The Matinee ’22 v. 029 is another delight for those who love great stories. It’s bookend by two great singer-songwriters who are reviving folk and Americana while the seven songs in-between range from art-rock, alt-rock, dream-pop, anthemic pop-rock, and swooning psych-country. As usual, these nine songs are included on the Songs of March 2022 playlist, which can be found on SoundCloud and Spotify.

 

Kevin Morby – “This Is a Photograph” (Kansas City, USA)

RIYL: Bob Dylan, Khuangbin, Tinariwen, Hamilton Leithauser

Some statements are worth repeating, and this includes mentioning Kevin Morby as one of the great songwriters and storytellers in music history. Yes, Morby is not just one of the finest today, but he’s like a younger Bob Dylan who finds inspiration in other people’s experiences, current events, and his surroundings. He is an American treasure who continues to shower us with lyrical gems and albums, such as the intimate road trip of Sundowner and the dazed and confused tales of the concrete jungle on City Music. Now Morby readies an album that on first blush seems like the final part to an epic trilogy, which “This Is a Photograph” indicates.

Morby’s newest single is the equivalent of watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. Much of Morby’s earlier works were more grounded in folk and Americana, but on “This Is a Photograph” he expands his musical palette. While still based in the Americana of the US’s south, the song infuses Khruangbin-esque neo-psychedelic tones and north African textures. The result is a song that feels like an epic adventure that cuts across endless deserts and the rugged Appalachian landscape. This journey is reflected in Morby’s songwriting, who narrates a tale of life and death through the eyes of a father who is “ready to take the world on” and who will never see his two young children again. Instead, all that remains, is a single picture.

“And this is a photograph, a window to the past
of your mother in a skirt, in the cool Kentucky dirt
Laughing in the garden (haha!) back where it all started
with a smile on her face, everything in its place
Got a glimmer in her eyes seems to say: this is what I’ll miss about being alive
and this is what I’ll miss after I die”

Brilliant as always is Morby, whose new album, This Is a Photograph, will be released May 13th on Dead Oceans. Pre-orders available here and directly on Bandcamp. It’s going to be a great one.

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Mall Girl – “Poolside Person” (Oslo, Norway)

RIYL: Rubblebucket, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, EUT

Norway’s Mall Girl are one of the most malleable bands on the planet. This is to say that they are constantly shifting form and rarely staying in the same state that we found them. From the super cool and reinvigorating “Bubbly Cool Drink” to the stunning and personal “For Hannah”, they showed they could equally lift souls as they could astound minds. This is why Mall Girl are Artists to Watch for 2022 since one never knows what will come next. True to form, the third single from the outfit’s forthcoming album, Superstar, heads into another direction.

“Poolside Person” is a rambunctious slice of math-pop. It buzzes from the start with a fantastic, accelerated rhythm section that gets the heart pounding and the legs churning. While her bandmates set the soundscape ablaze, front-woman Bethany Forseth-Reichberg’s voice remains controlled and wonderfully lush. She assumes the character of a woman who seems to have it all, as she drinks cocktails while sunning poolside. There is more to her, however, than her exterior, and she longs to be seen for who she is and not what she has or what she looks like. She desires to have the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, applied to her situation, too.

“I’m the one you’ll find swimming
In a beauty pool of blue
You’ll never see me on the outside
Drinking fancy drinks with you

All I am hoping
Is to be myself
Surrounded by beauty
And perfect nonsense”

Mall Girl are Iver Armand Tandsether (guitar), Hannah Veslemøy Narvesen (drums), Eskild Myrvoll (bass), and Bethany Forseth-Reichberg (vocals). Superstar can be pre-ordered ahead of its April 29th release date on Bandcamp. It will be released on Jansen Records.

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Coach Party – “Weird Me Out” (Isle of Wight, England)

RIYL: The Beths, Black Honey, Charly Bliss

Between Coach Party and Wet Leg, the Isle of Wight is the place to find the next great indie band. While the latter have seen their popularity explode, the former is not far behind. They were, after all, Artists to Watch in 2021 and they continue to be on an upward trajectory. Maybe they’ll get the opportunity to play on one of the US late-night shows very soon because North American audiences deserve to hear Jessica Eastwood, Guy Page, Joe Perry, and Stephanie Norris’ boisterous and anthemic brand of pop-rock. They need to hear the five-alarm fire that was “FLAG (Feel Like A Girl)”, which the band released last year, and their newest tune, “Weird Me Out”.

Recalling the soaring pop-punk and pop-rock of the late ’90s and early ’00s, Coach Party unleash a song that is intended to make us lose our proverbial shit and dance like the end of days. Even for those who are more of the stoic types, they’ll likely mimic pounding on fake drums, doing bass guitar poses, or riffing out on their air guitar. Eastwood, meanwhile, has an air of Avril Lavigne in her tone and attitude, as she tries to free herself from being entrapped in another person’s world and affection. She reveals early on how she set aside her true self so that someone would love her back. She recounts a conversation between herself and the other person:

Weird me out
Don’t bе yourself, cause I want something bеtter
I’ll grow my hair the way you like
If it reminds you of her”

She then realizes she’s only harming herself. “Why do I care? I’m better than that!”, she emphatically proclaims at the end of the song. This statement is one we should all abide by, as loving oneself is first and foremost our most important priority.

