The Matinee ’22 v. 001 kicks off the new year in grand style, featuring ten remarkable songs from nine artists and bands. Many of the tracks are from albums included on our Most Anticipated list (or should have been on it). The names are familiar, including the one “new” band that features three of music’s finest.

These songs kick off our Songs of January 2022 playlist, which can be found on SoundCloud and Spotify.

 

Widowspeak – “Everything Is Simple” (Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Mazzy Star, Beach House, Howling Bells

Last year, Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas released a lovely EP in Honeychurch, which was a mix of new tunes and covers (their rendition of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” is particularly sensational). In 2020, their spellbinding Plum was not just one of that year’s best albums but arguably Widowspeak‘s finest since 2012’s Almanac. It was dream-pop taken to extraordinary cinematic heights. Now less than two years later and thanks to a never-ending pandemic, the duo are set to release their sixth studio album, and its lead single sees Hamilton and Thomas still at the height of their artistry.

A dark mystery is added to Widowspeak’s intoxicating dreaminess on “Everything Is Simple”. The shallow instrumentation gives the track the feeling of a lonely wander through the heart of an unforgiving desert. But what keeps us moving is Hamilton’s trademark voice, which is lush, breezy, and inviting. She narrates our story of constantly trying to make amends and just to be “a good man”. She also narrates Widowspeak’s story and their quest to find purpose.

“Singers tend to hide the truth
Oh, you hear it, if it speaks to you
But what do you expect? It serves them well
To edit anything that’s fit to tell”

Whether they discover their purpose will be answered on March 11th, which is when The Jacket will be released on Captured Tracks. Pre-orders are available here and directly on Bandcamp.

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Let’s Eat Grandma – “Happy New Year” (Norfolk, England)

RIYL: The Naked and Famous, Milk & Bone, Danz CM

Last November, Let’s Eat Grandma released one of 2021’s standout songs in “Two Ribbons”. It was intimate, real, and emotional, and a song we will be spinning for years. Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, however, have not become one of the UK’s finest indie bands by being one-dimensional. On the contrary, they’re one of the most diverse outfits around, and they showcase their limitless talents on “Happy New Year”.

This electro-pop banger was made for New Year’s Eve. Synths and 808s burst overhead like fireworks exploding at midnight on the day the calendar turns. It is, in other words, made for celebrating. For the longtime friends, the track is a celebration of their friendship and the unbreakable bonds that hold them together despite the two now living in separate cities. As usual, the pair’s songwriting is incredibly moving.

“Sparks in the sky until we meet the sunrise
Then see the year come into bloom
(Happy new year)
And nothing that was broken can touch how much I care for you (Hallelujah)
Because you know you’ll always be my best friend
And look at what we made it through
(Happy new year, to you)”

The duo’s new album, Two Ribbons, arrives in less than two weeks, specifically January 28th, 2022 on Transgressive Records and PIAS Recordings. Pre-orders are available here.

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The Districts – “Outlaw Love” (Philadelphia via Lititz, PA, USA)

RIYL: Broken Social Scene, New Order, Metronomy

There was a time when we thought The Districts would assume the southern-rock throne from The Black Crowes because as teenagers they created epic jams and told remarkable stories. But like everything that ages, the band has evolved. The four friends from little Lititz, Pennsylvania has seen two original members leave while adding one, resulting in a trio. They’ve added synths and keys, which have enabled them to wade the worlds of pop-rock, art-rock, and alt-pop. So instead of being like the Robinson brothers, they instead have lined themselves up to be the next Broken Social Scene, and their newest single would make Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning proud.

“Outlaw Love” is a little dazzler that starts off with a chest-swelling breeziness and builds to spiraling euphoria. And it is awesome, exactly the type of song we could use to kick off the new year. What makes the track, however, is the Peter Hook-ish bass line, which gives the tune a simultaneous sense of urgency and calm. It also gives the sense that everything will be o.k. even if heart has been broken. As front-man Rob Grote sings:

“Now we’re broken
Heaven in my sights, heaven in my sights
My gun was always smokin’
Red handed in the night, red handed
Like we’d never even spoken
Heaven in my sights, heaven in my sights
Heaven knows”

The Districts are: Rob Grote (vocals/guitar), Pat Cassidy (guitar), and Braden Lawrence (drums). Their new album has been moved to March 11th. Fat Possum Records will release it. Pre-orders can be found here.

