The Matinee ’22 v. 074 is filled with incredible songwriters, from well-known artists to several up-and-coming names that will soon be the talk of the music scene. Nine songs occupy today’s selection, and they are also included in the Songs of June playlist (available on Spotify and SoundCloud).
Tim Heidecker – “Sirens of Titan” (feat. Kurt Vile) (Allentown, PA USA)
RIYL: Jonathan Wilson, Kurt Vile, Michael Nau
Tim Heidecker is more renowned as a comedian and actor. Like Nick Offerman, the Allentown, Pennsylvania native has found success selling records. Heidecker is not just putting his stand-up gigs onto vinyl or a streaming service. On the contrary, he adopts his approach to comedy and applies them to music, specifically combining his own experiences with witty social commentary. His artistic style is similar to that of Kurt Vile, who he recruits to play on “Sirens of Titan”.
This melodic, retro rocker is quite, well, Kurt Vile-esque with its summery, skip-through-the-neighborhood vibe and the occasional burst of a reverb guitar. And like Vile, what really grabs the listener’s attention are Heidecker’s words. The year is 1990 and the Gulf War dominates news headlines. Americans are hooked watching CNN, where, as Heidecker sings, “Peter Arnett, showin’ us Baghdad gettin’ bombed to hell / Peter Arnett showin’ us scud missiles headin’ for Israel”. These are images those in their late 30s and older will remember too well.
There is more happening in the world of an impressionable teenager: being introduced to The Velvet Underground’s classic “Venus in Furs”, seeing Claudia Schiffer’s face on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and Kurt Vonnegut. It’s also a time to understand who one is and where one stands politically.
“I was a little shit, a little right wing,
When he said he loved Clinton I couldn’t help but disagree
I was fiscally conservative until I got that college degree”
A clever tune that might be set 32 years ago, but Heidecker’s experiences and observations hold true today.
The Mountain Goats – “Training Montage” (Claremont, CA USA)
RIYL: Superchunk, Daniel Johnston, The Hold Steady
How does one of indie’s great bands stay relevant more than three decades since their formation? Do they try to reinvent themselves, take comfort in being a legacy band, or focus on what they do best? For the Mountain Goats, they do more of the latter, understanding they are first and foremost a rock band. John Darnielle, Peter Hughes, Jon Wurster, and Matt Douglas are not rappers, pop stars, nor new wave acrobats. Their strengths are creating bustling melodies and writing concept albums about anything and everything (e.g., Beat the Champ was about wrestling).
Their newest album, Bleed Out, too, will be another concept LP that is inspired by the action movies of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Sounds like a Quentin Tarantino film set to music if you ask us. To get us ready for the excitement, the quartet deliver a whale of a rocker with “Training Montage”.
The song’s first half is straight out of the ’90s with its toe-tapping, bustling melody. It sears with the energy of a desperate man trying to escape from his basement (literally, the protagonist is stuck in the basement). He needs to get out and find those he loves. As the track builds, we can feel our hero’s focus narrow and his strength intensify. He tells himself:
“Keep cool down in the quiet of the morning
Sweat blood when the sun comes through
Thick mist on the pond before the temple
Headed down for the final rendezvous
Everybody ready for justice
Just another mile to go
But the strings will keen and the horns will cry
When it’s just me against the sky”
Then the track twists and spins slightly out of control, as the instruments flail in every direction. Instead of euphoria, the protagonist has encountered an obstacle. Exactly what is unknown because “Training Montage” is just Act 1 of 12. More will be revealed over the next 10 weeks, leading to Bleed Out‘s August 19th release on Merge Records. Pre-orders available at these links and on Bandcamp.
Ohphelia – “Pockets” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Valley Queen, Molly Burch, Sun June
While a veteran band competes to stay relevant, a new one seeks to enter the conversation. For the moment, Ohphelia – comprised of Lily Ophelia Ewing (vocal, guitar), Cara Tomiko Tilghman (vocal), Jack Foster (keys, guitar), Happy Haugen (bass), and John Mark Reed (drums) – are under-the-radar gems from Nashville. They started performing during middle school, where they, like most teenage bands, performed covers before writing original material. The days of reinterpreting classics, however, should be over for the quintet because they deliver a dream-pop gem on their newest single.
Once people hear the sweet, dreamy harmonies on “Pockets”, Ophelia should quickly should find themselves on the upward trajectory. They might even discover that artists and bands, young and old, will be covering this swimmingly embracing number. The taut instrumentation rekindles the feeling of the first day of spring – full of warmth and optimism. The interplay between Ophelia and Tilghman, meanwhile, is soothing, as their breezy vocals are akin to a light wind blowing through the open meadow. This is where they desire to be, singing about rediscovering their innocence and the freedom that comes with it.
