The Matinee ’22 v. 036 features eights songs, although the final one is the equivalent of five tracks. So another way to think about today’s selection is that you’re getting more bang for your buck.
Fantastic Negrito – “Oh Betty” (Oakland, USA)
RIYL: Gary Clark Jr., Leon Bridges, Al Green
Anyone who has followed Xavier Dphrepaulezz’s career as Fantastic Negrito will know his story fairly well. For those who don’t, here’s the Cole’s Notes version.
Dphrepaulezz shot to fame in 2015 as the first winner of NPR’s Tiny Desk Contest. He was selected among more than 7,000 entrants, winning the judges over with his funk-roots-rock-blues combination and powerful stories about being Black, poor, and disenfranchised in America. Fantastic Negrito, however, was not his first foray into music.
Back in the ’90s, Dphrepaulezz signed a record deal with Interscope under the mononym Xavier; however, he would only release one album, X Factor, with the label. He terminated his contract because, as he told NPR when he was officially introduced as the Tiny Desk winner: “The minute I signed that record deal, my — my creative life just ended. I really didn’t understand the business side of music, probably like a lot of artists, and it was pretty devastating to me.”
While more than 20 years passed for the spotlight to shine on him again, he is now rewarded for being a trailblazer and an inspiration for millions of people. He is also being celebrated for creating awesome and poignant songs like “Oh Betty”.
Founded in the roots-rock of the ’70s and ’80s, this track oozes coolness, and it is frankly awesome. The first half is funky with a hint of southern grit. Just as our heads shake and our toes tap start to find its own groove, the song transforms into a fantastic, scorching rocker a la Gary Clark, Jr. As Dphrepaulezz’s guitar grinds, a terrific electric organ fiddles in the background. This transition represents the passion of two people who forge forbidden union. These people are Dphrepaulezz’s 7th generation grandparents, and the video powerfully and beautifully captures their love. Dphrepaulezz, meanwhile, assumes the form of his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, and he longingly sings:
“Oh, my sweet sweet Betty
I can feel you laugh and cry
Your tears, they clean me
You’re the only thing that feeds me
You’ll be free in 7 years while I’m still bleeding
I wonder if you’ll ever need me?”
Low Lying Sun – “Hymn To Say Goodbye” (Essex, England)
RIYL: Editors, Gang of Youths, Frightened Rabbit
With SXSW kicking off this week, it seems like an opportune time to think about who could perform next year. While we could name a band that we’ve covered numerous times in the past, we instead nominate a band with just two songs to their credit. When you hear “Hymn To Say Goodbye” from English outfit, Low Lying Sun, you’ll fully comprehend why they would not just make a great addition to the biggest indie festival on the planet but how they would win over critics and fans alike.
Clear your throat and be ready to holler alongside the quartet, as they deliver one of the most euphoric indie-rock songs of the year. An urgency immediately rings through the track with the steely guitars, the hammering percussion, and the booming synths. As the instrumentation settles down, Hemmings’ first words add to the track’s desperation. “I can feel the end is closing in / And I know because I only caused you pained”, he sings. His voice remains downtrodden until the track reaches its first peak. At this moment, everything gradually surges. It then eases back like “the dust settling”, and then rises and falls once more.
“Hymn To Say Goodbye”, however, has one final climax that is mind-blowing. Its final forty seconds represent the roar of a remorseful man on his last breath. Of man who seeks redemption but knows a higher power will not come calling.
His tears left no stain
But I guess I’ve made my bed
Lie in it
Beside where you’ve been
What a sin
What a hymn to say goodbye”
Low Lying Sun are: Michael Hemmings (vocals, guitar), Ross Connell (guitar), Matt Chan (bass), and Noah Booth (drums). Their debut EP, Hymm To Say Goodbye, is due April 1st via Lab Records.
