For part two, The Matinee ’22 v. 026 – World Edition focuses on England, Ireland, and Denmark, featuring six bands who each make us re-calibrate how we measure greatness in music. They all have the chance to reshape the way we experience and appreciate this fine art.
Saloon Dion – “Hey Hey” (Bristol, England)
RIYL: Shame, Gustaf, Gang of Four
Our introduction to Saloon Dion was last summer when they shared the super-smart and super-catchy “VHS”. The song was like Gang of Four reincarnated yet with more energy and eccentricity. This approach should eventually result in the Bristol art-punk quintet receiving similar accolades and fandom like Shame, who in a very short time went from underground favorites to performing at festivals across the world. Getting them a step closer to international acclaim is “Hey Hey”.
Somewhere in Los Angeles or wherever they may be, Christopher Walken and Will Farrell are smiling. Like Walken said in the famous Saturday Night Live skit on the Blue Oyster Cult, “I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!” And Saloon Dion deliver with a clucking cowbell sprinkled over top driving guitars, a super groovy bass line, and jumping rhythms. And it’s all stupendous. There is one thing more amusing than the sonic ear-worm the quartet have crafted, which is Dave Sturgess’ songwriting. He describes the many ways people break their promises, vows, and ethics. “I’m going to break my one commandment”, he repeats before providing a few anecdotes, the best of which just might be:
“Gabe’s father was a space man
He spread his seed all over town
He tried to find a reason
But none couldn’t be found”
Saloon Dion are: Taryn McDonnell (guitar, vocals), Tom Simpkins (guitar, vocals), David Sturgess (synth, vocals), Luke Mullins (bass), and Ben Molyneux (drums). The five-piece are have signed with Nice Swan Recordings.
The Hanging Stars – “Black Light Night” (London, England)
RIYL: Midlake, Cass McCombs, The Jayhawks
As The Hanging Stars enter their eighth year as a band and prepare for the launch of their fourth album, Hollow Heart, widespread acclaim and success has largely eluded them. And yet, Richard Olson (vocals, guitar), Sam Ferman (bass), Paulie Cobra (drums), and Patrick Ralla (banjo, guitar, keyboards, and assorted instruments) continue to push on and do what they love. A band that creates widescreen, cosmic Americana, however, can only be overlooked for so long. Eventually, curators, festival organizers, and music fans will discover their talent. In listening to their previous releases, The Hanging Stars would seem like a no-brain addition to Newport Folk Festival, Austin City Limits, or Pickathon. Heck, one does not need to dive deep into their discography, but instead “Black Light Night” is a microcosm of their superb artistry.
As its title suggest, this track is made for late-night drives to nowhere. Shimmering guitars, taut rhythms, and the beautiful hum of the electric organ are the fuel that keeps us awake while Olson, with his rich vocals, is our guide. He describes how we’re feeling. “My head is on fire / The river is running red”, he accurately describes the fever boiling within us. While we race through the cold, deserted streets with the windows down, we cannot shake this sense of abandonment. “Maybe it’s all a dream”, we try to convince ourselves. But as the sun rises, we continue to chase after a false belief that when we return home someone will be waiting for us. In reality, however, that is just a dream.
Simply a great story of want, hope, and desperation. Expect similar stories to occupy Hollow Heart, which will be released March 25th via Loose Music.
Kindsight – “Hi Life” (Copenhagen, Denmark)
RIYL: Guerilla Toss, Rubblebucket, The Beths
Not long ago, we had anointed Swedish outfit Kluster b as one of the – if not THE – most innovative bands on the planet. We might have to amend that statement because Danish band Kindsight are similarly chameleon-like. No two songs are alike. For instance, “Don’t You Grow Up” was a coming-of-age, ’80s-esque number while “Sun Is Always in My Eyes” was a dreamy and pensive number. Now Nina Hyldgaard Rasmussen (vocals), Søren Svensson (guitar), Anders Prip (bass), and Johannes Jacobsen (drums) go way off the board and deliver a belter with “Hi Life”.
