The Matinee ’22 v. 027 features both beauty and devastation, where the stories of love, regret, and death have a paralyzing effect. This is how we conclude The Songs of February 2022 Playlist, which can be spun on SoundCloud and Spotify.
DEADLETTER – “Hero” (London via Yorkshire, England)
RIYL: The Clockworks, Protomartyr, Deeper
Just when we thought post-punk had reached its peak in 2020, the emergence of bands like Black Midi, Squid, Opus Kink, and Black Country, New Road have given the genre another shot of life. They’ve taken the music that Joy Division help launch and added jazz, saloon rock, and gypsy rock. Suddenly the genre known for brooding and stark tones has become anthemic, like a trip down the rabbit, or, in many cases, both. Another band making post-punk into a raucous affair are DEADLETTER.
In November of last year, the Yorkshire outfit turned The Matinee into a party with the clever “Pop Culture Connoisseur”. The song was just a hint at what Zac Lawrence (vocals), Alfie Husband (drums), Will King (guitar), James Bates (guitar), George Ullyott (bass), and Poppy Richler (saxophone) could do. With “Hero”, they show that can retain the genre’s original bleakness while also electrifying it.
This awesome tune chimes with Protomartyr-like guitars, throbs with an IDLES-like intensity, and scours the edgy blue-collar alleys like The Clockworks. The addition of Richler’s saxophone, meanwhile, gives the song an added layer of mystery and spookiness. In true post-punk fashion, however, the band deliver a great tale of the anti-hero. This is a man whose life is a horror movie, but he’s the villain – he is the one who killed his wife. But is there another victim in this story, particularly in this complicated world of ours?
This terrific single is out on Nice Swan Records.
Roller Derby – “Starry-Eyed” (Hamburg, Germany)
RIYL: Blondie + Joy Division + Makthaverskan
When we listed Roller Derby as one of our Favorite Hidden Gems of 2021, it was on the basis of their ability to make the nostalgic seem present. Songs like “Flying High”, “Can’t See You”, “Underwater”, and “Whatever Works” were dreamy and dazzling in their effect. Philine Meyer (vocals, keys), Manuel Romero Soria (guitar), and Max Nielsen (bass), however, are not satisfied with being stationary. The ’60s French-pop flair of “Something True“ showcased another side to the trio’s craft. When a young band is willing to extend themselves, it shows that they are growing more confident with their abilities and who they are, and their confidence must be at a whole new level with “Starry-Eyed”.
Forget the dreamy sweetness of their first few singles because the three young Germans channel their inner Joy Division and Blondie to deliver a rapturous piece of gauzy post-punk. A striking guitar riff, which echoes of Bernard Sumner, and a trembling bass line encompass Meyer’s smokey yet ghostly vocal. It’s all incredibly mesmerizing, and the experience is accentuated by Meyer’s story of feeling left alone and in the dark. She longs to understand what is in her partner’s mind, but all she hears is silence.
“Talk to me, talk to me, I wanna feel your misery
Starry-eyed is my disguise, I hope you know
Talk to me, talk to me, I wanna feel your misery
Starry-eyed is my disguise, you don’t know what it means to me
I feel rain under the sea
I don’t feel your love for me
Don’t know why, it feels so wrong
Voices sound like I am numb
Can’t move on, can’t help myself, I miss you”
We cannot wait to hear what else this young band has in store. Their potential is limitless.
Grace Ives – “Loose” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: present-day Sharon Van Etten, Carly Rae Jepsen, Ellur
Three years ago, Grace Ives self-released 2nd, which was a highly introspective album set over lo-fi and intimate synth-pop. It put her on the radar as a future star, and an argument can be made that her honest yet concise songwriting and layered approach inspired a few, more established artists. She could influence more artists now that she’s signed with True Panther and Harvest Records, and her first single with the labels is not just an ear-worm but the stuff of legends.
The lo-fi synth-pop approach on “Loose” has been dialed up a notch, buzzing with an energy made for secretive clubs. The dance-hall beats provide the perfect complement to the swirling melody of synths and Ives’ hushed vocal. As the song buzzes and bops, her words are the opposite. They are grounded in anxiety, uncertainty, and self-doubt. While her voice sounds confident, she shares how she idles many nights away and wonders what she will do next.
“Like, oh my god
Started when I was around
Three days old
Coming out so cold
‘Cause it eats a lot
All of my head scum, too
Mirror on the wall
What’s this coming to?
