A songwriter’s delight is The Matinee ’22 v. 076, featuring eight songs that will astound for their creativity, relatability, and honesty. The mini-playlist also includes tunes from two of indie’s finest bands, one of whom returns after a five-year hiatus.
The Black Angels – “El Jardín” (Austin, USA)
RIYL: The Black Angels
Excuse us for a second because we have to get this out of our system…YYYYYEEEEEESSSSS!!!! Five years have passed since The Black Angels were last heard, and at the time they just did not release any ordinary music. Their 2017 album, Death Song, was dense, startling, and provocative, and it was one of that year’s very best. The LP was just further evidence why Stephanie Bailey, Christian Bland, Alex Maas, and Jake Garcia, who are now joined by Ramiro Verdooren, have formed one of the great psych-rock bands of all-time. In case people forgot this, they return with their sixth album in tow. We’ll have to wait until September to hear Wilderness of Mirrors in its entirety, but today we get to sample what is to come with “El Jardín”.
Few psych-rock bands can make trippiness cinematic, but then again The Black Angels are no ordinary outfit. It all starts with Bailey’s throbbing drums, which set the tone and pave the way for the moments. These moments are when the guitars enter the fray, unfurling scorching riffs into the air like fireworks on the 4th of July. They explode in various directions and at different points in the track to ensure our attention is firmly fixated on the song. Fixated on Maas’ familiar falsetto, as he tells a tale that could have emerged from the mind of Guillermo del Toro. It is part fantasy and part reality, where two people play a game while the world around them is set aflame.
“A forest burns, you ask for me to save you
But I’m running out of time
As the years go passing by I realized
You’re killing us both
Watch it all slip away
(Por fin se va acabar)
Or leave a garden for your kids to play
(Jamás van a alcanzar)
A gift given by the stars
(Por fin se va acabar)
You can build me up or you can rip me apart
(Jamás van a alcanzar)
You can build me up or you can rip me apart
You can build me up or you can rip me apart”
Now this is a way to re-introduce one to the world.
Soccer Mommy – “newdemo” (Nashville, USA)
RIYL: Snail Mail, Florist, Moaning
As Sophie Allison has grown with her Soccer Mommy project, she has diversified. She can dazzle with breezy dream-pop, rock out like a grunge god, or create soul-moving intimacy, and she showed her vast skills on “Shotgun”, “Unholy Affliction”, and “Bones”. For the last single before Sometimes, Forever arrives, she returns to her roots and unveils one of the most delicate songs of the year.
Allison turns melancholy into a beautiful and stunning affair on “Newdemo”. The arrangement is relatively simple in its approach, but the execution of each instrument turns the track into a daydream. A haze descends from the diligent guitars and melodic rhythms, and it surrounds Allison and gives her endearing vocal an aura-like quality. Her words, too, are like a fantasy, where a creature, maybe Smaug, sits on his mountainous wealth. The plebs, like Allison, are left to dream about what better days could come.
“Sometimes I dream there’s a gate to a garden
That only the earth could break through
But what is a dream but a light in the darkness
A lie that you wish would come true
All the busy wires
A new conversation spreads like fire
It’s keeping us warm
But I see a storm
Coming over the clouds”
Another stunning number from one of the finest singer-songwriters of the past decade.
Cass McCombs – “Unproud Warrior” (feat. Wynonna Judd & Charlie Burnham) (Concord, CA, USA)
RIYL: The Velvet Underground, Neil Young, Daniel Johnston
In his 21 years as a performing artist that includes nine studio albums, Cass McCombs has no shortage of great songs. 2010’s “County Line” and 2013’s “There Can Only Be One” are arguably his two finest efforts. That is until now. “Unproud Warrior”, which is the first single from his forthcoming tenth album, Heartmind, is not merely an instant classic but a masterpiece in songwriting.
This ’70s-dipped, psych-tinged, folk-rock number recalls The Velvet Underground at their pinnacle; a young, politically-driven Neil Young; and the delicate touches of a Daniel Johnston ballad. It is a powerful track that despite the melancholy hits hard with Charlie Burnham’s mournful fiddle and the soothing bellow of a sax. Like a great collaboration on the Fort Stage at Newport Folk Festival, Burnham and Wynonna Judd stand around McCombs, offering their great voices to back his stupendous story of a young man enlisting with the army. The era could be during one of the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or Afghanistan, and this teenager thinks he needs to sacrifice himself for his country. He eventually realizes, however, that he’s not merely sacrificing his body but much more.