Pillow Queens – “No Good Woman” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Middle Kids
With Dublin’s music scene undergoing a renaissance, numerous bands are vying to be claimed The Dub’s very best. Sorry U2, Boyzone, Westlife, and even My Bloody Valentine (at least until they release their long-awaited new album), but this informal affair comes down to three groups: Fontaines D.C., The Murder Capital, and Pillow Queens (with honorable mentions to Silverbacks, Sprints, and NewDad). The latter make their case with what is, in our humble opinions, one of the year’s standout songs.
Pillow Queens’ latest single, “No Good Woman”, is a riveting and poignant rocker. It echoes a young Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen in tone, attitude, and power. The song begins with some light, twangy guitars and a soothing rhythm section. Co-front-person Pamela Connolly’s voice, though, shines, rising with the emotion and presence of the aforementioned Van Etten. For the first 2 minutes and 20 seconds, she and her band mates serenade us with a melodic stunner.
The track then changes gears, intensifying and blazing with angst, want, and grief. This brings Connolly’s story of a person constantly longing for human contact to life – or as Connolly conveys: “(‘No Good Woman’ is) written more from the perspective of someone looking upon the scenarios of those around them. It tries to convey a perpetual hopelessness of debt and striving for an ideal that can never be achieved. It’s pretty much a song about Sisyphus.”
“You swim through the black till your time is up
Devil inside so wild
You climb up on the glass, so tired and worn
But you dive in another night
If only you had money
To spend what you wanted to spend
But you’rе a dead man walking, dead man talking
Dead man screams abuse”
Pillow Queens are: Sarah Corcoran (vocals, guitar, bass), Pamela Connolly (vocals, guitar, bass), Rachel Lyons (drums), and Cathy McGuinness (lead guitar). Pre-order their new album, Leave the Light On, at these links, including Bandcamp, ahead of its April 1st release. Royal Mountain Records has the privilege.
Hana Vu – “Mr. Lonely” & “Parking Lot” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Lala Lala, Babehoven, Snail Mail
Yesterday, Hana Vu released her new EP, Parking Lot, which could be considered an appendix to her terrific 2021 album, Public Storage. The mini-album features four live renditions of songs from the LP plus two new tracks that didn’t make the final cut. Thank goodness the early twentysomething from Los Angeles thought the world had to hear “Mr. Lonely” and “Parking Lot” because they offer a microcosm of Vu’s talent and how great Public Storage is.
On “Mr. Lonely”, Vu delivers the equivalent of a rock lullaby. It is a sobering affair with Vu delicately strumming her electric guitar while synths and electronics swell behind. Through the somber atmosphere, Vu’s story is framed as a response to Bobby Vinton’s 1962 ballad of the same name. The latter spoke of a homesick soldier on an overseas assignment, while Vu’s rendition seeks to simultaneously comfort the soldier while also telling him that the world he once knew has turned to shit. A raging pandemic, tense race and class relations in America, the tidal wave of lies available, and an invasion of a democratic European nation have made Earth unrecognizable.
“Parking Lot”, meanwhile, is a brimming indie-rocker. A stuttering percussion and a plodding bass line open and drive the track, creating a sense of desperation and exhilaration. As the song builds and gets grittier with the over-driven guitar taking over the wheel, Vu shares how she’s not the type to stay within the lines. That she instead paves her own path and follows her own rules. Who are we to question what roads Vue decides to traverse? After all, she’s been doing thing her own way and it has made her one of the most exciting and talented young artists around.
Aubrey Haddard – “Just a Wall” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Sunflower Bean, Wolf Alice, The Sundays
In her young career, Aubrey Haddard has crafted a modern-day fairy tale (“Portuguese Red”) and a Shakespearean-like tragedy (“National Tragedy”). There is an element of the theater in her songs, which gives life to stories that at first sound familiar but then startle with how the plot unfolds. Her ability to ignite imaginations contributed to her being named Vocalist of the Year and Singer-Songwriter of the Year at the 2018 Boston Music Awards. Now calling Brooklyn home, her songs could one day be featured in a Broadway musical or she could perform them at places like Forest Hills Stadium or Rockwood Music Hall. Or maybe they belong on film, kind of where “Just a Wall” should be seen.
