Music has the power to take us places quickly. The Matinee ’21 v. 154 is escapism at its best, taking us to the skies, into the darkest corners, through concrete jungles and wide-open spaces. Reach even more sonic destinations via the Songs of November 2021 playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud.
No Swoon – “Again” (Los Angeles via Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Beach House, Lush, Sumeau
What is the best way to start a Friday? Is it with as anthemic rocker or something more melancholic? Or maybe an electrifying dance-pop number is in the cards? We’ve opted for none of the above. Instead, we settle into the backseat and let L.A.’s No Swoon decide.
Tasha Abbot (vocals, guitar) and Zack Nestel-Patt (bass, keys) released their self-titled debut two years ago. It was times lush yet dark and Gothic in other moments. In other words, darkgaze at its finest. The duo take their craft to even dreamier and starker environments with “Again”.
The track is like the perfect amalgamation of Beach House, Lush, Cocteau Twins, and Deafheaven. The grimy, guttural guitar reverberates under the taut percussion and glistening synths. Sparkling even more brightly is Abbot’s soft, immersive voice. She is the North Star, guiding us upwards to the place where dreams reside.
While we levitate, Abbot stays grounded. She is stuck in that loop known as routine, unable to escape her self-imposed prison. “I stayed there thinking /Is it the same thing? / I see it / Again, again”, she succinctly and beautifully sings. She is not alone in this feeling, as we all battle the mundane. But songs like “Again” allow us to temporarily break that cycle.
This track is available now on Bandcamp.
Day Wave – “Where Do We Go” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Wild Nothing, DIIV, Washed Out
Jackson Phillips makes music that brightens even the darkest day. The singer-songwriter/producer has been creating sun-kissed indie tunes through his project Day Wave since 2015. What began as DIY bedroom dream-pop now has fuller, more mature pop-rock elements. On his newest single, Phillips tackles the downside of love while still retaining his upbeat sound.
“Where Do You Go” finds the California singer on the verge of a breakup – not exactly an occasion for dancing. But it is human nature to disguise pain, so the cheerful veneer does fit the narrative. You hear exuberance in the jangly hooks even before Phillips begins to sing. The style echoes mid-‘00s indie pop (The Shins, Death Cab For Cutie) and is immediately addicting.
Beneath the sunny instrumentation is a lyrical contrast where he admits “it’s never gonna seem right” to continue with the relationship:
“And if you ever feel down let go
Maybe it’s the things that you still had a hold of
It’s never gonna be right
I know you wanna hold tight”
Karate, Guns & Tanning – “White Nights” (Indianapolis, USA)
RIYL: The Black Angels, Night Beats
Karate, Guns & Tanning have one of the best band names in indie music. This Indiana group also has an equally impressive new single. Hang onto your proverbial hat because “White Nights” delivers three minutes of non-stop sonic density sure to leave you awestruck.
The opening drums and heavily reverbed guitars evoke a storm brewing. Lead singer Valerie Green gives no indication of the storm’s intensity. Your pulse quickens as she sings “It’s midnight / pink twilight / ice biting.” Is she summoning rain or a raging hurricane? Her voice remains bright and strong as the maelstrom brews. Meanwhile bandmates Paige Shedletsky (keys), Joy Caroline Mills (guitar), and Daniel Guajardo (drums) keep unleashing a heady blend of post-punk shoegaze. The instrumentation is stormy yet Green’s vocals offer a softer balance. She is the eye of this hurricane, surrounded by forceful winds capable of destruction. “White Nights” is three minutes of restrained fury. It hints at their capabilities and invites listeners to stay until the storm makes land fall.
“White Nights” is available on Bandcamp along with their debut LP, Concrete Beach, which released in March. It won’t be long until you see Karate, Guns & Tanning on all the major festival lineups.
Why Bonnie – “Galveston” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Ratboys, Big Thief, Pinegrove
Three years ago a new band from Austin made us do double takes. With “Made of Paper”, Why Bonnie announced their arrival as a dream-pop band to watch. Their Nightgown EP (one of our Favorites of 2018) established them as a band to reckon with. Evidently we weren’t the only ones to take notice because the five-piece are now members of the Fat Possum Records family.
The band have actually released one song already (“Voice Box”), so the next step is a long-awaited full-length. While no details about an LP have been announced, we think something big is coming in 2022. For now, Why Bonnie leave us with new single “Galveston”.
A late-summer coolness flows through this breezy slice of dream-pop. This is music made for daydreamin. As a chiming guitar line cuts through the delicate pulses of the bass, front-woman Blair Howerton shares memories of childhood trips to the Texas coastline. Each year presents a different memory, from “Candyland beaches” to “a little fat baby just standing in place” to a love affair (“howled at the moon calling for you”). All these moments are have us recalling our own endless summers.
“Galveston” is available now on Bandcamp.
Why Bonnie are Blair Howerton (vocals), Kendall Powell (keys), Josh Malett (drums), Sam Houdek (guitar), and Chance Williams (bass). Expect to hear more from this great little band in 2022.
Gang of Youths – “Tend the Garden” (North London, England via Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: San Fermin, Júníus Meyvant, Robbie Williams
From their formation in 2011, Gang of Youths quickly emerged as one of Australia’s great bands. They released two widely-acclaimed albums, including the 2017 masterpiece, Go Farther in Lightness. Following the success of that LP the quintet headed to London where they have since signed with Warner Records. For indieheads, joining a major label yields concerns of mainstream conformity or abandoning the artistry that won over fans in the first place. Their new single, “Tend the Garden”, alleviates those fears.