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SASAMI – “Say It” (Los Angeles, USA)

RIYL: Alice Glass, Trent Reznor, Preoccupations

Sasami Ashworth is arguably one of the most underrated talents in the industry. She’s a sensational producer, and demand for her talent has increased over the past 18 months. As a singer-songwriter and artist, SASAMI is always unpredictable. At the end of 2021, she shared two divergent singles: metal riffs filled “Skin a Rat” while “The Greatest” was an immersive and sincere ballad. The LA-based musician reveals yet another side to her unparalleled artistry with “To Say It”.

Ashworth’s latest single is an explosive fusion of sound. Industrial, noise rock, and even dashes of alt-pop are married on this mind-bending number. The mélange yields a track that is aggressive and edgy at one moment and dizzying another. Her voice, likewise, transitions between the darkness and the light, as she seeks closure from the one who left her for dead.

“Don’t want to agonize, just say it
Just tell me how you want to play it
I don’t want you to apologize
Just say it, say it, say it”

Simply brilliant and one we are likely to hear again at the end of the year. We’ll definitely hear it on February 25th, which is the date her upcoming record, Squeeze, will be released on Domino Records. Pre-order it here. It should be memorable.

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The Smile – “You Will Never Work in Television Again” (Oxford, England)

RIYL: Radiohead in their youthful days, Sons of Kemet

Technically, Radiohead are still an indie band. They’re massively successful and sellout tours, but they still do everything pretty much on their own terms. Heck, they release albums with no notice whatsoever. Jonny Greenwood and Thom Yorke, however, did telegraph their new project a few months ago. With Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, they have embarked on a new journey called The Smile, and their first single is a blast from the past.

Forget the sweeping alt-electronic-driven songs of Phase IV Radiohead. Instead, “You Will Never Work In Television Again” recalls Radiohead in their alt-rock youthful days. It is edgy, urgent, and anthemic, yet it is also fresh. Greenwood’s searing guitar never lets up while Skinner does a fabulous job of never relenting. Yorke’s voice sounds like it did nearly 30 years ago, piercing the sky with his rumbling falsetto. His lyrics, meanwhile, read as several, massive middle fingers aimed at the manipulative executives that run television and film studios (*cough* Harvey Weinstein *cough). The lines just might be Yorke’s most pointed and poignant.

“He chews ’em up he spits ’em out
It’s whatshisname the genie man
Mechanical, mechanical
All those beautiful young hopes and dreams
Devoured by those evil eyes and those piggy limbs
You sad fuck, you throw small change
Take your dirty hands off my love”

Awesome. The trio’s debut album should be released any week now. There’s no point in guessing when nor sharing a date because they’ll do whatever they want.

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Baby Strange – “Midnight” (Glasgow, Scotland)

RIYL: Bambara, The Murder Capital, The Blinders

While IDLES, The Murder Capital, and Shame steal the spotlight as the preeminent post-punk outfits in the UK, Baby Strange are their equals. Even after releasing a pretty great EP in Land of Nothing a year ago, Johnny Madden, Connaire McCann, and Aidan McCann are still looking for their big break. Maybe their Cinderella moment happens this year with “Midnight”

Whereas their fellow genre cousins create riveting post-punk, Baby Strange aim to shock and awe, and “Midnight” is no different. It is a 203-second ride of unrelenting energy made for driving in the wee hours of the morning, at which time the ghouls and goblins come out to play. It is a song that captures the restlessness of a young generation seeking not excitement but change. They are waiting for the elite’s carriage to turn into a pumpkin and for their dreams to disappear. Then can the youth take over and feel alive. They can run, they can dance, they can be liberated. And so can we with this awesome whirlwind of blistering noise.

The single is out now on Swedish label Icons Creating Evil Art (ICEA). The band’s upcoming European tour unfortunately has been postponed due to the rising number of COVID cases. Follow the band on social media to find out when the tour will be rescheduled.

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Gang of Youths – “In the Wake of Your Leave” (North London, England via Sydney, Australia)

RIYL: Gang of Youths

Gang of Youths are one of a kind. Few bands (if any) can match David Le’aupepe (lead vocals/piano), Max Dunn (bass), Jung Kim (guitar/keyboards), Joji Malani (lead guitar), and Donnie Borzestowski’s (drums) ability to bring the symphony and the theater to the rock stage and yet still make it sound anthemic. They’ve been doing this for over a decade now, peaking with 2017’s Go Farther in Lightness, which is unquestionably one of the great albums of the past 10 years. Whether they can match that level of sonic brilliance remains to be seen, but the early singles from Angel in Realtime indicate the Aussie quintet have not lost a thing. If anything, they have added to their exuberant mastery as heard on “In the Wake of Your Leave”.

