As depicted on the songs on The Matinee ’21 v. 164, an unexpected hero exists within us and in the places we’ve least expected. Find more music to help you unleash your inner superhero with the Songs of December 2021 playlist, which is on Spotify and SoundCloud.

 

Chastity Belt – “Fake” & “Fear” (Seattle, USA)

RIYL: Porridge Radio, Pale Saints, Lala Lala

Chastity Belt are a rarity in music these days: the band has endured more than a decade without a single lineup change. This is not to say everything has been roses for Julia Shapiro (guitar, vocals), Lydia Lund (vocals, guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (vocals, drums). Following the release of the touching I Used to Spend Time Alone, they took a brief hiatus to work on their own material or with other bands. While the tongue-in-cheek nature of their early years has been replaced with a more intimate tone, their art remains genuine. This is evidenced by two new singles in “Fake” and “Fear”

A somber yet dreamy tone emerges from “Fake”. While the melody sounds like a daydream with pristine guitars and feathery rhythms, the song is a sobering look-in-the-mirror. The band tackle what is means to be human, to be authentic in a world filled with misinformation:

Trying to say what’s on my mind
Meaning’s crucified
By words that just hang in the air
And stories that aren’t going anywhere”

And that is then followed by three powerful words that are repeated to accentuate their meaning: “I’m a fake”.

“Fear”, meanwhile, is gritty shoegaze reminiscent of the late ’90s. Over-driven guitars throb with the urgency of a pounding heart expecting the worst. Lund’s bellowing vocals evoke the pain she feels as she wages war with the anxiety and depression that consumes her mind. “Asking myself for solid answers as to why I am / The way I am but that’s just the way I am”, she sings. This gives way to the hollered refrain, “It’s just a fear”. We yell with her because we feel her pain. That is why Chastity Belt are one of the great bands of the past decade.

Chastity Belt are Julia Shapiro (guitar, vocals), Lydia Lund (guitar), Annie Truscott (bass), and Gretchen Grimm (drums). These songs are out now via Milk! Records from these links and Bandcamp.

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Amy Jay – “Monster” (New York City, USA)

RIYL: Lucy Dacus, Kristine Lepscher, Lizzie McAlpine

For years, Amy Jay has been mastering her craft in many New York City cafés and venues. She is taking indie folk from its simple origins to cinematic levels, often reaching a haunting quality. Those talents are showcased on her new single, “Monster”.

This is the perfect song to spin in the evening as darkness falls and a chill in the air rises. In this setting you can experience the gripping scene Jay has created. A piano and a ticking clock are all that supports her delicate voice. A few other elements are added to raise the temperature, but the atmosphere remains cold, foreboding, and paralyzing. This place is Jay’s mind, which rarely sees the light of day. Her story is akin to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where she tries to keep her anxiety and fear locked in. This is easier said than done:

“I have a monster inside of me
She has made a nice home
She feeds well on anxiety
A balanced diet of fear and control

I’ve asked her to go away
She respectfully declines
It is somehow comforting
Lashing out under the guise of protection”

Her debut album, Awake Sleeper, arrives February 4, 2022, with pre-orders here.

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Mogli – “Ghost” (Berlin, Germany)

RIYL: Portishead, Ghostly Kisses, Lana Del Rey

The impact of the global pandemic has varied between people. Some have struggled to adjust to public health measures that aim to keep us all safe. Others have used the time to start anew. For German singer-songwriter Mogli, this time has given her very much. She escaped an abusive relationship, started a new one, and gave birth to her first child. In addition, she found inspiration to create not just more music but a set of stories that will form a film. In many ways, she has been reborn during these past two years, which was highlighted on the melodic rocker “Echo”. Every new chapter begins with a journey of self-discovery, and Mogli’s newest single beautifully captures hers.

As she explains, “Ghost” is “not grieving a relationship; it’s grieving what this relationship had made me.” The Portishead-like trip-hop approach is the perfect canvas for this tale. Through trembling synths and beats and a mournful piano, Mogli shares her story of falling hard and being trapped in the past. Now, though, she is ready to run. The result is stunning, both musically and lyrically :

“I’ve got lover’s grief for who I used to be
When I always knew what was right for me
I’m a ghost of myself like everyone else
Lover’s grief for me and who I used to be

Take a deep breath and let go
You’re too hard on yourself to grow
You’re ready, you’re ready
To run and dance with your ghosts”

Mogli’s new album and accompanying film, Ravage, are due in 2022. 

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Fletcher Reed – “Kinetic” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

RIYL: Emancipator, Toro y Moi, Washed Out 

Amid the bustling pace of the holidays, we need ways to stay grounded and calm. Some turn to meditation and yoga while others rely on music to reset their stress levels. The music of Fletcher Reed fits all of those scenarios. This project from American music producer Andrew Smith envelops listeners in a tingling calm – soothing yet a step above the typical chillwave that tends more towards soporific results. His newest single captures the very essence of ambient electronica.

“Kinetic” holds true to its title with dynamic flourishes throughout its three-minute journey. The first ten seconds or so deliver celestial lightness before diving deeper into layers of rhythmic bass, synths, and delicate percussion. Listeners may feel they have plunged into moonlit waters as the shimmering accents ripple along with the melody. Those flourishes evoke shooting stars one moment and lapping waves the next. Meanwhile subtle strings and piano provide a breeziness that keeps the song buoyed. It’s a lush experience that revitalizes from within. Incorporate this into your next vinyasa yoga session, massage, or meditation and you’ll emerge with enhanced clarity.