True to form, Gang of Youths have crafted a brilliant kaleidoscope. The song traverses several decades of pop, including ’70s disco-pop, ’90s crooner-pop, and modern art-pop. To create such a bold sound requires a large band, and a small symphony join David Le’aupepe (lead vocals/piano), Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (guitar/keyboards), Joji Malani (lead guitar), and Donnie Borzestowski (drums). While the music is still inventive, the one thing that reassures us that GoY won’t be changing any time soon is Le’aupepe’s songwriting. He tells the story of his father, describing how he left the Cook Islands for New Zealand and fell in love. How he had children and loved the simple things in life, including gardening. Le’aupepe’s lyrics are worth reading in the YouTube video above.
Bellows – “Rancher’s Pride” / “McNally Jackson” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Trace Mountains, Sharpless
When Bellows released The Rose Gardener in 2019, Oliver Kalb was reeling from a chaotic time in his life. The music collective he was part of had disbanded, leaving him in a place where it would have been easy to walk away from his art. But The Rose Gardener was a defiant statement that he would not let those changes stop him. This was evident when he proudly and repeatedly exclaimed, “I will not back down!“, on the album’s penultimate track, “The Tower”.
A few years on, Kalb still is dealing with that loss. However, on “Rancher’s Pride”, Kalb finds beauty and friendship. With a more folk-inspired sound, Kalb captures the expansive spaces outside of the city. His voice is barely more than a whisper at times, but then is joined by gorgeous harmonies from Alenni (Another Michael), creating an immensely personal feeling.
Along with “Rancher’s Pride”, Bellows released another single, “McNally Jackson”, a headfirst dive into pop. A bouncy beat, auto-tune, and rapping vocal delivery make the song an absolute joy. Where “Rancher’s Pride” sang of the open spaces outside the city, Kalb sings of places and nostalgic moments in his home of New York. “McNally Jackson” is named for a bookstore in Manhattan. It captures the temporary nature of love and friendships and tries to find a meaning behind them all:
“In a Soho bathroom, burning out my tears there
Brought me back to high school when we brought six-packs here
You’d text me and we’d skip school
And 1st and Houston our love had grew
Til it just stopped
Til it just breaks”
Night Palace – “Nightshade” (Athens, GA USA)
RIYL: Broadcast, Springtime Carnivore, Vashti Bunyan
With the weekend upon us, it’s only natural to think about things to do with the free time. Some will probably head to the movies to momentarily live vicariously through characters on the big screen. But why go to a theatre when you can get a similar experience with a song? Can a movie make you smile from start to finish? Not really, but a song like “Nightshade” sure can.
Night Palace (formerly Avery Leigh’s Night Palace) is how project mastermind Avery Draut channels ’70s psych-pop to cast a smile-inducing spell. The stuttering percussion, pulsating bass, and chiming guitar are all superbly executed (the bass line is particularly outstanding as well). Draut’s vocals are light, airy, and a touch hazy. Her delivery enhances this already enchanting track. As Draut explains, the song is inspired by a folktale her grandmother shared with her when she was a child. “My grandma first told me the magic that if you plant pennies under hydrangeas that the flowers will change colors. She was full of this type of factlet, and I find myself echoing her magic all the time.”
Indeed, references to hydrangeas, salamander clouds, and coral lipstick smiles are all included in this fantasy. Draut’s debut album, Diving Rings, is due February 11th, 2022, via Park the Van.
Jasmyn – “Find the Light” (Toronto, USA)
RIYL: Weaves, Hana Vu, Brittany Andrews
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but we were wondering what happened to Weaves, who not long ago turned the Canadian indie scene upside-down with their sumptuous art-rock. Their sophomore album, Wide Open, was a bold, anthemic effort that could have been the rallying cry for a revolution. In hindsight, Weaves could have been THE political band the world needed in 2020. Alas, what could have been was not. But a new day brings new opportunity, which is what the band’s front-person Jasmyn Burke exactly has done.
The other day, Burke launched her solo project, the appropriately named Jasmyn. This is really the only notable change, as the same fire, intensity, honesty, and insightfulness remains and are heard on “Find the Light”.
The song is not the anthems of Weaves’ past. Instead the ferocity lies in Burke’s understated delivery and her lyrics. The chugging, synth-driven rock tone provides the perfect canvas for Burke’s tale of feeling dazed, confused, and angry at the state of the world. “I was just a person hiding out underneath the stairs as I filled up with rage”, she tremblingly sings. She finds strength in the moment, singing with more urgency, “Let me get up again / Let me find the light”. By re-emerging from the darkness, she gives us strength and a rallying call to overcome.
Thrillhouse – “It’ll All Be Alright In The End” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Future Islands, Caveman, Anthonie Tonnon
Thrillhouse have always had a bit of a retro flair to them. Each one of their releases would fit in an arthouse movie soundtrack from a few decades ago. And “It’ll All Be Alright In The End” is no different.
On this single the quartet really let the ’80s vibes shine. It’s a shimmery but subdued track with a serious tone that deals with every human’s struggle with failure or making wrong choices. As they normally do, there is a positive message that provides hope even if things aren’t turning out as planned. In addition, a bit of humor is woven throughout the complex themes and ideas, which is, well, very ’80s cinema.
Singer Sam shares: “‘It’ll All Be Alright In The End’ is me looking back at all the rubbish choices I’ve made in the past and then singing about them publicly. Kinda regret that now. In fact, that could be considered my most recent rubbish choice.”
Thrillhouse are Sam, Jackie, Tash and Alistair. “It’ll All Be Alright In The End” is the first track from the group’s upcoming EP, Wedding Disco, which will be released on November 26th.
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