Cool yet comforting and with a little bit of unexpected holiday “cheer”, The Matinee ’21 v. 166 might feel like a chilly December Friday, but the songs featured also should warm you up. And more temperature raising tunes can be found on the Songs of December 2021 playlist on Spotify and SoundCloud.

*Please note we only have a few more The Matinees left before we take our own little break.

 

Girlpool – “Faultline” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Warpaint, Womb, Charly Bliss

Many people let loose and paint the town red on Friday. Others use the weekend to relax and reflect. If you’re in the latter group, then Girlpool have just the song for you.

Masters of turning the melancholic into a wondrous display of sadcore dream-pop, Harmony Tividad and Avery Tucker have once again crafted a song that will penetrate your core. From the deft pattering of the percussion to the mournful wails of the guitars and synths, “Faultline” is breathtaking. Tividad’s vocals are, likewise, cool and lush at first then quietly intensify. She reveals what this day and all days mean to her. “Every day it’s Friday night / I hold my body like a butcher knife”, she says at the outset. But what causes her to feel on edge? She shares how she has come to this place that is a living purgatory:

“And I live at this faultline
Between the edge of solitude and hope
I’m shaking at the sentimental trope
And though the stars apologize for night
I don’t blame them, I’ve wanted to sometimes
I don’t know what to tell you where I’ve been
My body is just a landscape for your sin
And all the days regret the city lights
I know it’s just the fault of the faultline”

Stunning. But then again, would we expect anything less from this great duo?

The song is out now on Bandcamp via ANTI Records.

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Ok Cowgirl – “Unlost” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Belle Mare, Hater, Wilsen

Regular readers of this space know we have a soft spot for cinematic dream-pop. When searching for the next artist that can create euphoria, we often look to the Big Apple. Lo and behold, we may have found our newest obsession in Ok Cowgirl.

The quartet of Leah Lavigne (vocals, guitar), Jake Sabinsky (guitar), Jase Hottenroth (bass), and Matt Birkenholz (drums) recently released their debut EP, the aptly titled Not My First Rodeo. At five songs with a runtime of roughly 20 minutes, it’s not a huge investment of time. On the contrary, the mini-album might seem too short because the band’s blustery take of the genre is the sonic equivalent to a weekend getaway. This escapism at its very best is reflected on “Unlost”.

All the things we love about dream-pop are captured here. The soundscape is warm and inviting, yet a quiet urgency brims below the surface before it escalates. Then the percussion throbs a little louder, the guitars sear more brightly, and Lavigne’s rich vocals intensify. With each word we are drawn more deeply into the song. We begin to see through Lavigne’s eyes, from the image she sees reflected in the mirror to the thoughts occupying her mind. But this tune is no ordinary love song. On the contrary, it is the story of a woman who wonders if she is cursed to never be loved and if someone exists who can break that spell:

“When you reach out your hand
I tried, tried not to notice
When you shout out my name
I pretended to mishear”

Pick up Not My First Rodeo on Bandcamp and help this emerging band reach their immense potential.

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Shout Out Louds – “As Far Away As Possible” (Stockholm, Sweden)

RIYL: Peter, Bjorn and John; of Montreal

Five years is a long time to wait for new music from one of indie music’s most reliably stellar bands. But after two decades together, Sweden’s Shout Out Louds are no longer trying to establish themselves. They have achieved global success and can operate on their own schedule. They are, as their new single states, living “one day at a time.”

“High As a Kite” rekindles all the feelings fans first had upon hearing their Howl Howl Gaff Gaff debut in 2003. The band know how to craft radio-friendly music that resonate with listeners. They are masters of tight hooks and catchy melodies, and this tune features both. 

The track’s shimmering dream-pop tones cast an instant spell while the woozy refrain (“If it’s not love, why am I falling apart?”) elicits a contented sigh. Meanwhile the lyrical Easter eggs may have you wondering if they are a subtle hat tip to other bands:

“Where is my mind
I’m down the list of suggestions
I need no surprises…
Nothing is good enough on the horizon”

This song is from the band’s forthcoming sixth LP, House, which arrives in February via PIAS Recordings. The album also includes “As Far Away As Possible” which they shared in October.

Shout Out Louds are: Adam Olenius (vocals, guitar), Ted Malmros (bass, backing vocals), Carl von Arbin (guitar, backing vocals), Bebban Stenborg (keys, backing vocals), and Eric Edman (drums).

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Beach House – “New Romance” (Baltimore, USA)

RIYL: Beach House but if pressed I Break Horses, The Besnard Lakes

Last month, Beach House announced their upcoming double LP will be released in four installments, so we did a deep dive on the first quarter of Once Twice Melody. Today we focus on one song of the newest batch of four that again sees Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally reaching for the edges of the Milky Way.

Strap in and let “New Romance” send you on an intoxicating trip where you are surrounded by the sparkling lights of distant stars. The swirling synths, crystalline guitar, and fluttering rhythms are otherworldly. Legrand’s and Scally’s vocoded-effected vocals alternate and at times intertwine. They are star-crossed lovers determining what the future holds for them. Will they hold each other’s hand and overcome the turbulence together or go their separate ways where more tranquil currents await?

“Block after block with the speakers up
Night after night we say our goodbyes
My love drips in red out of my mind at the edge of the sky
You feel your heart break
And you don’t know why

You’re somebody else, somebody new
‘Fuck it’, you said, “it’s beginning to look like the end’
So sick of swimming, I’m in over my head
No wrong or right, I know it’s true”

The story told in this song is terrific, and it displays how the two are masterful storytellers, which is a trait often overlooked. However, it should not be.

