If you are a fan of great dramas, then The Matinee ’21 v. 165 provides plenty with nine songs that either capture the abnormality of today or tell grand mysteries. To fall further into a world light years away from the present, spin the Songs of December 2021 playlist, which is on Spotify and SoundCloud.
Mitski – “Heat Lightning” (Brooklyn, USA)
It is not a stretch to proclaim Mitski Miyawaki as one of the most important and influential artists of the 21st Century. Her first two albums – Lush and Retired from Sad, New Career in Business – were exquisite, orchestral piano compilations that gave neoclassical music a place in contemporary music. On Bury Me at Makeout Creek, however, she traded her baby grand for an electric guitar, resulting in a raw album reminiscent of New York’s indie scene of the mid-1990s. This LP laid the groundwork for Mitski’s never-ending evolution, culminating in two seminal albums in Puberty 2 and Be the Cowboy.
After a brief hiatus that saw her completely detach herself from social media, she returned with a bang on “Working for the Knife”, which tackled business executives’ tendencies to stifle creativity. The song was very 2018 Mitski, but with “The Only Heartbreaker” she showed she could evoke memories of when synth-pop reigned. For the third single from her upcoming album, Laurel Hell, she reaches deep into her bottomless bag of musical tricks to deliver a song that can only be described as striking.
A solemn tone opens “Heat Lightning” with the arrangement slight and Mitski’s voice floating delicately through the lingering guitar and dabbling percussion. “Running outside the window / I’ve laid awake since 1 and now it’s 4 o’clock”, she sings to us as insomnia sets in. A familiar sound then emerges – Mitski’s fingers touching the ebony and ivory of the piano, which adds an emotive yet contemplative tone. Through the brittle approach, Mitski shares how she stares out the window watching the skies lit with heat and fire. Inside her, a similar conflict exists, to which she surrenders.
Watch it from my doorstep
Sleeping eyelid of the sky
Flutters in a dream
Well I’ve held on
But feel a storm approaching
Trees are swaying in the wind
Like sea anemones”
Tame Impala – “No Choice” (Perth, Australia)
RIYL: Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, POND
After experiencing several delays to his tour and then opting for a scaled-down version, Kevin Parker is finally taking his band Tame Impala on an extensive international expedition that will cover most of the new year. While the tour will focus on Parker’s 2020 LP Slow Rush, attendees will also be graced with newer music. Accompanying the announcements of the 2022 dates, Parker shared a song that sounds like a blast from the past.
Akin to what Tame Impala have created since day one, “No Choice” is a complex multi-verse. The rhythms are groovy and funky, recalling ’70s soul and R&B. A trippy haze, however, develops with the light hum of a synth and Parker’s echo-effected vocal, making him sound like he’s floating through the galaxy. As the track settles into a sweet groove, a grizzled guitar interprets the mood, and it represents the obstacles – or the monotony – that we confront on a daily basis. To this end, Parker openly ponders his purpose in the world.
“Nice and short
There must be something more
Life’s a chore
What are wе living for?
Let it out
I can see now
Tryin’ to hold on
I feel now
All the constants in your future borе you
Kinda makes your mind up for you
Knowing just what lies before you
Gives you no surprise”
A Place To Bury Strangers – “Hold On Tight” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers
While it’s always great to hear A Place To Bury Strangers show a tenderer side, as they did with “Let’s See Each Other”, we still prefer their music to be one thing – loud. The noise-rock, post-punk shoegazers have been blowing out eardrums for nearly two decades now. We’re not even kidding about this point because when the Oliver Ackermann-led outfit started out they were playing in quaint, dungeon-like venues where the noise would reverberate endlessly. Now joined by John Fedowitz (bass) and Sandra Fedowitz (drums), A Place To Bury Strangers sound like it is 2003 all over again, as they detonate a two-tonne explosive in “Hold On Tight”.
