After a long weekend off, we return with an All-American affair on The Matinee ’22 v. 051. Many of the songs have a melancholic and nostalgic tone, yet they also offer us a reminder of how simpler things can lead to little joys.
Phoebe Bridgers – “Sidelines” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is a DIY success story. Only eight years ago at the ripe old age of 18, she released her eye-opening debut EP, The Killer, which caught the attention of one of the most popular alt-country artists. The LA native followed that up with 2017’s Stranger in the Alps and 2020’s Punisher, which are two of the past decade’s greatest albums. They featured Bridgers’ trademarks: her endearing vocal and emotive songwriting. In between, she’s collaborated with good friends Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as boygenius, worked with The National, and had Sir Elton John become her unofficial and unpaid promoter.
This past weekend, Bridgers took the stage at Coachella in a prime-time slot (right before Harry Styles), and it seemed like the moment was a culmination of everything Bridgers has worked so hard to achieve. Her work and upward trajectory, though, are nowhere near close from plateauing. Still just 27, the fearless independent artist is this generation’s Mitchell, Dylan, Lucinda, and Baez, and like these legends she’s inspired numerous artists – some of whom have achieved massive stardom (e.g., Clairo, beabadoobee). There is, however, only one Bridgers. There is only one artist who can simultaneously leave you gasping for a breath one moment, lost in a memory the next, and all the while feeling like you’ve found a new best friend. This is what Bridgers achieves with “Sidelines”.
Written for Hulu’s Conversations with Friends, a TV adaptation of the popular Sally Rooney novel, “Sidelines” encapsulates everything fans love about the young singer-songwriter. It is engrossing, warm, relatable, and truly stunning. The orchestration is intricate, particularly how the light strings and the hovering guitar flow effortlessly through the electric drums. Floating above them are Bridgers’ voice and lyrics, as she shares one person’s newfound courage and the peace that has come with it.
“Watch the world from the sidelines
Had nothing to prove
‘Till you came into my life
Gave me something to lose
Now I know what it feels like
To wanna go outside
Like the shape of my outline”
The single is out on Dead Oceans. This is Bridgers’ only song for 2022 so soak it all in.
Tomberlin – “sunstruck” (Brooklyn via Jacksonville, FL, USA)
RIYL: Maple Glider, Babehoven, Angie McMahon
If the music gig does not work (and every indication is that it will), Sarah Beth Tomberlin could pursue a career as an author or a screenwriter. Songs like “tap”, “happy accident” and “idkwntht” displayed the Floridian’s knack for extracting every single emotion and moment and making them feel grand. It’s a gift that Spike Jonze and Paul Thomas Anderson possess and explains why Tomberlin is one of the most promising young singer-songwriters around. So as you prepare to listen to “sunstruck”, first find a quiet place so that you can become fully immersed in Tomberlin’s striking songwriting.
As a delicate folk-pop arrangement fills the air, lead by a soft guitar line and deft percussion, Tomberlin’s soothing vocal is the attention stealer. She calmly shares with us her longing for adventure and to escape a monotone life. “I’d been looking
for hope in a song or a run or a deep breath / A punch or a two step beat that could carry me away from absurdity”, she beautifully captures her isolation. She, however, is not alone in this daydream, as she seeks to reconnect with those afar and to sow new memories. Her words, too, are those of our story.
“A year passes and some seeds take root
Your garden is growing and mine’s growing too
And the works not always fun, but it’s better than staring
At the weeds and the mud
We left behind some pain to get to the magic thing”
Here’s to a spring and summer full of new memories with those we have been separated from for far too long.
Interpol – “Something Changed” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Interpol, Arcade Fire, The National
When a band is about to release a new album, they tend to share a new song once a month. But after a five-year layoff, Interpol are doing away with following the usual marketing ploys. Then again, the trio always have followed the beat of their own drum. Paul Banks, Daniel Kessler, and Sam Fogarino, after all, are credited for re-igniting the NYC indie and post-punk scenes 25 years ago. While the trio have mellowed out a bit with age, the power of their songs increasingly resides in their words, as they demonstrated a couple of weeks ago on “Toni” and again on “Something Changed”.
A fleeting tone emanates from the track with its piano and jazz-bar drum line. It feels like a hallucinating-induced daydream that Charlie Kaufman may have concocted. Banks’ distant vocal, too, reflects the dizzying melody. He poetically captures our anxiety and uncertainty of these unpredictable times, noting how that we may be individuals but our experiences are shared. While we strive for normalcy, we’ll never be able to capture everything that was.
“Something changed, oh, I’ve got in
You may wanna stay back
It’s not the same, no sense in running
For the sake of the old pad
No parade, nobody’s coming
We’re all part of the same pack
And I wanna see
What kind of place they’d lay for me”
Market – “Old” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Stephen Malkmus, Pavement, Built to Spill
After a few melancholic numbers, it’s time to lighten the mood. Well, sort of. One thing we’ve learned about the Nate Mendelsohn-led project, Market, is that they create swimmingly delightful numbers that echo the great era of early-’90s indie rock and college radio. They’re like Yo La Tengo, Pavement, and Grandaddy reincarnated, and we definitely could use more bands like these in this day and age of cookie-cutters. And we could use more bands that create amusing tunes, such as “Scar”, or who can make anxiety feel fun, as Market do on “Old”.
