The Matinee ’21 v. 163 is a nine-song playlist full of international flavors. Featuring artists with roots from the Caribbean to Scandinavia and beyond, this is music for your every weekend mood.
Leyla McCalla – “Fort Dimanche” (New Orleans, USA via Haiti)
RIYL: Rhiannon Giddens, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Allison Russell
Haitian-born artist Leyla McCalla made a strong impression with critics on her 2013 debut album of songs in tribute to Langston Hughes. The Haitian-American multi-instrumentalist (and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) recently signed to Anti-, which gives her a chance to make a second first impression. Her powerful new single does just that.
On “Fort Dimanche” McCalla sings in Kreyol about the Haitian political prison known for unspeakable brutality. A simple banjo intro is followed by excerpts from Radio Haiti where survivors described the living conditions there. McCalla offers more than a three-minute history lesson. The instrumentation, dialect, and survivor voices transport listeners to the Fort. Her warm vocals make history come alive as she sings about “M pale nan pedi san chapo” (the land with no hats). This reference – of prisoners fearing execution – is both chilling and inspiring.
McCalla joins other female artists like Rhiannon Giddens, Adia Victoria, and Allison Russell who use their talents to shine a light on dark chapters. Through song these artists sing for those who cannot. It is enlightening, empowering, and essential. McCalla dedicates this song “to all those that lost their lives at Fort Dimanche, and to those that survived the unbearable conditions and abuse. May we find the courage to look into our darkness in order to be able to see the light.”
Cloakroom – “A Force at Play” (northwest Indiana, USA)
RIYL: The Radio Dept., The Jesus and Mary Chain, Galaxie 500
Following the grunge explosion in the early ’90s, a wave of bands emerged to create that decade’s other defining sound: dream-rock. That genre was marked by lush pop-rock songs that represented the joys, sorrows, and pains of the twenty- and thirty-somethings. Fortunately a new generation of artists have rekindled the spirit of that era. Bands like Cloakroom create songs for a younger age group that also appeal to older fans who reminisce about discovering great indie bands on college radio. Their newest single, “A Force at Play”, captures the escapism of the music played 25 years ago.
Celebrating a decade as a band, Doyle Martin, Tim Remis, and Bobby Markos call their music space-rock, but for us “A Force at Play” is dream-rock perfected. Reverb-drenched guitars, pattering rhythms, and ghostly yet sublime vocals create a numbing effect. All you can do is surrender to the chest-swelling haziness and be dazzled. All the while, you can reflect on what was and what is to come. We can wonder, as Martin does: “Has this game gotten easy / Or have I always moved with ease / I was a changeling?”
This is a fantastic song to conclude the week in another very unusual year.
Wombo – “One of These” (Louisville, USA)
RIYL: Lala Lala, Bnny, Why Bonnie
Wombo released a great EP earlier this year in Keesh Mountain, which featured the wildly infectious buzzsaw, “Dreamsickle”, and the herky-jerky blazer, “Situations”. Despite its short runtime of nine minutes, it packed an incredibly diverse sound with only four tracks. What the short length did was leave us wanting more.
Thankfully, Wombo just released “One of These”. On it, they add even more diverse sounds to their catalog, blending grungy guitar, and dreamy vocals. There’s a lushness to Sydney Chadwick’s vocals, whether in the reverb of the verses or the haunting harmonies of the choruses. The song climaxes with a hypnotic vocal part, the drums coming in heavier, and guitar cutting through it all trying to drown everything out in a truly fantastic moment. Lyrically, it points out how hard it is to overcome certain things, how easy it would be to get consumed by darkness, but more importantly, that we can’t let it:
“One thing leads, the other follows
and I don’t know which one I should be
and does it really count if I choose to be none
I don’t see why not
Think I never had what it took
Think I never wanted it anyway
Why it can’t be so easy
One thing leads, the other follows
and I don’t know which one I should be
and does it really count if I choose to be none”
The single is out on Fire Talk Records.
Wombo are: Sydney Chadwick (vocals/bass), Cameron Lowe (guitar), and Joel Taylor (drums).
Twin Rains – “All Of The Angels” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: L’Imperatrice, Sebastian Tellier, Young Galaxy
Plenty of bands have attempted to capture the sweet French psych-disco of the ’70s and ’80s. Some have been great (like L’Imperatrice) and others not so much. Twin Rains, fortunately for us, sound like they were transported from Le Palace or Le Sept Nightclub. Many of their songs can be groovy, sensual, ravishing, and simultaneously all three. It’s no wonder Christine Stoesser and Jay Merrow are one of Toronto’s best-kept secrets, though not for long with a song like “All Of The Angels”.
Deck yourself in sequins or glitter, channel your inner Parisian, and dance as if the year is 1977 when life was carefree and liberating. Immerse yourself in the exquisite synths, the sparkling percussion, and the light tinges of the guitar. But keep Christine Stoesser’s words long in your mind because, while we get lost in the music, her words keep us grounded in reality – well within the eyes of an angel or maybe a vampire:
“Because a blessing is a curse
The best is the worst
It’s always one or the other one
And the people who love you under cover of night
Aren’t looking back at you when they run”
The song is taken from Twin Rains’ sophomore album, Unreal City, which is available on Bandcamp.
