The Matinee ’21 v. 157 features adrenaline rushes and emotional catharsis from some newcomers, familiar voices, and one very big surprise “collaboration”. More new music awaits you in the Songs of November 2021 playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud.
Gordi – “Grass is Blue” (Sydney via Canowindra, Australia)
RIYL: Sarah McLachlan, Chantal Kreviazuk, Dolly Parton
If you’re wondering why we have not heard much new music from Sophie Payten and her project Gordi this year (other than her awesome collaboration with fellow Australian Alex Lahey on “Dino’s”), the reason is simple: she has spent the last 20 months working in emergency rooms and caring for patients with COVID. Not only is she a superstar on stage, she’s also one off it. As such, to hear anything from Dr. Payten is a gift, including when she shares a cover. From her embracing voice to her folktronica approach that has won over Justin Vernon and S. Carey, one automatically knows whatever she touches will be golden, which is the case with “Grass is Blue”.
Originally written and performed by the incomparable Dolly Parton in 1999, Dr. Payten turns this beautiful number into a wistful stunner. She does this by simplifying her approach. The synths and effects occasionally make a presence, but this tune is mostly Gordi at the piano. It is reminiscent of the engrossing intimacy that Sarah McLachlan once perform, where even the slight pauses are breathtaking. Then again, this is Sophie Payten, who revitalizes listeners whether as a doctor or one of Down Under’s most gifted artists.
Gentle Sinners – “Killing This Time” (Scotland)
RIYL: The Twilight Sad, Arab Strap, Matthew Dear
A new name appeared on the roster of Scottish label Rock Action Records yesterday: Gentle Sinners, an unexpected side project for James Graham of The Twilight Sad. While the debut single “Killing This Time” is newsworthy – the electronic art-pop is a stark departure from Graham’s usual style – fans are equally puzzled by the project’s unnamed collaborator. No clues are offered aside from “someone else.” That element of intrigue keeps with the song’s theme.
“Am I telling you everything? No, I’m not,” Graham sings over a pulsing bass riff. His signature vocals are the focus of the first half but are soon obscured by the swell of sleek strings and percussion. Listeners are led on an uptempo sonic chase as the melody darts in erratic directions. The production keeps you spellbound in anticipation of what lies ahead. Orchestrated strings heighten the tension, giving the song its Bond soundtrack vibes. Even the lyrics suggest how fitting this tune would complement a 007 plot:
“I was friends with leeches and snakes
We did things you would not believe
Take everything you cared about
We’ve got to learn to live without
You don’t even care who you’re killing this time”
Kindsight – “Don’t You Grow Up” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: The Cardigans, Sixpence None the Richer, Alvvays
Our love of the Scandinavian pop scene is well known because few countries produce bands that can turn the dreamy into an exhilarating experience. Originally led by Swedish groups like ABBA, new groups emerging from Norway, Finland, and Denmark have shown great promise, including Kindsight. A year ago, the Copenhagen-based quintet earned buzz with the release of their debut, “Who Are You”. Two more singles followed that led to greater notoriety, but their fourth single could be the one that leads to their breakthrough.
Sounding like a track taken from a great nineties’ coming-of-age film, “Don’t You Grow Up” is breezy yet blistering pop-rock. It sounds like a blend of Sixpence None the Richer and The Martinis, whose song, “Free”, was one of the stellar tunes on the Empire Records soundtrack. Front-woman Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen, meanwhile, delivers a tale straight out of the movies. With her enticing vocals, which have an air of Leigh Nash and Alvvays’ Molly Rankin, she sings about holding onto youthful innocence. Her story is one that many of us still dream about, longing to be free again.
Kindsight’s debut album is expected early 2022 via Rama Lama Records. The band consists of Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen (vocals), Søren Svensson (guitar), Anders Prip (bass), and Johannes Jacobsen (drums).
Keg – “Farmhands” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Talking Heads, Geese, White Lung
This year has been sensational for art-punk with numerous young bands making massive statements. One such outfit that turned heads and literally blew our minds are Keg. Last month, they released a fantastic EP in Assembly, which was fun, off-kilter, and intelligent. For instance, the whimsical “Presidential Walk” was inspired by French president François Mitterrand’s daily long walks to clear his head. Another of the mini-album’s great tunes that is worth mentioning a month later is “Farmhands”.
Get ready to do your best David Byrne dance impressions because “Farmhands” is a groovy, wacky number. It’s like the Talking Heads dialed up tenfold, leaving us in a state of manic catharsis. This is due to the jerky pulses of the guitars and keys at the start, the unsuspecting bellows of a trumpet, the stuttering percussion that drive the entire track, and frontman Albert Haddenham’s delirious vocals. And it’s all awesome. Equally entertaining are Haddenham’s lyrics. This time around he’s inspired by the band’s hometown. Specifically, as the band mention, “Farmhands” is “a lovestory to St James Street [in Brighton] and its many erratic personalities and the eternal clash of oat flat whites and heroin poos“.
The EP is out now on BMG.
Keg are: Albert Haddenham (vocals), Joel Whitaker (bass) & Will Wiffen (synth), Frank Lindsay (guitar), Jules Gibbons (guitar), Charlie Keen (trombone, shell) and Johnny Pyke (drums).
LIFE – “Friends Without Names” (Hull, England)
RIYL: Iceage, Eagulls, Interpol
Although 2020 and 2021 have been outstanding years for post-punk, five years ago a young band from Hull was leading the charge in the UK. Since then (and thanks largely to a highly-acclaimed sophomore album, A Picture of Good Health), LIFE have helped redefine the genre. They showed that post-punk can be multi-dimensional, equally grueling and stark yet cinematic and enlightening. In the process, they’ve demonstrated their talents for capturing the mood of the times, and “Friends Without Names” is proof of this.