The track is taken from Coach Party’s third EP, Nothing is Real, which is expected April 29th on Chess Club Records.

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No Swoon – “Wait To See” (Los Angeles via Brooklyn, USA)

RIYL: Kraków Loves Adana, Cults, Keep Shelly in Athens

In the short time we’ve gotten to learn more about Tasha Abbot (vocals, guitar) and Zack Nestel-Patt’s (bass, keys) project, No Swoon, the more we realize how their music is the perfect getaway. While some may desire big, bold, wall-shaking numbers for Fridays, songs that help ease all tension from our bodies while freeing our minds of anxiety are equally necessary. This is what No Swoon craft time and time again, but with an underlying layer of Gothic urgency. It’s dream-pop with a dash of mystery, and the combination helps us realize we can still find hope and illumination in the darkness. This is what “Wait To See” does.

Shimmering synths, grizzled guitar riffs, glistening keys, and dabbling beats encircle Abbot’s lush voice. It feels like we’ve entered an underground club in Berlin, where dimly red lights reflect off the black walls. We patiently walk through the corridors, and people are bonding in each room. This place is their sanctuary and not a place of doom and gloom. This place is where they have found themselves. Abbot, too, has found herself in this dazzling and enlightening world.

“Reflection changed
And that’s okay
I’m where I long to be
Where I long to

Looking back there
It makes sense now
Looking back there
It makes sense

The song is taken from No Swoon’s forthcoming new album, Take Your Time, which drops April 8th. Pre-orders available at Bandcamp.

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Neighbor Lady – “Haunting” (Athens, GA USA)

RIYL: Many Voices Speak, Pearl Charles, Springtime Carnivore

There are songs that make you gasp at the start. Then there are songs that make you gasp throughout its duration because it’s the definition of pure crippling beauty. While we can try to find more words to describe Neighbor Lady‘s newest single, “Haunting”, sometimes we just need to step aside and let the song do all the talking.

We will say, however, that before pressing play, take a long, deep breath because it might be the last time you inhale. The solemn, dreamy, psych-Americana vibe of “Haunting” is heavenly and, well, haunting. The only thing even more levitating than the wonderful arrangement (the lingering keys are superb) is Emily Braden’s soft yet gorgeous vocal. Despite how stunning it sounds, her lyrics are heart-wrenching, as she shares how the memory of a person continues to consume her thoughts and dreams.

“Because I hate myself a little more every day
Don’t read into it all
I told myself I’d take the fall
Oh but I could have warned you

I sink a little deeper
Sink a little deeper every day
I sometimes see you in my dreams
I can’t help but think you’re haunting me”

Neighbor Lady are Emily Braden (vocals), Jack Blauvelt, (guitars, keyboard), Payton Collier (bass), and Andrew McFarland (drums). They’ll be performing at SXSW later this month. In the meantime, this single is available via Park the Van.

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Prima Queen – “Invisible Hand” (Bristol, UK/Chicago, USA)

RIYL: Snail Mail, Ada Lea, The Weather Station

Last year, Prima Queen released the fantastic single “Chew My Cheeks”. That single followed two more great tracks showed the duo of Louise Macphail and Kristin McFadden can create some truly stellar tunes. 

Recently, Prima Queen released “Invisible Hand”, the second song of theirs that was produced by The Big Moon. Its early moments hint at the scale of the sound that Prima Queen can create – a gripping, soaring rocker that reflects the emotional torture eating away at the pair. Just as quickly as the song roars, it gives way to a gorgeous verse. As McFadden delivers a captivating and relatable story, underneath is a quietly surging guitar that feels like it’s about to bubble over. There’s a moment where it all fades away, during which the duo sing about feeling completely lost and tired all the while crying in the back of a yoga class. “I’m just being strangled by an invisible hand”, she sings. It’s a feeling with which we can empathize because every day we, too, feel anchored instead of set free.

“Invisible Hand” is out now via Nice Swan Records and available on these links. Keep an eye out for Prima Queen’s debut EP, which should surface sometime in mid-2022.

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Team Me – “Green Crystal Rain on a Star” (Elverum, Norway)

RIYL: Methyl Ethel, MGMT, Portugal. The Man

It’s hard to believe that Team Me have surpassed a decade since their formation. For those less familiar with the band from the quaint municipality of Elverum, Team Me helped launch the indie music renaissance in Norway. They were and are the Scandinavian country’s equivalent to Arcade Fire, using a wide range of instruments to create rapturous art-rock and alt-pop. Like the Canadian giants, Team Me achieved success quickly, winning a Spellemannprisen (the Norwegian equivalent to the Grammys) as Best Pop Group in 2011.

