For the second helping of new music on this 12th day of January, The Matinee ’22 v. 003 is focused on artists and bands from North America. Like the UK & Ireland edition, several of the names are familiar ones, whether they are indie stars or previously featured in this space. The songs are quite wide ranging with each offering stellar stories and messages.
Destroyer – “Tintoretto, It’s for You” (Vancouver, Canada)
RIYL: Nick Cave, Tom Waits
Dan Bejar has become a modern songwriting legend. Every Destroyer record brings something truly captivating and undeniably artistic, far beyond what many songwriters could even dream of. In 2020, he released Have We Met, which was yet another outstanding release. Since then, the world, Bejar included, locked down, and Bejar got to work on a new record.
The lead single from the new record is “Tintoretto, It’s for You”. The song gets its name from an Italian Renaissance painter known for his energetic paintings, including a unique painting of The Last Supper. Bejar references that imagery and goes into surreal territory, both lyrically and musically. Speaking to listeners, Bejar describes a phone call to Tintoretto. As the song builds, some deep synth, piano, and heavy drums take over the song. Eventually it’s all pierced by another synth and guitar. By the end, Bejar is just singing a wordless melody as horns come in. It’s an incredible ride and reminiscent of some of the all-time greats.
Softcult – “Gaslight” (Ontario, Canada)
RIYL: Let’s Eat Grandma, Chastity Belt, The Big Moon
Some artists and bands must first go beyond their home borders to achieve success. The Backstreet Boys and David Hasselhoff are probably the most famous examples. This may be Mercedes and Phoenix Arn-Hor’s fate, as they’ve developed a sizable fanbase on the US’s left coast and the UK as Softcult. The twin sisters also are on the roster of London-based Easy Life Records, which includes some of our favorites like Thyla and Bryde. Whether their popularity abroad will translate to Canada is still to be determined, their dreamy grunge-pop should at a minimum keep them as mainstays within the indie scene, particularly with songs like “Gaslight”.
Shoegaze notes shimmer through the blustery dream-pop approach, creating a soundscape that is stunning and intimate. We feel like we’re laying next to the Arn-Hors and sharing our deepest thoughts. For the siblings, they unveil how they feel betrayed and lost, as a former close person has made them question their reality and purpose. That individual’s manipulative behavior has led Softcult to admit, “I don’t know what I’m doing”, as they battle with the conflicting thoughts that have become embedded in their minds. But instead of succumbing to these feelings, they’ve opted to bring attention to this tactic and telling everyone they are not alone. This sense of collective purpose is another reason why Softcult will be around for a long time and eventually yield success back home.
Cloakroom – “Fear of Being Fixed” (northwest Indiana, USA)
RIYL: A Place To Bury Strangers, The Black Angels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
After delving into the grungy, space-rock landscapes on “A Force at Play” and “Lost Meaning”, Indiana’s Cloakroom take a different path for the latest single. And no it’s not towards more illuminating heights. On the contrary, Doyle Martin, Tim Remis, and Bobby Markos descend into the depths of gauzy post-punk and unleash a torrent of darkening despair with “Fear of Being Fixed”.
Stare into the distance and let this stark number fixate your gaze on something that only you can see. Let the searing, over-driven guitar and the foreboding rhythms guide you to a memory that once was long lost but now offers a reminder of what we once had before the world caved in. For the trio, this song is their coping mechanism, where they channel their anger and sadness after losing two dear companions and conjure memories deep in their psyche. At the same time, Cloakroom can re-capture the times they had, which can never be taken away from them. It might be bleak, it might be dystopian, but here they can fixate on what was.
Barrie – “Quarry” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Yumi Zouma, Wet, Mosquito Coast
Over the last two years, it’s easy to feel like time has stood still while it’s done anything but. For Barrie, two significant events defined her time in isolation: falling in love with her now wife and the loss of her father. Both events are at the core of Barrie’s upcoming record, Barbara. Recorded and written in isolation, it’s only fitting that the album bear Barrie’s legal name, which she says no one calls her “except the bank and the government”.
“Quarry” is a song about falling in love during a pandemic. Barrie paints an intimate picture with the song’s lyrics, that are sung over a lush, gorgeous synthesizer. The song ebbs and flows nicely with moments of just synthesizer and vocals followed by huge moments with harmonies, guitar, and drums. The synth-pop vibes on “Quarry” make it fit in quite nicely with the previously released “Frankie” and “Dig”.
“Quarry” is accompanied by a music video featuring Barrie and her wife Gabby (Gabby’s World), produced by Rob Kolodny (House of Nod). Check that out here.
Young Prisms – “Honeydew” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Chapterhouse, Dreamboat, Slowdive
When a band takes a hiatus that lasts a decade, their return can either be murky and muddled or rejuvenating and marvelous. The latter is the case for Young Prisms, who bid adieu just as social media became the means by which independent bands were heard. It leaves us to ponder what could have been if they had released material during this time period because maybe they could have ignited the dream-pop revival that Beach House and Alvvays revitalized. The San Francisco-based quartet, however, can still help ensure that dazzling shoegaze remains a critical part of American music, and a tune like “Honeydew” certainly will help the cause.