This very brief tune – it’s shorter than a commercial break – is toe-tapping, head-nodding infectious. Its an earworm that at first will make you smile and feel great inside, that is if one only listens to the melody. Mendelsohn’s lyrics, though, are anything but sunshine. Instead, he describes the fog that constantly gathers in his mind. Even when he’s playing his “shiny saxophone”, he’s still fighting the downtrodden feelings (i.e., depression) that monopolize his time. It’s a story with which we can all relate, but we can reminisce with a smile on our faces.
Joining Mendelsohn are long-time collaborator Katie Von Schleicher (a personal favorite in these parts), Natasha Thweatt, Stephen Becker, and Duncan Standish. The band’s new album, The Consistent Brutal Bullshit Gong, arrives April 29th via Western Vinyl. Pre-orders are available here and on Bandcamp.
Quinn Christopherson – “2005” (Anchorage, Alaska, USA)
RIYL: Sam Fender, The Drums, Lewis Calpaldi
As the US was in political turmoil and just before a virus would change everything, Quinn Christopherson was on the cusp of becoming the next great DIY story. He was named NPR’s Tiny Desk winner in 2019 with his song, “Erase Me”, which explored his experience coming out as a transgender man. As his 30th birthday approaches and life begins to slowly return to “normal”, Christopherson is now re-introducing himself to the world. Or more accurately, we get to reacquaint ourselves with an incredible songwriter and storyteller, who, like his late maternal grandmother, can make the past sound present and relevant.
On the cool and retrospective “Simpler Times”, the Alaskan reminisces about a time not dominated by news cycles or people craving their 30 seconds of social media fame. “It was normal to knock on doors”, using MSN, and school dance parties are mentioned on this nostalgic number. Christopherson even wants to go back to the days when his dad would rummage through his stuff and read the poems he thought no one would ever see. From the serene melody to all the memories, the song is heartwarming, offering us a reminder that the past wasn’t so bad, which is saying an awful lot given what Christopherson has experienced.
“Kids were mean, middle school was cruel
But I had good friends and I read good books
If I could go back I’d say it’ll all get worse
Nothin’ prepares you for this world
And you’ll wanna go back to simpler times”
Simply inspiring, which Christopherson’s debut album should be. It is expected later this year.
Petite League – “Pantone Karaoke” (Queens, NY USA)
RIYL: Dick Diver, Kiwi Jr., Ultimate Painting
Not too long ago, Lorenzo Gillis Cook and Henry Schoonmaker were a two-piece outfit making lo-fi indie rock. Their partnership had Americana Highways describing them as a modern-day Hall & Oates, although they sing less about a “Maneater” or “Private Eyes” watching you. They do sing about being “Out of Touch” and feeling lost as they share on “Pantone Karaoke”.
The duo – or should we say quartet since Adam Greenberg and Kevin McCallum join them on this song – deliver jangly goodness on their newest tune. It brims with the energy of a beautiful spring day, where the sunshine makes you bound from your bed and out the door. While we might feel this way as the shimmering guitar strums and the rhythms softly patter, Cook is anything but gleeful. He sings about feeling further isolated, as his friends hang out with their partners while he still copes with heartbreak. His best friend on this day is the person serving him drinks, as he drowns his sorrows one glass at a time.
“I stumble into my old ways
Jukebox fistfight gone sideways
Pantone Karaoke with your new girlfriend
Looking over your shoulder at the ATM
Barkeep, I’m gonna sing another
Local superstar, pride of my mother, aww
Pantone Karaoke with your new girlfriend
Looking over your shoulder at the ATM”
There is, however, something to be said about how karaoke is great medicine for sadness, just like how a great jangly rock tune can make us smile.
Jo Schornikow – “Plaster” (Nashville, USA via Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Nicole Atkins, Laura Veirs, Dana Gravanski
At the front of the room, an artist is singing songs that sound like covers, but they are unrecognizable. They possess an intimacy akin to Roy Orbison, where the audience goes quiet to listen to the warmth emanating from the backing band’s instruments and story being told from the brittle vocal. This is Jo Schornikow’s music in a nutshell – nostalgic, immediate, and unforgettable. The first two singles from her upcoming record, Altar, “Visions” and “Lose Yr Love”, exhibited her approach that be described as classic modernity. She further makes us feel like we’re in some old-school bar with “Plaster”.
A lush guitar guides the way for Schornikow’s tale of how love can conquer. “Violent is your method / I choose romance as my weapon”, she sings right at the start, setting the stage for this mini-drama. For the next two minutes, she delivers remarks like Maya Angelou, mixing poetry with vivid imagery.
“Court is now in session
As a victim, as confession
I would write it down
But my hands they are now bound
Left to tell to you by mouth:
I take the oath
On God’s honor I boast
Of those I killed, so willing
It’s not much, but it’s a living”
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