The group, however, separated in 2015 to the disappointment of many (including ourselves), as each member pursued new projects. They briefly reformed in 2019, playing at a few festivals in Norway. Team Me, however, are now firmly back with the announcement that their third album, Something In The Making, will be released in the spring. To date, Marius Drogsås Hagen, Elida Inman Tjørve, Simen Schikulski, Bjarne Alexander Ryen Berg, Simen Sandbæk Skari, Uno Møller Christiansen, Julie Ofelia Østrem Ossum, and Andreas Reiten Westhagen have released three songs from the LP: “Song of a Drummer”, “Just Another Sleepless Night in the Dark”, and “High Street”. The fourth and final song to be shared before the album’s March 11th release date reveals the band at their artistic peak.

“Green Crystal Rain on a Star” is a gorgeous piece of dramatic art. Despite its minimalist and subdued start, tension can be felt in Hagen’s pensive vocals. He calmly sings in our direction, Just because you didn’t get the lion’s share of credit doesn’t mean / You didn’t do well / Doesn’t mean you failed”. These lyrics set the stage for this terrific tale of finding strength in times of weakness and finding the slight glimmers of light within the surrounding darkness. Gradually, the song builds, as various instruments join in, adding to the mystery, desperation, pain, and hope that fills the track. The latter is reflected when the band sings:

“Green crystal rain on a star
Can you picture it?
What do you see?”

The words may seem like it came from a fairy tale or a sci-fi novella, but it also is a beautiful image of what is possible if we believe in something. If we believe in ourselves. Welcome back Team Me.

Again, Something In The Making will be released March 11th. Propeller Recordings has the honors.

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – “Tidal River” (Melbourne, Australia)

RIYL: Pavement, Kiwi Jr., Dick Diver

Australia is home to some of the best singer-songwriters and storytellers on the planet. The list is lengthy, and those on the list are not isolated to the usual genres – folk, indie rock, and Americana. Instead, pretty much every genre has its own Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan. In the pop-rock band field, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are the pinnacle of outstanding songwriting.

The Melbourne-based quintet are arguably one of the top-four or -five bands Down Under. They consistently blow our minds with their bust-a-groove melodies and tremendous songwriting, such as on the jangly indie-rock earworm “The Way It Shatters”. They continue to show us a good time while offering thought-provoking lyrics on “Tidal River”.

This upbeat little rocker is made for driving, whether it’s a brief Sunday excursion along the coast or a week-long road trip to escape the big city’s traffic. Jangly notes emanate from the dual guitars, and the approach echoes Dick Diver back in the day. Meanwhile, the rhythm section provides smooth grooves to make the sonic trip even more delightful. While the arrangement will induce smiles and thoughts of warmer weather, the band provide a biting critique of their home country. They address the lackadaisical and often antipathetic attitude of most Australians, who at times seem like they are living in a bubble. Even in the face of extreme climate changes – devastating floods in Queensland, severe droughts in the Northern Territory, and wildfires in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia – Aussies won’t deviate from their routines. As the band sing:

“Jetski over the pale reef
Chase the pill for some relief
As long as you don’t point out
What’s underneath
Your feet
Stand and compete
It’s the only retreat
The turf is pure
Keep the peace on the green leaf streets

Fire up the grill ignition
And cook it beyond recognition

Tidal River
Through our fingers
Passes on”

Don’t let Endless Rooms pass through your fingers. It drops May 6th on Sub Pop Records. Pre-orders are available here and directly on Bandcamp

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are: Tom Russo, Joe White, Fran Keaney, Joe Russo, and Marcel Tussie

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Melanie MacLaren – “Deep Dark Sleep” (Nashville, USA)

RIYL: Fenne Lily, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers

Late last year, Nashville’s Melanie MacLaren startled us with “Pushing Daisies”. It was a song that pulled together stunning lyricism and gorgeous instrumentals in ways that are reminiscent of some of today’s finest singer-songwriters. It also featured a dynamic both vocally and lyrically that made it hit so much harder.

MacLaren is back with a brand new EP, Kill My Time, which is anchored by the sensational “Deep Dark Sleep”. Much like the earlier single, “Deep Dark Sleep” is a sad folk pop song on the surface, but MacLaren adds so much more to the song. Violin and banjo underscore the song’s quieter moments. MacLaren’s lyricism and vocal delivery, meanwhile, impress again with haunting harmonies describing howling wind and rain. The song builds up into an ending where it all gives way to a feeling of serenity, even when the lyrics evoke a sense of hopelessness. The entire EP is full of breathtaking moments like the ones on “Deep Dark Sleep”.

“Night gets long till a nightingale’s song
Cuts through the cracks of my phone
Something ’bout somebody singing they’re lonely
Makes you feel not so alone”

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