This is the band we have come to love over the years. Ferocious and fiery would understate this song, as propulsive drums, a jarring bass line, and a ripping guitar line ignite the airspace. This track is made for those tight, grimy places where the patrons mosh and openly welcome the opportunity to temporarily lose their hearing. Where we temporarily lose our minds together and, as Ackerman says, “To celebrate everyone forever”. This is the power of music, which momentarily can unite strangers as they share a common experience. And few experiences are as rewarding (and deafening) as an APTBS song and concert.
The trio’s new album, See Through You, will be released February 4th on Ackermann’s own label, Dedstrange. Pre-orders are available here and on Bandcamp.
LANNDS – “Hitem” (Jacksonville, USA)
RIYL: London Grammar, Hundred Waters, Dahlia Sleeps
If you’re creating your own list of artists to watch in 2022, be sure to add Rania Woodard and Brian Squillace’s project LANNDS. After hovering under the radar within the Jacksonville music scene, the duo signed with Run for Cover Records, who likely became as tantalized as us when they heard “O.O.W.” and “In the Garden”. As alluring as those singles are, the pair craft an even more dazzling number in “HITEM”.
Reminiscent of the dark-pop / trip-hop created in London, the song oozes with sultriness. Woodard’s tranquil voice weave through the delicate beats and synths, creating an inescapable, all-consuming intimacy. Our bodies sway to each note while our minds ascend to a state of a sublime intoxication. With music like this, LANNDS are bound for success next year – if not on this side of the Atlantic, then most certainly across the pond. It is not merely the music they create, but Woodard’s thoughtful songwriting. In this story, she narrates how two people who have known each other for so long have grown apart.
“Who said you were right in the first place?
I said I’m done for the night
I don’t want to see in my city
Catch a grip get a life
I think I’ve known you before
We had to grow up so fast
Cause we’re built on higher design
And you felt like the one for the first time”
The duo will be releasing an extended edition of their latest EP called, lotus deluxe. The mini-album will feature three extra songs, and it will be released February 4th on Run for Cover Records.
TEMPERS – “Unfamiliar” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Psychic Ills, Second Still, Parallels, Chromatics
Less than two weeks separates us from the winter solstice and the longest night of the year. While some may cower at the thought, others embrace the darkness, for this is the time we can unveil the being that has lurked too long in the shadows. We can release our inner Goth and with our companions dance to the music of TEMPERS and their new single, “Unfamiliar”.
Early ’80s Gothwave / coldwave is reborn on this beguiling number. As we move in time with the post-punk-inspired rhythms. a hypnotic veil conceals our mind and the surrounding reality. This is created by the lingering guitar, the shallowness of the synths, and the dreary vocal of Jasmine Golestaneh. She and Eddie Cooper have concocted a spell, for which there is only one counter and that is time. But then again, we can always spin this tune endlessly, keeping ourselves in this immaculate darkness. And we can allow this unfamiliar side of us to live a little longer, with which is the struggle Cooper grapples.“To be true, I must be unfamiliar… To me”, he proclaims. No truer words have been uttered this year.
Mumble Tide – “Everything Ugly” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Dehd, Wy, Katie Von Schleicher
So many bands have amazed us with their artistry this year, and Mumble Tide is one of them. Their debut album, Everything Ugly, was released last week, and it likely flew under most people’s radar. But set aside roughly 45 minutes and listen to a band who take sadcore to dreamy yet urgent levels. Alternatively, listen to “Good 4 Me” and “Noodle” to appreciate Gina Leonard and Ryan Roger’s artistry, but do so after hearing the LP’s title track.
For lovers of ’90s coming-of-age films, this song will take you back to the moments when the protagonist realizes she’s made a horrendous mistake and seeks to make amends with the person whose heart he’s broken. For that matter, it might take you back to a moment you wish you could undo. But instead of feeling regret, the band make us feel hopeful that the future will yield better results. As the songs builds to a wonderfully rapturous yet apologetic ending, Leonard desperately pleads:
We’re so intertwined
Isn’t it right?”
