A full house of nine songs occupy The Matinee ’22 v. 091 edition, and each number focuses on the people and the moments that define who we are as individuals and as a collective. Today’s mini-playlist also is filled with song-of-the-year candidates.
Marlon Williams – “River Rival” (Lyttleton, New Zealand)
RIYL: Nation of Language, Young Galaxy, OMD
First came the Māori-inspired folk-pop tune “My Boy” in May. A month later, an ’80s synth-ballad in “Thinking of Nina” was shared, and it was like hearing Spandau Ballet and Bryan Ferry. With these two songs, Marlon Williams pushed aside the early Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley comparisons while embracing a whole different side to this craft. Or maybe a more apt description is that Williams is undergoing a metamorphosis, where he is spreading his wings and revealing more patterns and colors that could not be seen before. The New Zealander unveils more of this sonic prism on his newest single, “River Rival”.
Staying with the ’80s, Williams delivers a synth-pop / new wave stunner. It is reminiscent of Nation of Language’s reinvention of the genre, where patience and precision are practiced to ensure each pulse of the bass, tickle of the keys, beat of the electric drums, and dabs of the synth can be heard and felt. Similarly, Williams’ vocal is soft and sincere, only soaring during the song’s ravishing finale. His delivery is perfect for this tale of hope and optimism, of telling those he loves he is here to help them pass through the dark places they reside.
It’s a mirror
More than I know
Reach across the cold divider
I will warm you
Hold you tighter
I can see a light around you
Empty spaces will confine you”
The Big Moon – “Wide Eyes” (London, England)
RIYL: Pillow Queens, Beaches, Wolf Alice
More than two years have passed since The Big Moon released, Walking Like I Do, which provided optimism in a time of great chaos (although no one could have predicted the LP would drop just before a pandemic would strike). In that time, much has happened in the world as well as for front-person and principal songwriter Juliette Jackson, who became a mother last year. With so many changes around and within her, she used the time during and after her pregnancy to pen most of the songs on Here Is Everything, The Big Moon’s forthcoming third album. Two things, however, have not changed – the London-based quartet still create euphoric anthems and make us believe that tomorrow will be better than today.
On “Wide Eyes”, The Big Moon have created a song meant for the biggest stadiums on the planet. It commences with great restraint, as just a jittery guitar riff and a slight hum of synths support Jackson’s endearing vocal. Co-written with songwriter Jessica Winter, Jackson uses the moment to describe her conflicting feelings, where she simultaneously wants to dance and cry. The sight of familiar eyes, however, slows her mind and settles her down. As she shares all the times she’s come close to losing control, her friends always are there to keep her anchored. They are there to dance and cry with her.
“All your world looks small
When you’re standing ten feet tall
So drenched that the rain
Doesn’t bother you no more
Here is everything, and it’s all new again
‘Cause I got your wide eyes
Your wide eyes
I got it all
‘Cause I got your wide eyes
Your wide eyes”
The Big Moon are: Juliette Jackson, Fern Ford, Celia Archer, and Soph Nathann. Here Is Everything is out October 14th via Fiction Records. Pre-orders available at these links. View the video that shows the band reuniting on YouTube.
Sorcha Richardson – “Shark Eyes” (Dublin, Ireland)
RIYL: Westkust, Alvvays, Soccer Mommy
After releasing the slow-burning and emotive “Archie” in May, Sorcha Richardson hinted that her sophomore album was coming this year. Now it’s official – Smiling Like an Idiot will be released September 23rd on Faction Records. We eagerly await to hear it because we still remember the time in 2015 when she was living in Brooklyn and released “Petrol Station”. Since then, we’ve watched her grow into a powerhouse of a songwriter and an artist who can rock out and roar or intoxicate with dazzling synth-pop. Now, she shows a different side to her craft while retaining the lyrical poignancy that drew us to her music in the first place.