With touches of ’90s dream-pop (think The Sundays) and the cinematic rock of the 2020s, “Just a Wall” is an eye-opener. A graceful pop arrangement opens the track, where a lonely, lingering guitar strums behind Haddard’s brittle voice. “I’m starting to forget what I lived for”, she shares as she tries to overcome one disappointment after another. Eventually, her anger swells, as she’s “Banging fists against the mirror / Now it’s just a, now it’s just a wall”. Synths, bass, and percussion gradually enter the fray, and like a great musical’s centerpiece the song rises until it reaches a moment of awe. A euphoric moment that makes us feel like we could float to the stars or “run to you”, like Haddard does. For her, disappointment only ceases when she can make amends with another person and more importantly herself.
Young Prisms – “Outside Air” (San Francisco, USA)
RIYL: Lush, Cocteau Twins, Pinkshinyultrablast
We cannot say enough about the great shoegaze revival happening right now. As much as we love synth-pop, a great shoegaze tune always will steal away our attention and hearts first. One young band making us relive our youth are Young Prisms, who have already blown us away with “Honeydew” and “Self Love”. Soon, the rest of the world will get to delight in an album’s worth of dreamy tunes, as Drifter‘s arrival is just 9 days away. To prepare us for the occasion – like a pre-game party – the band share “Outside Air”.
The greatest shoegaze songs have the ability to make you gasp at least once within the first ten seconds. It takes about five seconds for this to happen on “Self-Love”. The reverb-drenched guitars and the titillating rhythms deliver the first breathtaking salvo that is reminiscent of Lush’s dreaminess. The next salvo comes a few seconds later when front-person Stefanie Hodapp’s drifting vocal arrives. “Waking up again / With you next to me / The day feels all complete”, she shares the emotions swelling within her. For the next two-plus minutes, Hodapp and her band-mates build on this bedroom intimacy, where every gauzy note feels a gentle breath on the back of our neck and every hovering lyric is akin to a whisper. We never wish to leave this place or wake up if this is all just a dream.
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).
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – “The Dripping Tap” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
We probably should have shared this earlier, but we needed to find the right fit for an 18+ minute epic. What better than the middle of the week when we could all use a pick-me-up, right? And who else can make 18 minutes just fly by? The answer obviously is King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, whose latest single also is the lead track from their forthcoming, 20th album (20 albums!), Omnium Gatherum. Oh yeah, we should also mention that the LP will be a double album! And did we mention, that the first song is 18 minutes long? Holy moly! In the meantime, we highly advise that you go to the bathroom first, have a beverage nearby, and fasten your seat belts because “The Dripping Tap” is a manic and awesome ride!
How does one even describe a tune that lasts nearly one-third of an hour? For starters, don’t let the first 80 seconds fool you. This track isn’t a somber, classic rock tearjerker. On the contrary, it is The Gizz at their finest. Whirling, twisting, and searing guitars; propulsive and bombastic rhythms; and Stu Mackenzie’s trademark scorching vocal fill the remaining 17 minutes. There are moments where the song slightly slows down to give Mackenzie, Joe Walker, Ambrose Kenny-Smith, Lucas Skinner, Cook Craig, and Michael Cavanagh a bit of a breather, but this is a marathon. Somehow, some way the sextet maintain their energy.
Lyrically, the words seem somewhat childish, but listen closely and the words, “drip drip from the tap don’t slip”, are symbolic of the world today – of waste, selfishness, and greed. That the more we take from our planet, eventually it will bite back and leave us to fall and rot. But with The Gizz around, hopefully we can prevent our own oblivion (while the band obliterates our eardrums).
Omnium Gatherum will be released later in 2022 on the band’s own KGLW Records. Their world tour kicks off this Saturday in Brazil.
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