“There was a time when I didn’t have to force it and I bathed in the sun from my own pockets
Then love for cold and suddenly conditional
And ever since I tried to be invincible
But I can’t play that game
Wish I could take back every bit of shame”
Ohphelia’s debut album, Thoughts of Love, is out this Friday, June 10th. Get to know this little band with great potential.
myie – “Feel Real” (Uppsala, Sweden)
RIYL: Arlo Parks, beabadoobee, Benee
Speaking of artists to know, jot down Miriam Ingrid’s project, myie, because she could very well be the next great Swedish musical export. Just turned 20, Ingrid has been writing music since she was 15 years old. Only recently has she be given a platform to be heard, specifically working with Bolero Recordings. Maybe with a bit of a push on social media and from music fans, she could become 2022’s unexpected star like Benee was two years ago. She definitely has the talent as exhibited on “Feel Real”.
R&B and shoegaze tones filter across the alt-pop approach. The track grooves with the restrained rhythms, yet it shimmers with a dreamy coolness with the reverb guitar and Ingrid’s calm, soft vocal. The mélange of sounds makes the track perfect for any environment – an urban skate park, an exclusive club, or the intimate confines of the bedroom. Her lyrics, meanwhile, are intelligent and insightful, as she captures the feelings of a young generation trying to carve out a niche for themselves in a highly competitive and divisive world.
“Ten teaspoons of tears and five gallons of hatred and
One million years of deep-rooted arrangement
We don’t want to feel all these fake frustrating flaws
Because we’ve all got life’s longing scars
We’re just some kids on a solid rock
Floating around a star
We won’t see things for what they truly are
Close our eyes and we won’t feel anything at all”
Ingrid’s debut album, 2Feel real, is expected in October. Do not be surprised to see myie’s name on the charts in the very near future.
Anna Bates – “Holy Smokes” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Kevin Morby, Waxahatchee
More than a year ago, Anna Bates released “Holy Smokes” and it went viral on TikTok, other social media sites, and plenty of streaming services. The single was enough to convince Neon Gold Records to sign Bates and release her debut EP, Here to the End, last Friday. “Holy Smokes”, though, is not the typical song one would find on the label that is home to Charli XCX, MARINA, Tove Lo, and St. Lucia. The original April 2021 version, which is the version provided above, is more of a classic folk number that merged the retro sounds of Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan with the modernity of Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee.
For the EP, the song has been remastered with the tempo quicken slightly and pop flourishes incorporated in strategic parts. As heard in the video, the newer take is sharper and clearer. One thing that remains the same in both versions is Bates’ exquisite songwriting. She sings about pot heads gathering at Venice Beach, where they are joined by a white Jesus and all sorts of characters. Her story is a microcosm of the good and bad of the world – where people of different ilks can coexist yet we still create false prophets to drive agendas.
I heard Jesus on the corner
Talking to some cops
Only Doobie lovin’ Jesus gets the law enforcement crossed
If you travel down to Venice
And you’re cruisin’ right along
I guarantee you’ll see Him
The savior and his bong
And on Sunday He is preachin’
A blunt’s good for the soul
THC for all, for there is freedom in the bowl
If you need white-robed Jesus
He’s somewhere in LA
And burnin’ ’til He’s blazed”
Here to the End is out now, and it can be streamed / purchased at these links.
elison – “Covered Me” (Des Moines, IA USA)
RIYL: Veruca Salt, Marika Hackman, Belle Mare
Back in March via their elison project, Marissa Kephart and Scott Yoshimura made our hearts flutter with their Azure Ray-like dream number, “Little Lies”. The song was like a time machine, taking us back to the days when bands were able to craft gorgeous dream-pop with traditional instruments. For their second single, the Iowans stay stuck in the past, but they head down slightly more rocky terrain.
“Covered Me” sees the duo add grunge to their dream-pop, and the combination recalls an in-their-prime Veruca Salt. Kephart’s layered vocal is at times lush and then deadpan, giving the song both a transcendent and gloomy tone. This dichotomy is accentuated in the melody, which at first is wistful with the percolating synths and the gauzy guitar but then becomes assertive when the guitar grumbles and the bass accelerates. Listen closely to Kephart’s words and one understands what is at play – one’s identity and survival.