Reed’s new LP, Onoma, is out now via Nettwerk Music Group and streaming at these links. This track is available (along with his earlier releases) at Bandcamp.

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Glass Violet – “Indigo” (Bristol, England)

RIYL: The Killers, Kasabian, U2

Big pop-rock anthems are easy to hate because they tend to be formulaic and repetitive. But when a band finds the sweet spot of innovative substance with mainstream appeal, something remarkable happens. It takes a special band to find that spot, but British indie rockers Glass Violet did it earlier this year with “Hourglass” then repeating it on “Indigo”

Glass Violet have replicated the arena-size sound of The Killers in their early days. Bursting guitars, glistening synths, and a terrific rhythm section send this tune to atmospheric heights. Its catchiness will have listeners screaming at the top of their lungs during the chorus – a sure sign that it’s destined for huge festival singalong moments. There is more to “Indigo” than just the infectious vibe: Glass Violet also deliver an uplifting message of perseverance. They remind us that together we can leave an everlasting positive impact on those we love. It’s a moving ideal that we all should aspire to achieve.

Glass Violet are: Tom Hurdiss (vocals, guitar), Alex John (guitar, vocals), Josh Walsh (bass), Declan Pollard (keys/synths), and Matt West (drums). Look for their names on festival lineups in the very near future.

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The Mysterines – “The Bad Thing” (Liverpool, England)

RIYL: a young Wolf Alice, Fontaines D.C, YONAKA

We have an infatuation with The Mysterines because the young Liverpudlians have proven time and again that rock still reigns. They’re forgoing the temptation to add pop signatures to their sound, choosing instead to roar and unleash their inner Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. They demonstrated their rock ‘n roll chops with the explosive “Hung Up”. For an encore, they dial up the intensity on “The Bad Thing”.

The song begins with a grimy, stark approach that sounds like a film score signaling a vigilante’s arrival. Lia Metcalfe’s deep vocals enter with the energy of a person out for vengeance. Gradually the guitars go into overdrive and the rhythm section reaches its steady, adrenaline-infused apex. Metcalfe is singing about a woman trying to revive her dead lover. She’s become Dr. Frankenstein and like that famed scientist, she knows what she’s doing is a very bad thing. Desperate times, however, require desperate measures.

The Mysterines are Lia Metcalfe (vocals, guitar), Callum Thompson (guitar), George Favager (bass), and Paul Crilly (drums). Their much-anticipated debut album, REELING, will arrive March 11th via Fiction Records. Pre-order it on the band’s online shop. The LP should be a barn-burner.

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The Allergies – “Going to the Party” (feat. Lyrics Born) (Bristol, England)

RIYL: Blackalicious, Fatboy Slim, Galactic

’Tis the season for holiday parties, but let’s face it: most of the songs you hear this time of year lack pizzazz. Tunes you’ve heard a million times elicit more of a yawn than a fist pump. So what kind of track is sure to get you pumped? British duo The Allergies have you covered with this banger from their new LP, Promised Land. This duo of DJ Moneyshot and Rackabeat have been fusing funk and hip-hop for years, so fans know to expect scorchers on every release. But this tune sees them collaborating with a funk-rap legend from across the pond. 

“Going to the Party” features funktastic grooves and the mic-rockin’ Japanese-American rapper Lyrics Born spitting fresh lines fit for any occasion:

“Real world don’t nobody eat free
Believe me corporations on some thievery

Pull up randomly just to have a drink
With a fat bag of weed fatter than a manatee

Be fightin’ everyday holdin’ onto those dreams
We want the whole pie and not just a small piece”

Crank this one for an instant mood boost even if you aren’t headed to a party on 4th Street. These feel-good vibes are therapeutic for mind, body and soul. 

The Promised Land album is out now via Jalapeno Records from these links and Bandcamp.

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AURORA – “Heathens” (Bergen, Norway)

RIYL: Susanne Sundfør, Highasakite, Agnes Obel

When we refer to Aurora Aksnes, or just Aurora, as a musical mystic, it is a recognition of her incomparable ability to bring music of the past – past being centuries ago – to the future. Her songwriting is the equivalent of a Medieval minstrel, where she concocts wondrous stories from the heroic actions of regular citizens to knights and nobles. At the same time, her compositions at first sound like they come from a different era yet simultaneously are futuristic. This explains why Aurora was asked to write the theme song to Amazon Prime’s Hanna series, “Midas Touch”. It doesn’t take a TV series nor a film, however, to inspire the Norwegian artist. She finds it everywhere, including the Bible as she reveals on “Heathens”.

Whereas Eve was depicted as the reason for humanity’s fall from grace, Aurora depicts her as a hero who gave us our free will. It is because of Eve diversity can exist and ingenuity can reign. With free will, a genius like Aurora can create an arrangement this is dreamy and dazzling, rapturous and urgent, and simply a piece of creative brilliance. “Heathens” is a song to completely get lost in, whether in the solitude of the back of a bus or on the dance floor of an exclusive night club. It can even be our bedtime story, where we get to celebrate the action of one woman who let us be who we are.

We fell from sky with grace
And landed in her soft and warm embrace
She gave her love, her gift of life
So we could live with her

That is why we live like heathens
Stealing from the trees of Eden
Living in the arms of freedom
And everything we touch is evil
That is why we live like heathens

The single is out on Glassnote Music. If history is our guide, then Aurora’s new album should be coming next year. Let’s hope.

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