The Matinee ’21 v. 167 is a lighter mini-playlist, but each of the six songs are astonishingly brilliant. And they all feature women leads, demonstrating once again that music’s present and future are indeed female. Find these tracks on our Songs of December 2021 playlist, which is available on Spotify and SoundCloud.

 

Maya Hawke – “Blue Hippo” (New York City / Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Hand Habits, Maple Glider, Lisa Hannigan

If things don’t work out in film and television for Maya Hawke, she has a great Plan B because the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke is a gifted singer-songwriter. While she plays ’80s pop-culture connoisseur Robin Buckley on Stranger Things, her music dates back even further. Her debut album Blush was filled with classic folk tunes, reminiscent of the sounds and stories of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. Despite her youth (she’s only 23 years old), Hawke must be considered one of the great singer-songwriters of her generation. Take for instance, “Blue Hippo”, which is way more than just a song – it could be the basis for a screenplay.

A lovely and dreamy folk-pop approach forms, creating the feeling of wonder and enchantment. It’s like we’ve stepped inside Pan’s Labyrinth and introduced to an unseen world. With a superb piano arrangement leading the way, this fantasy builds with each note. Hawke’s story, meanwhile, is part fairy tale and gripping drama, where she uses the analogy of a doll to describe how women are perceived today.

“She sat on the cliff of the bed
Tackled me with a plastic comb
Pressed her fingers into my head
Start at the blond search for the bone

She tried to tame me her nails and my knots.
Bathe with the sandman, dress up for what’s not.
Let me tangle, let me dry
Want it wicked, let me rile”

Blue Hippo” is out on Mom+Pop Music. Stranger Things reboots in April while Hawke and her father Ethan will star in Revolver, a rom-com set in, unsurprisingly, the 1960s.

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OSKA – “Responsibility” (Vienna, Austria)

RIYL: Billie Marten, Jade Bird, Alice Phoebe Lou

It doesn’t take very long to understand why Nettwerk Music Group signed Austrian singer-songwriter Maria Burger – a.k.a. OSKA. Her debut EP, Honeymoon Phase, turned melancholy into a beautifully rapturous event. She accomplishes this with a muted if not understated approach, where less is indeed more. Where simplicity can still be complex and moving and allow for the most important elements to shine – her saccharine voice and powerful songwriting. While the EP is only a few months in the rear-view mirror, the Vienna-based artist’s inaugural full-length album is around the corner. To offer a peak of what is to come, OSKA shares “Responsibility”.

Before pressing play, sit securely in a chair because the song will shake you to the core. The dream-folk approach is both lush and cinematic, swaying like a kite in the turbulent wind. At first, it is beautifully tranquil, but pain and desperation gradually grow as OSKA’s voice grows brittle and the instrumentation more mournful. Spinning wheels / You left the candy fields / Now when we sit for meals / Your place is empty”, she reflectively sings. This is the story of a child who watched one parent walk away without saying goodbye. For years, the protagonist has not been able to fill the massive hole in her heart, which only grows when she meets her parent years later.

“I was there screaming wait when you pulled away
Still smell and taste the time and place
And the holes you make with the things you take
In so many ways nothing‘s changed and you feel no shame
Only pass the blame though it’s way too late and while everything breaks
You accelerate, accelerate”

OSKA’s debut album, My world, My love, Paris, will be released February 25th. The young woman is a talent to watch.

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Lennie Rayen – “Everything I’ve Ever Needed” (North Bay, ON Canada)

RIYL: Faye Webster, Julia Jacklin, a young Angel Olsen

Lennie Rayen is another bright young star in the making. At 19 years old, Rayen released her debut single, “Me and You”, earlier this year. Starting as a textbook singer-songwriter track, it bloomed into so much bigger. She followed that up with a gorgeous number in “Like You Do”, offering another glimpse into Rayen’s tremendous potential as an artist.

On her latest single, “Everything I’ve Ever Needed”, Lennie Rayen once again creates a captivating song. “Everything I’ve Ever Wanted” ebbs and flows throughout. Guitar chimes and drums give way to just Rayen and her guitar. There’s a great quality to her guitar throughout that makes everything feel intimate. The song breaks into a stunning section of just wordless harmonies before a guitar cuts through it all with a fantastic ending solo. 