“You were only seventeen when you enlisted, you remember
SE Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was just fifteen
Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was nineteen
At twenty-three, Stephen Crane published The Red Badge Of Courage Which is still known as one of the most realistic depictions of war
Even though Crane was born after the Civil War ended
Maybe sentiments of regret are not all that unrelatable
You’ve always taken lengths to be aware of your own choice, Unproud warrior
You built your house alone
You made your house your own”
Bonny Light Horseman – “California” (New York City, USA)
RIYL: Josh Ritter, Anaïs Mitchell, Fruit Bats
Most super-groups tend to be one-off projects, where some of music’s biggest names come together to record and release a single album. Gayngs, Monsters of Folk, Temple of the Dog, Buena Vista Social Club, David Byrne and St. Vincent, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. So when a star collective decides to make another album together, it’s a cause for celebration, especially when they make Americana magic like Bonny Light Horseman do.
Comprised of Anaïs Mitchell, Josh Kaufman, and Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson, the trio are throwbacks. Like the greats of music’s past, their live performances are carbon copies of their studio recordings because they keep things to the bare bones. Forget huge productions and musical tricks. The threesome use traditional instruments, fantastic harmonies, and poignant songwriting to captivate, as they do once again on “California”.
With deft guitars, a soft piano, and feathery rhythms, Bonny Light Horseman create a song meant to heard while watching the sun fade over the horizon. It’s intended to have us look west and where the roads may lead. Or in the case of this song, what has been left behind. With Johnson on lead vocals and Mitchell providing the backing track, they share a tale tailor-made for summer.
“One fine morn
Just after dawn
My love and I are riding
Dew on the trees
Sun in the east
Slipping and a-sliding
Goodbye to California
Seems like we hardly knew ya
Seems good a time as any
To believe in the land of plenty”
Beach Bunny – “Entropy” (Chicago, USA)
RIYL: Avril Lavigne, Camp Cope, Remember Sports
Every generation needs a band that voices their angst. In the ’90s, the plethora of great grunge bands played this important role. In the ’00s, pop-punk artists and outfits like Avril Lavigne, Blink-182, and My Chemical Romance took over the mantle. Last decade, PUP, Japandroids, Cloud Nothings, and White Lung amped up the intensity and noise. The 2020s, meanwhile, are owned by the Lili Trifilio-led Beach Bunny.
It’s hard to believe that seven years have passed since Trifilio released her bedroom-produced, debut EP, Animalism, and in that time she’s become somewhat of a cult hero for young women and men. The band’s grunge-pop / pop-punk blend is undoubtedly nostalgic, reminiscent of the late ’90s and early ’00s, and it has made Trifilio this decade’s equivalent to Avril Lavigne. Like the Canadian icon, she says the things that many of us are too afraid to say. Trifilio shares her most intimate and often dark thoughts that we, too, have but keep to ourselves. As such, we relate to songs like “Entropy”.
This melodic, pop-punk number beckons of the time when everyone, including those who could barely stand on a skateboard, wore Vans shoes, baggy shorts, and Tony Hawk paraphernalia. It is 2002 reincarnated – a little grungy, a bit poppy, and awfully catchy. Trifilio’s lyrics are similarly a blast from the past, as she speaks honestly to herself about seizing the opportunity before it evaporates. Kind of sounds like many of the coming-of-age movies from back in the day.
“Running away through the rain makes your socks wet
Splitting your heart and your brain makes you feel un-
Certain if thoughts were the same, even back then
I feel ashamed, feel ashamed, feel ashamed
Running away through the rain with you, darling
Makes me feel safe like you saved me from drowning
I’m not ashamed, not ashamed, not ashamed
I wanna kiss you when everyone’s watching”
In addition to Lili Trifilio, Beach Bunny includes Jon Alvarado, Matt Henkels, and Anthony Vaccaro. Their new album, Emotional Creature, will be released on July 22nd via Mom + Pop Music. Pre-orders available at these links and on Bandcamp. As you wait for the LP, hear “Karaoke” and “Fire Escape” to prepare for it.