Arny Margret – “Intertwined” (Reykjavík, Iceland)
RIYL: Aldous Harding, Adrianne Lenker, Julie Byrne
It doesn’t get more “new music discovery” than Icelandic singer Arny Margret. Just 20 years old, Margret is working on her first record. She has been playing music since she was a child, starting with piano at age six and guitar at fourteen. Now Margret is finally ready to share her own debut single.
“Intertwined” is a striking debut that shows great promise. Simply arranged with just Margret and her guitar, the song is inspired by the small Icelandic town she came from.
Margret paints vivid pictures with her voice, circling around the line, “our paths are intertwined”. The song is made even more inviting by the precision fingerpicking and gorgeous harmonies. We cannot wait to hear more from this future star.
La Loye – “About Imagining Things” (The Hague, Netherlands)
RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Phoebe Bridgers, The National
With just a handful of releases as La Loye, Lieke Heusinkveld’s music has been nothing short of captivating. Recently, she shared “white summer” from her new EP, to live underwater. That stunning track joined the previously released “i’m still asleep” and the haunting acoustic “i only hear you in my song”.
The closing track from to live underwater is “about imagining things”. It starts with an acoustic guitar and reverb vocals front and center, creating an intimate environment with Heusinkveld repeating, “I can’t figure this out without you“. But as the song progresses, it becomes something much larger. A percussive sound bubbles underneath along with some strings, a sign of things to come. It all comes together in a huge way in the second half. Not exactly an eruption of sound, but a slow, rolling wave that surrounds the listener as it continues before finally releasing its grip. It’s a perfect album closer, and it stands on its own as a wonderful example of why La Loye is such an exciting artist.
Heusinkveld’s new mini-album is out now on Bandcamp.
Boy Harsher – “Give Me a Reason” (Northampton, USA)
RIYL: Sextile, Cold Cave, Depeche Mode
Some artists’ music is made for film. There are the ’80s-inspired, coming-of-age bands, which have littered the airwaves of late. Then there are those who captivate with suspense and darkness, something Boy Harsher have been doing for the better part of the past decade. While Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller started Boy Harsher as a bedroom project, their music echoes the underground coldwave scene of 1980s Berlin. The skin-crawling “Tower”, which they released in October, was a sample of their cinematic gloominess. The duo now dive deeper into our psyche with their latest number.
“Give Me a Reason” is intoxicatingly sinister. The synths, keys, and 808s are patiently executed. Nothing is rushed, so the suspense develops gradually and lets us easily fall into Boy Harsher’s all-consuming abyss. Through the bottomless space, Matthews’ rich vocals bellow: “Did you mean to touch me that way? / Did you mean all the things you said?” She wants to know if she’s dancing with the devil or an angel. It’s a game of seduction, betrayal, and addiction. How the story concludes will be revealed on their new album, The Runner (Original Soundtrack). It arrives January 21st on Nude Club Records and City Slang.
Hurray For the Riff Raff – “Jupiter’s Dance” (New Orleans via Bronx, USA)
RIYL: Angelica Garcia, Bedouine, Neko Case
Hurray For The Riff Raff‘s Alynda Lee Segarra has carved out a well deserved spot as one of the greatest storytellers of her generation. Her last record, The Navigator, told the story of “Navita”, a character based on her own experiences. Its powerful imagery and emotionally fueled moments gained The Navigator a spot on our favorite records of 2017. A few weeks ago, Segarra released a new single, “Rhododendron” and announced a new record, Life on Earth. The album’s next single is equally impressive.
On “Jupiter’s Dance”, Segarra agains draws inspiration from her heritage. She describes the song as a prayer for the tumultuous times we live in. It’s backed by a simple combination of drums and keyboards, making the message stand clearly in the spotlight. “Jupiter’s Dance” is accompanied by a music video that uses “historical footage on the art of Bomba and Plena in Puerto Rico”. Even with its unique sound, it keeps that relatable, emotional connection that her music cultivates. Her previous albums united listeners with feelings of hope and survival, and Life on Earth is shaping up to do the same.
Michegas – “Temporary Love” (New York City via Mexico City)
RIYL: Bonobo, Tycho, Caribou
The dazzling prismatic tones of “Temporary Love” from electronic artist Michegas are fireworks for your ears. This work from his newly released EP, Temporary Love, is a reminder that the best music often comes from under-the-radar artists.
Michegas (the Yiddish term for craziness or insanity) is the project of Mexican native Emilio Quezada. He moved to the U.S. as a young child and studied classical guitar. But eventually his focus shifted to electronic music and its limitless possibilities for creative expression. The genre fits Quezada’s style and this song reflects his surroundings.
“Temporary Love” pulses with the vibrant energy of New York City. The intro evokes sunrise then flows seamlessly into brighter and more complex layers befitting a cloudless summer day in Central Park. The final minute mirrors the fading twilight hours. This is the soundtrack of a classic New York day: full of promise, energizing, and rewarding yet fleeting. Perhaps Quezada has the soul of a philosopher, because this song is a wordless anthem about living in the present.
Artists of this caliber rarely stay under the radar for long. Michegas is an artist to watch, so get to know him now.
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