Find a place where you can freely stretch your arms because this track will encourage you reach far and wide. It is the warm, blissful sunshine we crave in the middle of winter, giving us that extra burst of energy to endure these frigid times. The glistening, gauzy guitars and the riveting rhythms recall the early ’90s and the days that Slowdive and the Cocteau Twins made hearts flutter. But what makes us gasp for several breaths is the angelic voice of Stefanie Hodapp. It is lush and heavenly, and one we could endlessly hear. When she sings, “I believe in you / I do”, we not only trust her words, but our confidence grows. We believe we can tackle anything. This is where the band finds itself – on a road towards redemption and recognition as a great American shoegaze outfit.
Young Prisms are: Stefanie Hodapp (vocals, synthesizer), Matthew Allen (vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizer, drum programming), Giovanni Betteo (bass, guitar, synthesizer, drum programming) and Jordan Silbert (drums). Their new album, Drifter, will be released on March 25th via Fire Talk Records. Pre-order it here and on Bandcamp.
Blushing – “The Fires” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: Cocteau Twins, Ride, Lush
While Blushing may fly under the radar in most circles, they should soon gain the reputation as one of the US’s standout shoegaze bands. This is because next month, their new album will be released, and the first singles, including “Blame” and “Sour Punch”, demonstrate the genre’s versatility. Further stretching what can be done with this great sound, the Austin-based quartet unveil “The Fires”.
Like a bonfire, the song is entrancing and hypnotic. One cannot take away ones eyes – or this case ears – from the glimmering guitars, the urgent rhythms, and the lavish vocals. As the song grows in intensity, it consumes us with its energy and radiance, and at its peak it nearly overwhelms us. While the song reels us in, the story is one who tries to escape the flames and the light. They seek shelter in the shadows and the coldness of night.
“Your fantasy your photograph you walked away
You know there’s no turning back
Your choice to leave you knew the path
Not in the way you know there’s no turning back
You vowed, you vowed
You vowed, you vowed”
There’s no running away, however, from Michelle Soto (guitar, vocals), Jacob Soto (drums), Christina Carmona (vocals, bass), and Noe Carmona’s (guitar) tantalizing sound. Their ability to make shoegaze refreshing is why their forthcoming new LP, Possessions, was on our Most Anticipated Albums of 2022. It arrives February 18th via Kanine Records. Pre-orders are available on Bandcamp.
Amy Jay – “Lucid Dreaming” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Holly Humberstone, Phoebe Bridgers, Lady Lamb
A month ago, New York City-based singer-songwriter Amy Jay released “Monster”, which sounded like a song Lucy Dacus would write. It was a terrific introduction to this hidden gem, who has transformed her café-style folk tunes into widescreen stunners. Her path is reminiscent of another Big Apple artist – Michelle Birsky, who performed under the moniker Birch and now is composing scores for movies and TV slows, including Mother/Android. Similar opportunities one day could await Jay or possibly even bigger things, especially if all her songs elicit a range of emotions like “Lucid Dreaming” does.
Jay’s newest single is reminiscent of the intimacy and emotional power of Lady Lamb and Dacus’ close friend Phoebe Bridgers. Patiently the song builds from its whispery beginnings to a stunning, urgent climax. And yet, the song never overwhelms nor does anything feel out of place, as Jays keeps the arrangement restrained in order to keep us alongside her. To have us listen to her reveal how “nothing is making sense” to her, where she wants to holler out loud and release her tension. Loud, however, is not Jay’s style, choosing instead to captivate with subtlety and lyrical poignancy.
Jay’s debut album, Awake Sleeper, arrives February 4, 2022, with pre-orders here.
Parquet Courts – “Watching Strangers Smile” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Pavement, “Weird Al” Jankovic, Ultimate Painting
The Ellen Show is probably the last place one would think Parquet Courts would “debut” their new single given the subjects they’ve covered in their music, but at the same time it’s a medium for them to reach more people. Who are we to criticize? At the end of the day, all that really matters is if the song is awesome, and “Watching Strangers Smile” is just that.
This tune was originally released in Japan as a b-side to “Black Widow Spider”, which was the lead track from their most excellent LP, Sympathy for Life (one of our Favorite Albums of 2021). Like that original single, “Watching Strangers Smile” is a bit of an oddball tune, but it is immensely fun and catchy. Pavement-like in its approach and storyline with a good dash of “Weird Al” Jankovic, Andrew Savage shares his anxieties living in the midst of a pandemic. His words may be his, but his experience is also ours (which probably also explains why Ellen DeGeneres had the honors of introducing the song to North American audiences).
“City music makes me want to lose my mind
Like when it taunts me through the bite of summer evenings
Walk out the door to the store, buy a beer
And I’m so paranoid my mask will slip
I just can’t seem to get a goddamn grip, a grip, a grip”
Parquet Courts are Andrew Savage (lead vocals, guitar), Austin Brown (guitar), Sean Yeaton (bass), and Max Savage (drums). Sympathy for Life is out now on Rough Trade Records and available on Bandcamp.
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