Bells Larsen – “Double Aquarius” (Toronto, Canada)
RIYL: Florist, PACKS, Katie Bejsiuk
Anyone can call themselves a songwriter by simply putting lyrics to a page. Then there are THE songwriters, individuals who poetically write great stories. For them, the pen is indeed mightier than the sword – or in a musical sense sonic fireworks. A vibrant melody and arrangement are still needed, but that is secondary to bringing to life an experience or a memory. This is why Bells Larsen is a name to be excited about. The young Canadian is cut from the same cloth as Florist, Colleen Green, Soccer Mommy, and Snail Mail. You don’t need to take our word for it; just listen to “Double Aquarius”.
Any song that references Sufjan automatically gets a thumbs up from us, but there is much more to Larsen’s newest single. Musically, it’s a light, folk-rock ditty that will bring smiles to everyone’s faces. Larsen’s voice, too, is soft yet radiant, warming our souls with each word. Their songwriting is superb, as they share specific events and thoughts that made them feel out-of-place. Larsen’s situation is partly self-inflicted as well as out of their control. It’s the perfect storm that we know all too well.
“My shrink says I should have some self-compassion
Well where does one find that
I know I am my own worst enemy
But that doesn’t change the fact
I’m haunted by my introspection
My biggest fear is my own reflection
It seems to appear when I least expect it
Yes I know that I’m a mess
But don’t forget I’m also a Double Aquarius”
Brilliant. Look out for this talented, young singer-songwriter.
Motherhood – “Tabletop” (Fredericton, NB Canada)
RIYL: Squid, Geese, Black Midi
In Canada’s Atlantic provinces, a young trio is making massive waves with their art-punk. If they resided in a bigger metropolis like New York, London, or Toronto, Motherhood likely would be one of the buzziest buzz bands around. We’re talking Squid, Black Midi, and Black Country, New Road territory. Brydon Crain, Penelope Stevens, and Adam Sipkema will eventually get their due. Maybe that happens on June 24th when their new album, Winded, is released on Forward Music Group. Or maybe it happens now with “Tabletop”.
The song is unlike most tracks out there. It is a gnarly, off-kilter, yet catchy. There’s a robotic, almost math-rock vibe that emanates from the mechanical guitars and rhythm, but at the same time there is a ghoulish darkness that is reminiscent of the most sinister post-punk songs. It’s a bit wacky but cathartic, and even Crain’s lyrics are spooky. He share the lingering doubt and uncertainty that has settled in his mind, where he does not know if he belongs in this world. In our minds, though, there is no question that Motherhood belong, and for that matter are one of the most exciting bands today.
CLAMM – “Monday” (Melbourne, Australia)
RIYL: Iguana Death Cult, Amy and the Sniffers, Cable Ties
We end today’s musical selection on a high and with a song that will make you want to not just forget about the week that was. This next song will have you slamming the door on the past and making you lose your marbles. And just in time. The single comes from one of Melbourne’s most exciting bands, CLAMM.
A little more than month ago, Jack Summers (guitar, vocal), Maisie Everett (bass, vocal), and Mile Harding (drums) released “Bit Much”, which was head-banger’s delight and just the tip of the iceberg of their frenetic punk rock. For the follow-up, they whip us up into a frenzy and incite an office mosh pit with “Monday”.
Seriously, if you’re in the office spinning this track, find a conference room or head into lunch room, gather your colleagues and mates, and for just under three minutes lose your proverbial shit. Jump around and slam against one another. Or if you prefer less physical actions and you have the hair to do it, feverishly whip that salad in unison to Summers’ wailing riffs and Everett and Harding’s throbbing rhythms. Summers and Everett, meanwhile, try to make sense of all the noise and confusion. Some of it is nonsensical (“I like Saturdays, but he likes Mondays”) and others are more pertinent, such as doing the same 9-to-5 schtick that only rewards those at the top. Actually, this is nonsensical – how we’ve become slaves to routine.
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