrain. As ’70s neo-jazz tones sweep through the sultry soul of that decade, the Atlanta-based singer-songwriter leads us further into a solitary place where there is “just enough room for two”. This is a moment to create “magic” one last time, taking a chance and being vulnerable to that one person we’ve adored for so long.

If Words Were Flowers arrives November 5th via Anti Records. Pre-orders are available from these links or Bandcamp.

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The Dip – “Paddle to the Stars” (Seattle, USA)

RIYL: The True Loves, Durand Jones & The Indications, Junius Meyvant

An old adage says it takes five years to become an overnight sensation. If so, then Seattle-based R&B/soul outfit The Dip should be global superstars any day now. One spin of their tune “Paddle to the Stars” serves as more than an introduction; it reels you in and hooks you in seconds flat. So why haven’t you heard of these guys before? Geography might be part of it.

This seven-piece group has been working the Seattle music scene for several years. Their self-titled 2015 debut LP helped establish their fan base in the Pacific Northwest. After years of touring and recording, they now stand poised to conquer the world after signing with Dualtone Records.

The feel-good grooves on “Paddle to the Stars” are impossible to deny. Frontman Tom Eddy woos listeners with heartfelt lyrics while the rest of the band creates red-hot soul riffs. How can you suppress a smile while hearing these lines? 

When you get swept away
I wanna swim to your rescue
I’ll paddle out to the stars for you
I’ma drown myself in your love

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along with backing vocalists Vanessa Bryan, Dasha Chadwick, and Nic Jackson. Their voices provide the icing to an already perfectly groovy tune.

This song is out now via Dualtone from these links and directly from Bandcamp. The band’s 2022 North American tour kicks off February 26th in Arizona with details on their website.

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Sinead O’Brien – “GIRLKIND” (Limerick, Ireland)

RIYL: a young P.J. Harvey, The Fall, Dry Cleaning

A year ago, a young Irish singer-songwriter and poet turned heads with her sing-speak style and profound lyrics. Specifically, Sinead O’Brien has emerged as an under-the-radar favorite of BBC Radio, Stereogum, NME, Paste, and many others, although we’re late joining her bandwagon. Now that we’re on it, however, we have no plans to leave. On the contrary, we have our places firmly cemented thanks to her art and songs like “GIRLKIND”.

The song is simply brilliant and one of the year’s very best. A mix of art-punk and alt-rock throb in the background, headlined by a stellar rhythm section and a grimy guitar. The sonic rumbling induces not merely bopping but involuntary head thrusts if not full-on head-banging. The star, however, is O’Brien. Reminiscent of a young PJ Harvey, the Limerick native unleashes an endless barrage of lyrical gems. From a fawn ensnared in a trap to King Arthur references, she describes how humanity still has not been able to define what it is to be human let alone understand and appreciate “GIRLKIND”. Her songwriting is gripping, intelligent, and imaginative, yet her messages are extremely pertinent:

“Eternity be
Of an evening overseen
On a moment in between or underwhelming
I have misunderstood
The ever-lasting experience
Of Girlkind and Humanhood
You have seen nothing yet”

The single is out on Chess Club Records. O’Brien is destined to be a star. 

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Mumble Tide – “Noodle” (Bristol, England)

RIYL: Middle Kids, Dehd, Wy

Our introduction to Mumble Tide occurred in August when Gina Leonard and Ryan Roger shook us with the sadcore brilliance of “Good 4 Me”. While many bands in this genre often opt for delicate, breezy melodies, the duo refuse to follow the same playbook. They instead choose to show that sadcore can retain its emotive traits through a more anthemic approach. What’s the point of raging if one cannot roar? This is what Mumble Tide do on “Noodle”.

This might be the most stunning rocker you will hear this year. The change in approach is noticed immediately with the quickening rhythms and guitars heightening the urgency. This is neither dark nor foreboding, but rather one that causes the adrenaline to flow and triggers a fight-or-flight impulse. Leonard’s voice conveys desperation as she sings about the ongoing anxiety that rains in our minds and the tension that constricts our necks (“Noodle” is a reference to Leonard’s neck). Even in true love, we still seek to “sabotage” things because surely such good fortunate cannot be bestowed on people like us? Then again maybe it can because we have been graced by the magic of Mumble Tide.

Leonard and Roger’s debut EP, Everything Ugly, arrives December 3rd via Nothing Fancy Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.

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Land of Talk – “Calming Night Partner” (Toronto, Canada)

RIYL: Flock of Dimes, Bess Atwell, Ada Lea

Among the great songwriters of this generation, Elizabeth Powell is among the very best. Through her project Land of Talk, she weaves grand yet beautifully intimate tapestries with great depth in every note and tone. To truly appreciate her art, you must listen intently with no distractions. Those willing to invest the time in her work, like the superb Indistinct Conversations or the single “Moment Feed”, are rewarded with an experience akin to seeing the Mona Lisa or Monet’s water lilies for the first time. If you have yet to explore Powell’s musical art, then begin with “Calming Night Partner”.

Like the song title suggests, the song is a beautiful escape into the evening, where the last rays of the setting sun pierce the growing darkness one last time. A striking coolness emerges, sending a chill down our backs. This is provided by the serene yet mournful melody and Powell’s stunning but vulnerable voice. A tension further grips her songwriting, which describes what appears to be an existential relationship. But like all great art, the meaning is hidden beyond what we can see and hear:

“Was it a calming night partner?
Did you dance ‘til the dawn lights the night?
Was it a knife fight?
Was it a lifetime?
Did she pull you in, wear you down
Sacrificial?
And tear you right down the middle
And in God’s view
Does she ever call you?”

Land of Talk’s new EP, Calming Night Partner, arrives November 12th via Dine Alone Records (CAN) and Saddle Creek (USA/elsewhere). Pre-orders are available here and at Bandcamp.

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Media Giant – “Afraid of the Dark” (London, England)

RIYL: David Bowie, Talking Heads, Elton John

Imagine a band that channels bits of David Bowie, Talking Heads, and Parquet Courts. Picture yourself surrendering to those highly danceable grooves, lost in the past-meets-present rhythms. Now imagine that sonic daydream actually being a reality. You can stop dreaming now, because emerging British trio Media Giant are ready to delight you. Their debut single is exactly the kind of musical treat you need.

“Afraid of the Dark” blends vintage glam rock and modern funk, punk, and pop with plenty of instantly gratifying hooks. You couldn’t create a more palatable, radio-friendly result if you hired a team of Grammy- and Mercury Prize-winning producers. While the identities of Media Giant remain deliberately undisclosed, it is possible this is exactly what has happened. The group offer little clues aside from a statement about the five-minute tune:

“At Media Giant, we care about you – that’s why we’ve used extensive market research and scientific analysis to determine what makes a hit. ‘Afraid of the Dark’ is our initial offering, and our studies suggest you will enjoy its driving, danceable rhythm and relatable lyrical content.”

Predictions confirmed. 

Stay tuned for more from this promising outfit. Move over, SAULT: there’s another elusive group serving up danceable beats.

This track is out now from these links and Bandcamp via Brace Yourself Records.

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