Lyrically, it makes some mature observations about life – from buying happiness to the way things have been simplified on the news. It’s about finding meaning in what you need and not what you want.

“Everything I’ve always wanted isn’t everything I’ve ever needed
And nothing ever good is promised when the jealousy goes undefeated
Everything, everything that I wanted, that I wanted
I don’t need
No I don’t need”

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Blushing – “Sour Punch” (Austin, USA)

RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Lush, Ride

Who needs the recommendation of “indie music connoisseurs” when the one and only Miki Berenyi of Lush is not only a supporter but has also performed with the band in question? Last month, the shoegaze legend offered her talents on Blushing‘s single, “Blame”, which was shoegaze brilliance. For their next spin around the gauzy, reverb galaxy, Michelle Soto (guitar, vocals), Jacob Soto (drums), Christina Carmona (vocals, bass), and Noe Carmona (guitar) are their own pilots as they chart a course to the nineties. There we find them delivering another track that surges with the energy and electricity of Cocteau Twins, Slowidive, and Berenyi’s original outfit.

Get ready to be sent into a dizzying wormhole because “Sour Punch” is a euphoric blast of nostalgia. Soaring, reverb-drenched guitars envelop our senses while the pounding rhythm section tries to get us anchored. Christina’s shimmering vocal, however, lifts and guides us through the spiraling soundscape. It all feels like one exhilarating amusement park ride, but this is the creation of a band who make the genre-that-just-won’t-die feel fresh. They make it feel alive inside us, which is what they try to achieve to the person to whom this song is directed.   

“You think it’s all worth another try what a pity though
Can’t seem to pass for the one emotion you never show
Once for you twice for me all our lives Down

Come for you just to leave
”

Blushing’s new album, Possessions, arrives February 18th, 2022 via Kanine Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.

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Reliant Tom – “Black Hole” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Lana Del Rey, Alex McArtor, Cigarettes After Sex

The holiday season is generally a time for merriment and celebration. For many, however, it is the most difficult time of year, where their struggles, pains, and inner demons become magnified. For every family drinking eggnog, having a massive dinner, and exchanging presents, there are people wallowed up in a lonely room and trying to survive another day. Their stories are largely ignored at this time of year since people want to hear the classic carols and the feelgood tales. Claire Cuny and Monte Weber, who comprise Reliant Tom, though, ensure the forgotten and ignored are heard, as depicted on “Black Hole”.

A sultry yet mysterious tone fills the air. It’s a touch cinematic and dramatic, akin to a Lana Del Rey classic, yet it also possesses the intimacy of a Cigarettes After Sex track. There is no romance in these parts but rather Cuny’s concerned voice. As the terrific bass line pulses through the weaving string arrangement, she witnesses a close companion full deeper into depression and opting for drugs and alcohol as the treats to be consumed on Christmas Day. And there is nothing for her to do but hopelessly watch.

“You’ll do everything you can
to dull your senses til you’re senseless, Superman
It was all eyes on you
So we scream yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Why did you go into your black hole, black hole?
all that glitters is gold until you say so, say so”

Look after your friends and family this holiday season, as the greatest gift you can give could very well be simply listening and being present.

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Melanie MacLaren – “Pushing Daisies” (Nashville, USA)

RIYL: boygenius, Margaret Glaspy, Taylor Janzen

Melanie MacLaren only has three songs to her name, but they are enough to get us excited about her upcoming debut EP, Kill My Time, due out in January. Her first two singles, “Melbourne” and “Graveyard Shift”, were gorgeous, folk-inspired tracks that signaled the arrival of a promising new artist. 

“Pushing Daisies” builds on what made those first two singles so captivating. MacLaren’s storytelling is just fantastic, painting a vivid setting within the song’s first moments. MacLaren’s voice is powerful, and there are plenty of times when it’s forceful. The times where it breaks, however, are where things really shine, as the dynamic she creates makes some big moments of catharsis.  The instrumentals also add so much to the song’s atmosphere. Strings stirring underneath gorgeous harmonies and guitar, bubbling over occasionally into stunning moments. It all wraps the song’s emotional message up beautifully.

“Loneliness means different things to each person
To me open water’s as low as room service
And I don’t think I could go on for so long
Away from a love without fearing it’s gone

Maybe if I was a kid again
I could hold you without my hands
Killing time in my fantasies
Center stage wrapped in velveteen
Felt real to me”

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