The young New Yorker has all the potential and talent to be an all-time great.
The Ninth Wave – “Hard Not to Hold You” (Glasgow, Scotland)
RIYL: Eagulls, Sundara Karma, Bloxx
A band we’ve adored from afar for years shared some good and not-so-great news. First the good: The Ninth Wave released one last tease before their sophomore album, Heavy Like a Headache, is unveiled in a couple of weeks. The disappointing: the four-piece will be taking a hiatus once the LP drops and after they play their shows in Manchester, London, and Glasgow in mid-March. As young and immensely talented individuals, it’s not overly surprising that they each wish to pursue new ventures and projects. Still, the news that the band will be away indefinitely is disappointing. But instead of wallowing in sadness, we should be celebrating what remains, including completely absorbing ourselves in “Hard Not to Hold You”.
This latest single encompasses all the traits that make Haydn Park-Patterson, Millie Kidd, Kyalo Searle-Mbullu, and Calum Stewart one of Scotland’s great young indie bands. While many bands can create anthemic music, The Ninth Wave do it with incomparable urgency and desperation. As such, not only do we feel like energetically dancing but we want to completely alter the course of history. We want to race to the people we love and ease their pain.
“It’s hard not to hold you and I’m sad to say
That I can’t console you when there’s nothing to face
Oh, I’d like to know you when you’ve finished your thoughts
It’s not easy feeling helpless
Oh, I’d like to hold you
So I’ll feign a smile and bury everything I think
Just tell me who I’ve to lie to (I know it’s hard)
More tainted nights
They come and then they go
But I just want to know where to stand”
No matter how long The Ninth Wave’s hiatus will be, they will be one of our all-time favorites. Here’s hoping that when Heavy Like a Headache is released on March 11th via Distiller Music, it won’t be their last album together. Pre-saves and pre-orders are available here.
Remedies – “White Noise” (Narvik, Norway)
RIYL: Marissa Nadler, Weyes Blood, Aurora
We have often said that we are in the midst of an era of outstanding songwriting, where even mainstream artists have had to up their games to keep up with the tidal wave of young songwriters. Even those who may not achieve worldwide popularity, they can still be influential, particularly if they have a cult following or a TV/movie producer uses songs for their project. This happened with Unloved (Killing Eve) and Aurora (Hanna, The Blacklist, Grey’s Anatomy), and the same could happen for Remedies.
Started by Sigrid Ryan (vocals) and Tor Erik Ursin (instrumentals), Remedies’ music is made for the small and big screens as well as the theater. It’s not just the mysterious and often fantasy-like melodies they craft but also the imaginative stories they tell. There are songwriters and then there are storytellers, which is what Remedies are. As an example of their dramatic art, they share “White Noise”.
Beautifully pensive and mysterious, the track sounds like a 21st Century Nordic fairy tale. The opening, light piano arrangement gives way to a wider-screen sound of dabbling keys, a soothing guitar line, and rolling cymbals. While the instrumentation sounds romantic, Ryan’s tale is hardly one of unbreakable love. Rather, she enters the mind of a man sitting along in a mental institution. “Polite and captivating / He greeted friend and foe alike / They came for him Sunday afternoon / Straitjacket on, no one heard him cry”, Ryan sings at the start, setting the stage for this murderous tale. The man cries because he is haunted by his crime, where he killed a woman, showing no remorse until this day. And now he is inflicted with a greater pain: one of eternal sadness, loneliness, and madness.
Sounds like a song made for television or film if there ever was one.
Boy With Apple – “Linger On” (Gothenburg, Sweden)
RIYL: Lush, Blushing, Slowdive
We have a special spot for shoegaze. The more cosmic and dazzling it is, the better. One band that reaches for the stars is Boy With Apple, whose intergalactic approach is why they were one of our Favorite Hidden Gems of 2021. “Green Eyes” shimmered like the stars in the blackened sky while “Iceage” was beyond dreamy. If Saga Fransson, Zara Henriksson, and Tim Hedlund continue to create such grandiose music, they might find themselves mentioned in the same category as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Lush, and Cocteau Twins. It’s obviously too early to put the quartet on that pedestal, but they take a few strides closer with “Linger On”.
Dazzling and gorgeous don’t do this fabulous display of shoegaze justice. It is as lush as anything Lush has created while it features the gasping quality that has made Slowdive legendary. The gauzy guitars, the deftly executed rhythms, and Fransson’s soaring vocals are all reminiscent of the days when shoegaze reigned. Fransson’s tale, too, is right out of an early ’90s coming-of-age film.