Squirrel Flower – “Ruby at Dawn” (Boston, USA)
RIYL: Maple Glider, Ada Lea, The Weather Station
Through her project Squirrel Flower, Ella Williams released one of the year’s great albums in Planet (i), which featured one of 2021’s most compelling and remarkable songs in “I’ll Go Running”. The LP is the perfect winter record, where one can snuggle up with a blanket, a hot drink, and focus on the incredible stories Williams tells. But if you’re the type that wants to sample a song first before investing an hour with an album, then find a quiet spot and listen to “Ruby at Dawn”.
Like the aforementioned “I’ll Go Running”, the song has an OMG quality. This may not be uttered at first, but rather words like “beautiful” and “stunning” may be said as a quiet, hymnal tone is set at the start. With just an electric organ and a bass accompanying her for nearly the first two minutes, Williams’ gorgeous voice introduces us to Ruby. She describes how they were inseparable until Ruby met a horrible fate.
“Ruby at dusk
Is how I’ll remember
An innocent murder
The dead of the summer”
Despite her passing, her presence remains. At this point, the song beautifully opens up as crystalline synths fill the air. It’s as if Ruby has been reborn, but within Williams’ mind.
“But now I know
Not to feel regret
And the light of the sky
Caresses my room”
Simply a beautifully devastating number from one of the most underrated and underappreciated artists of our time.
The single is taken from Squirrel Flower’s new EP, Planet, which is out January 28th via Polyvinyl Records and Full Time Hobby. Pre-orders/pre-saves are available here or go to Bandcamp. The mini-album also includes a haunting cover of Björk’s “unravel”, which is well worth a listen.
Grazer – “Hyper-normal” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: The Cocteau Twins, Beach House, Yumi Zouma
While much of the indie world eagerly waits Beach House’s return, another duo on the other side of the world is turning heads with their stunning approach to dream-pop. Grazer blew our minds a couple of months ago when they released “Reunion”, which we described as blissful euphoria. That song will likely be featured on our year-end playlist, which we try to limit to one song per band or artist. However, we might have to strong consider making an exemption for Mollie and Matt because they once again make us utter “Wow” with “Hyper-normal”.
The Melbourne-based pair deliver a song that would take most bands a decade or more of experience to create. Listen closely and one can hear the multiple layers that make up this musical kaleidoscope. There are the obvious genres – the aforementioned dream-pop and shoegaze. Gothgaze and post-punk also linger within the trembling bass line and dissonant guitar line while sadcore bleeds within Mollie’s and Matt’s vocals and lyrics. The two yearn to return to a time of familiarity and normality. To a time where we can all be together again.
The single is out on Cascine. Could a new album be on the horizon? We can only hope.
Grace Cummings– “Storm Queen” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Aldous Harding, Tom Waits, Adia Victoria
Only a few days have passed since Grace Cummings bowled us over with “Up In Flames”. The young artist is another in a long line of a superb singer-songwriters to emerge from Melbourne, but she might be the most unique. With her deep yet incredibly rich and smoky voice and a dark-folk approach that is more Tom Waits than Courtney Barnett or Angie McMahon, she has the potential to rise quickly and become a mainstay at festivals like Newport Folk and Pickathon. Or at the very least, she’ll become a much-sought after collaborator. Who would not want to sing alongside an artist who can create a gripping song like “Storm Queen”?
Grab a stiff drink, settle back, and absorb yourself within Cummings’ chilling and stark cinematic brilliance. At first, the song resembles a sleuth tip-toeing her way beneath the shadows. She is searching for things we all crave during these times – light and the touch of humanity. As she begins to emerge from the blackness, a sax bellows. It dances next to Cummings, adding another layer to the track’s mysteriousness. While they step in unison, a question emerges regarding from whom is Cummings hiding.
“It could be a creation of my own
So I don’t feel so alone
I just can’t feel alone”
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