The track is difficult to categorize because it is a mix of genres. It bounces with alt-pop vibrancy, features math-rock guitar riffs during the calmer points, and then it explodes into rapturous noise-rock. Meanwhile, Rasmussen’s vocal is also twee like. When a song mixes so many different elements, the end product really should be a mess. In the hands of this talented Danish four-piece, however, we are treated to a three-minute extravaganza of euphoric chaos. Even Rasmussen’s story is a little whacked, as she talks about “scrawny men” with “lips like matchsticks that never did go off”. Then she deviates to speaking about seeing the love of her life across the street. So what do these disparate things have in common? The band answer the question when they sing:
“Don’t you touch your life it’s not your own not your own
My love stays with me as I get old I get cold”
Zola Blood – “For The Birds” (London, England)
RIYL: Rufus Du Sol, Mansionair, Mt. Wolf
Four weeks ago when Zola Blood shared the chilling “It Never Goes”, they hinted that their sophomore album was coming. The only questions were what would it be called and when would it be released. Yesterday, Matt West (vocals), Ed Smith (synths), and Paul Brown (guitars) provided the answers: Black Blossom will be released on April 1st via 225 Records. Alongside the announcement, the trio shared the LP’s second track, “For The Birds”, which encompasses all the traits that has made Zola Blood one of the UK’s most exciting indietronica bands and a favorite in these parts.
Strap in and be prepared to be taken to a whole other dimension, one that exists deep in our cerebral cortex as opposed to anywhere physical. Allow the opening dabbling rhythms, the humming synths, and Matt West’s alluring voice lead you look on a grand introspective journey. Then loosen the seatbelt and start to move as the song intensifies and turns into a hypnotic whirlwind of darkwave. Move away from the things that tie you down, including your computer, mobile phones, and anything artificial. Reconnect with yourself and others, heeding West’s words:
“I want to check out
Just want to be human for a while
In falling daylight
Just want to be somewhere else tonight”
And this tune is one that will aid us in finding a new destination and connections.
Just Mustard – “Still” (Dundalk, Ireland)
RIYL: Alice Glass + Depeche Mode + Preoccupations + Nine Inch Nails
The Irish music renaissance is in full force. Fontaines D.C., Pillow Queens, Silverbacks, Sprints, and The Clockworks are among the young bands that have reinvigorated the Emerald Island. And we would remiss to not include Just Mustard on this list.
The Dundalk five-piece master the art of trembling. Their harrowing brand of noise-rock and post-punk is not for the faint of heart nor those wishing to be taken to sunny landscapes and happy places. It is instead made for the dark, cavernous venues where the only lights that seen emanate from the flickering strobe and the colors from the pedals and keys. Otherwise, this is a dungeon where fans come to be devoured by songs like “Still”.
This cathartic single is outstanding. The chainsaw-like guitars slice through the walls we’ve erected while the plodding rhythms shock our soul. It all sounds like an environment that Trent Reznor would have crafted with Preoccupations and Depeche Mode’s Dave Gahan. While the instrumentation carves us up, Katie Ball’s ghostly vocal steals our mind and makes us feel no pain. We are enthralled by her soft yet otherworldly voice, which describes how at one time she was ours but now we are hers to please. We are her prisoner, and ensuring we do her bidding are David Noonan (guitar), Mete Kalyoncuoglu (guitar), Rob Clarke (bass), and Shane Maguire (drums). Awesome.
Sunflower Thieves – “Lichtenberg Figures” (Leeds, England)
RIYL: Sun June, Lomelda, Lunar Vacation
Often we come across a song that completely bowls us over, and we’re left wondering how we have to written about the band sooner. How is it possible for us to not have shared the music of Amy Illingworth and Lily Sturt-Bolshaw and their project Sunflower Thieves? Already favorites of many DJs at BBC, the Leeds-based duo figuratively and literally create musical magic with their dreamy take of indie folk-pop. Their previous single, “I Don’t Know Why”, possessed the warmth and solemn blissfulness associated with the first day of spring. For their latest number, they forage deeper into the dreaminess and deliver what can only be described as ethereal.
“Lichtenberg Figures” is stunning. The harmonies of the childhood friends are beautiful and breathtaking, where despite the restrained approach every spoken word becomes ingrained in one’s mind. This is important because of the message the pair share. As the violin calmly streams through the delicate folk arrangement, they share a story of a person who has experienced a traumatic event. The opening lyrics set the scene:
“You were struck by lightning walking in the rain to your car
And when you awoke, the lightning left a beautiful scar
It looked so alive, growing from the base of your spine
And next time I saw you, you were hovering up the hospital drive”
The person, however, perseveres and ends up becoming someone, something remarkable. They become a superhero in the eyes of Illingworth and Sturt-Bolshaw.
“Do you believe in extra-terrestrial life?
Cause I saw something in the sky
All of the nightmares you’ve outrun
They thought you were done but you’ve only just begun”
Sensational. The song raises expectations for the duo’s new EP, Someone To Be There For, which is expected this spring.
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