“It’s okay to look for growth
Loving is to let him go
It’s fine needing space to grow
Loving is to leave him alone”
And maybe Boy With Apple should have been born in a different decade. Then again, they can establish themselves as a new generation’s Slowdive. They are for us.
The single is out on VÅRØ Records. Surely the band’s debut album or EP is coming.
Kudu Blue – “Just a Second” (Brighton, England)
RIYL: Nao, Thievery Corporation, Maribou State
In this era of electronic music, it’s hard to believe that Kudu Blue are not stars. Maybe like some of the other bands on this list, their popularity would be on at a whole different level if they were creating music in the late ’90s or early ’00s. Their soaring trip-hop is tailor made to open concerts by Massive Attack, Tricky, or Thievery Corporation. Well, they still can since the Brighton-based outfit are quite young, and all it takes is for these great bands and fans a like to give them “Just a Second”.
Kudu Blue’s newest track is trip-hop made incredibly immersive. It will induce bodies to dance due largely to the superb percussion and beats. Minds, meanwhile, will wander with the echoed strokes of the keys and electronics as well as to Clementine Douglas’ seductive voice, which echoes of a young Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins and who sang on Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”). She sings about her wish for the world to right itself so that she and many others like her can fall in love with it, the world, again. Her lyrics are a wonderful love letter to our friends and foes near and abroad.
“When I look around it’s like everybody’s in a race
Forgetting this reality is to fast to chase
You know sometimes I feel so good about what the future holds
But every night lately
I’m saying I don’t wanna know”
Kudu Blue are Clementine Douglas (vocals), Tom Peterson (bass, synths), Owen Crouch (keys, electronics), and Creeda Kirkham (drums). They are signed with Nettwerk Music Group.
Vök – “Lose Control” (Hafnarfjörður / Akranes, Iceland)
RIYL: HÆLOS, Klangstof, BROODS
It’s been a long time since we shared anything from Icelandic electronic trio Vök. Granted, the band has only released one song since December 2018, and that was last month’s delectable pop treat, “Stadium”. Their absence, however, can be explained with the departure of co-founder Andri Enoksson, but Margrét Rán Magnúsdóttir and Einar Stefánsson have regrouped with the addition of Bergur Dagbjartsson. Despite the new composition, Vök still sound as groovy and sensual as they’ve ever been, at least on “Lose Control” they do.
With its sultry tone, bodies will be pressed tightly against each other, moving in rhythm and creating heat. The intent of the song, however, goes beyond than generating heat on the dance floor. It is also a celebration of who we are and who we choose to love.
Two sensual minds
Now this is our time”
Indeed, it is everyone’s time to shine. And hopefully three years will not have passed before we hear from Vök again.
This single, too, is out on Nettwerk Records.
Sticky Fingers – “Multiple Facets of the Same Diamond” (Sydney, Australia)
RIYL: Arctic Monkeys, U2, Gang of Youths
Aussie outfit Sticky Fingers have been known more for creating music made for beach parties. Their reggae-infused indie rock could be euphoric, anthemic, super groovy, or even bombastic. The band, however, took a two-year hiatus, so front-man Dylan Frost could address his alcoholism and mental illness plus accusations of racial discrimination. Upon their return, the Aussie outfit found their groove again, but they also entered a new chapter in their careers. They could no longer hide behind the image they were a fun-loving band because they, too, had demons. We hear them tackle them head on “Multiple Facets of the Same Diamond”.
Sticky Fingers slow the tempo way back while channeling a darker, more vulnerable side. The song, as such, is hardly made for dancing at Bondi or chilling in the backyard. It is instead made for contemplation in a dimly-lit, private room. Like a mid-career Bono, Frost opens up when he sings:
“I see it in the evening sun
Even when it rains it pours
The storm is here
But soon it’ll be gone
Tears turn to smiles in the morning sun
You only got one run round the sun
You better make it count you aren’t the only one
A vision that I see in my mind
Multiple facets of the same diamond
One of a kind together”
Sticky Fingers are: Dylan Frost (lead vocals, guitar), Paddy Cornwall (bass, vocals), Seamus Coyle (lead guitar), Eric da Silva Gruener (drums, percussion), and Daniel Neurath (keys, synth).
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