This brooding, slow-building epic is simply brilliant. A goosebump-inducing, shallow bass line throbs behind a spine-tingling, chiming guitar. Then the fluttering drums kick in, creating an atmosphere that is equal parts hypnotic and bleak. When frontman Mez Green’s sinister vocals arrive, the track takes on a more haunting and grueling tone. But we cannot turn away. We instead get sucked in further by Mez’s lyrics about needless deaths during the pandemic. As he repeats the title, the song builds into an intense yet mournful wall of desperation.
This is a song of the year candidate. It is out on The Liquid Label.
LIFE: are Mez Green (vocals), Lydia Palmeira (bass, vocals), Mick Sanders (guitar), and Stewart Baxter (drums).
Public Body – “Hard to Concentrate” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: OMNI, Parquet Courts, Ought
Continuing the post-punk trend and demonstrating how fluid and intelligent the genre can be, we turn to a band that thrilled us with “Naughty on My Bike” and then made us lose our marbles while practising our best “Table Manners”. Despite the playfulness of the song titles, the tracks were insightful commentary on England’s social and political situation. As such, they showcased how Public Body are more than just artists: they are also vital documentarians of the present. The quintet reveal their skills on their newest single, “Hard to Concentrate”.
Angular guitars, off-kilter rhythms, and tempo shifts turn post-punk into a gyrating and even groovy experience. The song is a little bombastic and immensely fun. After a few spins you might be hollering with the band during the chorus: “I find it hard to concentrate / When I leave my / What do you mean a certain cash back?” You might also feel like frontman Seb Gilmore. Sounding like a more mature Napolean Dynamite, he recounts his days in a tedious, 9-to-5 job where he fought through boredom and sleep deprivation. This is a battle many of us know all too well.
The band’s new EP, Flavour Of Labour, arrives in March with pre-orders on Bandcamp.
Public Body are: Seb Gilmore (vocals), Theo Verney (guitar), Joe Stevens (bass), Tom Bacon (guitar), and Thom Mills (drums).
Deserta – “Goodbye Vista” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, Deafheaven
“Let’s get back to what’s lost to time” is a line from the opening song on Deserta‘s debut album from early 2020. Project frontman Matthew Doty couldn’t have known how meaningful those words would be. The Los Angeles-based artist soon joined the rest of the world experiencing the epic time suck of the pandemic. But from that era comes a follow-up LP, Every Moment, Everything You Need, and its stunning lead single.
“Goodbye Vista” delivers catharsis through sweeping shoegaze tones. The song’s full-throttle intro places listeners on a precipice, ready to soar into the densely layered instrumentation below. Doty’s vocals seem to come from afar and support the urgency in the “How do I reach you / I just want to reach you” refrain. The song may not explain that urgency, but his backstory does.
Outside of music Doty is a frontline healthcare worker. The demands of that job plus parenting a young child left little time for writing and recording. What we hear in “Goodbye Vista” is an artist living out his own words, trying to get back time for this project. Making this album gave him more than a creative outlet: it provided a place of escape from life’s harsh realities. The driving energy of the verses and chorus is a testament to Doty’s talents. This song is a post-rock epic that invigorates and inspires in equal measure.
Kate Bollinger – “Yards/Gardens” (Richmond, VA USA)
RIYL: Faye Webster, Maya Hawke, Fenne Lily
In 2019, Kate Bollinger released a fantastic EP, I Don’t Wanna Lose, and followed it up in 2020 with A Word Becomes a Sound. On those EPs, her voice and style felt like a genuine throwback to an era that doesn’t get enough love compared to the ’80s and ’90s pop revival of recent years. Deeply rooted in ’70s pop and jazz, Bollinger’s music sounds like it belongs in smoky lounges. She credits jazz musicians with helping to bring her music to life. The combination of Jimmy Trussell (bass), Chris Lewis (lead guitar), John Trainum (keys), and Jacob Grissom (drums) provide a perfect backdrop for Bollinger’s vocals.
On her latest single, “Yards/Gardens”, Bollinger’s pop stylings are on full display. This is a simple pop song on the surface but with plenty of layers to dig into. Her voice is warm and inviting, occasionally accompanied by harmonies and underscored by a tasty guitar hook. Lyrically, she attempts to resist the inevitability of change, trying to grasp onto the last bastions of familiarity while the world falls apart around her:
“Please don’t leave me behind
When the world is burning outside
I wanna keep you pinned to my side
I don’t know what I’ll do otherwise”
LUCKY LO – “Mary Mind” (Copenhagen, Denmark via Umeå, Sweden)
RIYL: Cate Le Bon, Aldous Harding, Hand Habits
With only a handful of songs, Lucky Lo already have a diverse range of sounds to their credit. From the super funky bassline of “Supercarry” to the guitar-chime laden “Heart Rhythm Synchronize” to the gorgeous “Sunrise/Sunset”, all released this year, Lucky Lo take listeners on journeys with their songs. The namesake and creative force behind the project, Lo Ersare, draws influence from her experiences living around the world.
On their latest single, “Mary Mind” Lucky Lo once again chart new musical territory. Ersare’s voice is the showcase for much of the track, effortlessly switching from deep moments into gorgeous lush harmonies, with Ersare throwing a vocal knockout punch in the bridge. Lush synths give the song a nostalgic vibe. Lyrically, “Mary Mind” uses biblical imagery of Adam and Eve to connect to the irreversible damage that is happening to our planet. Between climate change and how divisive everything seems to have become, it all leads to a question being asked, “It’s getting warmer, are people getting colder?”
Lucky Lo includes: Lo Ersare (vocals, keys, banjo), Asger Nordtorp Pedersen (bass), Mads Nørgaard (guitars), Anja Backmann (backing vocals), and Casper Henning Hansen (drums).
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