For four minutes, Gang of Youths fill listeners with joy and euphoria – at least musically. An anthemic urgency builds from the vibrant orchestration, particularly driven by Dunn’s rambling bass line and Borzestowski’s hurried percussion. Despite the soaring atmosphere, Le’aupepe’s lyrics tell a different story. Building on “Tend the Garden”, “In the Wake of Your Leave” is the front-man sharing his struggles in coming to terms with the loss of his father, including moments when he cannot find the right words, which is surprising from a man known for his lyrical prowess.

“So as you canyoneered from our world upwards
And the angels took their place
I was the loser at your funeral
No emotion conveyed
It was drawn out in vain
And the idiot I am just figured
In the wake of your leave
That I’d never hear from you again”

Pre-orders for Gang of Youths’ new album, Angel in Realtime, are available here. The LP arrives February 25th, via Warner Records.

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Yard Act – “Rich” (Leeds, England)

RIYL: Black Midi’ Black Road, New Country; Shame

In a very short time – not even three years – Yard Act have emerged as one of the UK’s finest art-punk lyricists. How else to explain their signing with Island Records? A young band does not sign with this influential label if they were talentless. As evidence of they’re capable of achieving, the Leeds-based outfit delivered wit with explosiveness on “The Overload” and “Dark Days”. For their latest tune, they take a different tact without sacrificing their lyrical chops.

Through a much restrained approach, front-man James Smith adopts a sing-speak style and recites two stories linked to capitalism. As his band-mates Ryan Needham (bass), George Townend (drums), and Sammy Robinson (guitar) patiently deliver a gritty number that sounds like it emerged from the back alleys of 1977 Manchester, one story concerns a young man of humble beginnings who becomes rich by saving all his quids. The second story sees the person swimming in money, where he becomes the capitalist he has long despised. His songwriting is awesome, particularly during the song’s climax.

“Lord forgive me, have mercy on my soul, never
No one ever tells you how tough it really is
Please teach me
How to be both modest and how to be rich

I’ve done some terrible things because I’m rich
Looking for opportunities in ventures that are bound to bring the silver rain
Sure it’s a rush being kush
But then again, life is a bitch
I’ve become so rich
And people hate you for it, people really hate you for it”

Yard Act once again are James Smith (vocals, guitar), Ryan Needham (bass), George Townend (drums), and Sammy Robinson (guitar). Their debut album, The Overload, is out January 21st, 2022 via Islands Records and Zen F.C. Pre-orders are available at these links. It should be a doozy.

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AURORA – “A Dangerous Thing” & “Everything Matters” (feat. Pomme) (Bergen, Norway)


RIYL: Susanne Sundfør, Highasakite, Lana Del Rey

Last month, we referred to Aurora Aksnes, or simply Aurora, as a musical mystic because she turns an ordinary tale into something majestic, radiant, and awe-inspiring. “Heathens”, for instance, was a cinematic masterpiece. While the young Norwegian easily could become the next Sia or Robyn, she opts to create widescreen numbers that not only pique ears but cause imaginations to run wild, as we see ourselves as the protagonist of the story. Once again, she puts us at the heart of her two newest tracks.

“A Dangerous Thing” is a stunning, dramatic affair. The arrangement is superb, as it is dream-like yet dark and urgent. Her tale is exactly this, as she recounts how a person is unable to leave an abusive relationship. She both loves and despises him. She feels “no love in the air”, but at the same time she reveals, “I don’t think I know myself, without your help”. On “Everything Matters”, which features French singer-songwriter Pomme, Aurora crafts a more mysterious, post-fable number. It’s beautiful yet suspenseful, enchanting but haunting. She tells the tale of a young woman coming out of her shell and emerging into a super nova. Into someone to be noticed, just like an Aurora.

“I’m watching your storm turn into form
In the clouds of the world like a burst
It dances and it twirls
On top of the world, it is good and it hurts”

Orders for Aurora’s new album, The Gods We Can Touch, are available at these links ahead of its January 21st. It will be released on Decca Records.

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