Chapter Three of Once Twice Melody arrives January 19th with the complete double LP out February 18th, 2022, via Sub Pop Records. Pre-orders and pre-saves are available here, at the label’s store, and Bandcamp

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Laura Lee Lovely – “Allandale” (Christchurch, New Zealand)

RIYL: Chromatics, Still Corners, Hunter As a Horse

This next song was actually released a month ago. There is, however, never a bad time to shine a spotlight on a promising talent, especially when the young artist has the potential to turn heads with her cinematic take of darkwave and synth-pop. While Laura Watson’s project Laura Lee Lovely is still evolving, she is setting herself to be this generation’s Chromatics or Still Corners, and she reveals her jaw-dropping talents on “Allendale”.

Like the aforementioned legends, listening to “Allendale” requires an expansive space. Whether in a club or an open room, the song may inspire you to twirl with arms stretched as wide as possible, basking in the superb synths, the occasional dissonant guitar stroke, and pulsating 808s. This is music meant to be absorbed and experienced, where each note and layer strip away our worries. Watson’s ethereal vocals add to the song’s mysticism and escapism quality. Like how the song makes us feel, she is seeking to find her way out from the shadows and move beyond the darkness:

“There’s a silence here
There’s a silence that’s been lost
What do you fear?
Haunted by your loss

So long ago
A moment that stands still
Nothing real to fear anymore”

Watson is a star in the making – an artist to watch in 2022. This song is available on Bandcamp.

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Principe Valiente – “Porcelain” (Stockholm, Sweden)

RIYL: Deafheaven, Ride, A Place To Bury Strangers

Countless artists and bands can be considered underrated, where even the savviest music connoisseur has not yet discovered them. This can be said about Principe Valiente, which in English translates to Prince Valiant. But this longtime Swedish group has not been bestowed with jewels nor crowns. Instead they are more proletarian in their approach, working steadily at their craft with little fanfare. Those who know about Fernando Honorato (vocals,bass), Jimmy Ottosson (guitars), Rebecka Johansson (keys), and Joakim Janthe (drums) will be familiar with their expansive 2017 LP, Oceans. But if this is your introduction, you will soon learn why Principe Valiente are among the very best shoegaze bands today with “Porcelain”.

Some bands want to blow out our eardrums, but Principe Valiente send us into a state of bliss. With an orchestral background, the quartet have produced a song that is majestic without feeling overwhelming nor over-dramatized. The track is tranquil in its quality, yet it still ascends to a near euphoric level. This point of liberation is what Honorato seeks in his words. He desires to be unshackled by the limits of time and reality and become whole. To, most importantly, to be heard.

The single is out on Metropolis Records. Purchase it on Bandcamp and get three remixes.

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Portair – “Alaska” (Los Angeles via Australia)

RIYL: Passenger, SYML, Vancouver Sleep Clinic

A misty melancholy flows through the new single from Portair, and it will leave you breathless. “Alaska” is from the now Los Angeles-based Australian singer-songwriter’s upcoming EP, The Ice That Breaks, which arrives next month. It follows Portair’s debut EP, The Light That Gives, which he released earlier this year. 

The mellowness of a rainy winter day is woven into every note. Minimalism is the key here: with just a guitar and vocals, there is nothing to detract from the song’s candlelit intimacy. This alone enhances the listening experience, but his vocal delivery creates an atmosphere that is spellbinding. You dare not breathe too loudly for fear of missing a single word. 

Beneath its tonal beauty, “Alaska” also delivers vivid lyrical imagery rooted as much in nature as philosophy. The title refers to more than the American state. As he sings about wanting to see an Alaskan sky before he dies, you feel his yearning to find a place of connection and fulfillment. But reaching that place requires moving beyond a comfort zone and venturing into the unknown:

“I never strayed far from the path
Done with all my fear of that
Scared to death, won’t cross the line
Wasting life while I take my time”

Anyone who has been hesitant at taking the first step toward a new path need only play this gorgeous, gentle anthem for inspiration. “Alaska” reminds us that there is beauty and magic yet to be discovered. 

The Ice That Breaks arrives January 14th via Nettwerk Music Group. “Alaska” is streaming on Spotify.

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Shame – “Baldur’s Gate” (London, England)

RIYL: Ought, Protomartyr, OMNI

We don’t share many holiday tunes because most sound the same or tell a familiar story. But when post-punk outfit Shame get into the game, we take notice. After all, they shared a wildly fun rendition of “Felix Navidad”. Instead of doing another cover, the London-based quintet have written an original song. In typical Shame fashion, it’s not exactly a Christmas classic in the traditional sense, like say A Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life are. “Baldur’s Gate”, however, could reach the iconic status of Die Hard over time.

This off-kilter, jerky little post-punk number is like an anti-Christmas song. It’s not one made for caroling or singing while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. However, this tune will amuse and maybe even send a few shivers down your back with lyrics like:

“If I could rip off all my skin
And parcel it inside a tin
I’d write your name in Biro
On the ribbons
Like decorations”

In some ways, this is the feeling frontman Charlie Steen gets when he’s wandering alone on the deserted streets of Edinburgh or London, reminiscing about what he used to have. He can only live within the past instead of the present, where the ghosts live within him:

“And here I go again
Being so dramatic
A conventional, clichéd fanatic
But fuck it
A Christmas story
So take me gently”

Happy Holidays everyone!

Shame are: Charlie Steen, Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, and Sean Coyle-Smith. The single is out on Dead Oceans.

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