“You’re the reason I don’t trust myself
With me you’re someone else
Nothing you say is true
Cause you want everyone to love you
You covered me in your lies”
We’re not lying when we say that elison are one of our favorite discoveries of the year. Who needs Stranger Things to get us nostalgic?
The Mighty Orchid King – “The Ancient Bliss” (St. Albans, England)
RIYL: The Phoenix Foundation, Art d’Ecco, Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Five years ago, we named The Mighty Orchid King as one of our Favorite Hidden Gems. At the time, they were a nebulous collective. At any point in time, as many as eleven people performed in the band. Today, it features five principal members: Jonny Bennett, Marcelo Cervone, Martin van Heerden, Will Stephen, and Michael Rea. Not only has the composition changed, but the band’s sound also has evolved. In their early days, they were predominantly a psych band, but today they dabble in multiple genres, including glam-rock as heard on “The Ancient Bliss”.
The sound may be different, but the energy and intelligent songwriting remain. Like attending a great rock opera, “The Ancient Bliss” booms at multiple points to ensure the listener stays alert. Sometimes, the hammering piano keys are the attention grabbers, occasionally the searing guitar leads the charge, or it might be the dynamic rhythm section. Or it might be the band’s bustling harmonies and storyline. Channeling Midnight Oil, they tackle humanity’s arrogance and our destruction on nature. Eventually, however, Mother Nature will bite back, as the band warn us. When that happens, maybe, just maybe, Earth can be healed and return to its natural state.
Pitou – “Big Tear” (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
RIYL: Agnes Obel, Laura Marling, Cat Power
Over in the Netherlands, Pitou has established herself as one of the country’s most inventive and unique artists. She has been called a mix of Laura Marling and Julia Holter, although there is more to her craft. Like Danish star Agnes Obel, she adds an experimental, classical crossover style to her music. The result is music that is part fantasy and another part surrealism, which are words to describe “Big Tear”.
Pitou’s new song is a wondrous puzzle, full of complicated, ill-shaped pieces that come together to form an alluring and enchanting picture. The clockwork notes of a harp are layered with strings, a bass, the occasional heart beat of a guitar, and deft percussion, resulting in a mysterious tone at first. Pitou’s assertive vocal sits in the middle the flowing instrumentation, and she holds everything together. As her voice begins to surge, the elements likewise rise and reach a stunning moment – it’s not over-dramatic but still gorgeous yet ghostly. This all feels like a dream, and in many ways it is.
“I tried to run – but that drop would get anyone
[and here we are stuck in the tear
But you’ll learn to swim]
Slowly I learned how to swim between the floating limbs here
In the tear I heard hearts breaking
Every other minute
I had longed for shorelines looking for some sand to land on
Now I see that shore was fiction
There’s no getting out of floating
And here we are – stuck in the tear
But you’ll learn to swim here”
This marvelous single is out on V2 Records Benelux.
Juliana Madrid – “Astronaut” (Texas, USA)
RIYL: Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, boygenius
We end today’s music selection with another exciting new addition to Neon Gold Records‘ roster, who are expanding beyond the commercial and pop realms and focusing on the next generation of singers-songwriter stars. In addition to Anna Bates, the influential record label has added Juliana Madrid, who at 16 years old auditioned for Season 16 of American Idol. She didn’t get on the show, but network TV’s loss is indie music’s gain. Plus, everything happens for a reason, where the young Texan will get to do things her way instead of molded to be someone she is not. If she would have been on the show or even won it, would she have been able to write a song as captivating as “Astronaut”?
Musically, the song is akin to the cinematic alt-folk that Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker have brought to the mainstream. Light strings hum in the background, creating the heavenly soundscape for Madrid’s whispery but angelic voice to float. As stunning as the arrangement and Madrid’s vocal are, what stands out is the songwriting. Madrid does not sing about her dream to be an astronaut. On the contrary, she addresses the anxiety, depression, and loneliness that eat away at her every day.
“I wonder if I was more an optimist
And wasn’t so mentally ill
Would you like me more as a polar opposite
Or find something to pick apart, still?”
She realizes, however, that she is not the only one hurting. Her actions, her words, and her distance are affecting those around her. As she poignantly shares:
“I’m selfish as shit and concerned with perception
How people would think of me now
A nuance in truth removed for your protection
Makes it all so one-sided and shrunk down
And if you ever meet a real astronaut
Afraid of walking on the moon
Well, he’d understand me an awful lot and why I hurt you”
Madrid’s debut EP is expected later this year, at which point she might have the last laugh on American Idol.
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