“Shark Eyes” is a vibrant and ethereal piece of gauzy dream-pop. It possesses the mesmerizing urgency that many Scandinavian bands like Westkust and Makthaverskan perfected while having the intimate and endearing qualities of Alvvays. Like these great bands, this track is full of memorable moments, whether it’s the first delirious blast at around the minute mark or the cosmic takeoff in the outro. If the song sounds like a roller coaster, it is because Richardson recounts a relationship with a person who increasingly grows distant. While Richardson is determined to not let things end, she, too, has a breaking point, which she terrifically describes in the following lines:
“Take the next left down the cul-de-sac
If you get this one then babe, I’ll hit you back
Follow the porch light climbing up the steps
I call you first prize ‘cause I like you best
But I ain’t waiting on the outside
Looking for your invite
Wondering how the rules might change the game
I’ll just say it outright
I knew it the first night
Everything from here’s about to change”
September 23rd cannot come soon enough. We’ll be the ones waiting for Richardson to arrive on this date.
WILDES – “Far and Wide” (London, England)
RIYL: Sharon Van Etten, BATTS, Hannah Georgas
Another album we’ve been anticipating for a few weeks – actually a few years – is coming in less than three months. Back in May, Ella Walker – a.k.a. Wildes – shared the captivating “Lightly”, which showcased the twentysomething’s vocal power and lyrical poignancy. At the time, Walker hinted that the final touches were being put on her long-awaited debut album. It is finally finished, as Other Words Fail Me will see the light of day on October 7th. To further excite us, she shares what may be her greatest song to date.
“Far and Wide” is a thing of extraordinary beauty. It brilliantly combines a soaring, breathtaking melody with poignant songwriting, and their purpose is to make us realize how little time we have left in this world. As the rhythms urgently beat, the guitar rains down gauzy notes, and the synths swirl underneath, Walker’s gorgeous voice celebrates all the friendships we have created and how meaningful they are. She reminds us that through the good and the bad, the thick and the thin, our friends always will be the constants in our lives. It’s a beautiful message delivered by an extraordinary artist.
“”Losing myself in the land of the living
Dragging my heels on the ground just to feel it
You and I fight on the street to believe it
Trying to make sense of the world I’m weaving
If you want a soul to fight beside
I will follow far and wide
Sleepless nights and all the tears we’ve cried
Oh I will follow far and wide”
Beth Orton – “Forever Young” (Norwich, England)
RIYL: Ane Brun, Thom Yorke, Massive Attack
One word describes Beth Orton – trailblazer. While many associate Justin Vernon’s project Bon Iver for popularizing folktronica, Orton was one of its pioneers. Like Dylan going electric at Newport Folk Festival, Orton brought folk, Americana, and alt-country into the modern age by combining electronic tones with the sounds of her acoustic guitar. Orton’s folk roots, however, still remain, specifically in her songwriting. She has stories to share and messages to convey. Some are politically- and socially-charged while others are intimate and heartfelt. It is the latter category where we find Orton on “Forever Young”.
The English legend delves into the realm of trip-hop and downtempo on her newest single, and it is gorgeous. Patiently the drums rattle as a diligent piano arrangement is heard in the distance. Ambient noise and the light tremble of a trumpet arrive later, and they accentuate the early-morning vibes emanating from this pensive and sobering track. Orton’s voice is similarly brittle and vulnerable. She is the lone figure walking under the light of a crescent moon, contemplating what was and what could be. She shares with us her thoughts, desires, and memories.
“Ain’t you beautiful, beautiful as you ever were
In the coliseum
Fighting and screaming
Weightless as the sound of snow
Come back my love and see
Come and see what a mess
They made of this
All I want, all I need
Where you are tonight”
Julie Odell – “Cardinal Feather” (New Orleans, USA)
RIYL: Angel Olsen or Nicole Atkins + Fleet Foxes + Grizzly Bear
Julie Odell may be the New Orleans music scene’s best kept secret over the last half-decade. In May, Odell made her first full step outside of that bubble when she released her first proper single, “Caterpillar”. It was a gorgeous folk single that left one hell of a first impression.
Thankfully just a couple of months later, Odell returns with “Cardinal Feather”, and an announcement that her debut record, Autumn Eve, will be released September 30th. Odell says “Cardinal Feather” was “born out of a panic attack”. It’s something that can be heard early on through the breakneck drum fills that kick everything off. Things cool down with a fantastic throwback arrangement highlighted by some wonderful reverbed guitar before kicking back up again. It’s a cycle that seems like it will continue. However, each time it seems like it’ll slow down and repeat what we just heard, it never really does and that’s an amazing, intentional touch. As a result, the track feels fresh throughout, revealing new layers with each play. This is important because “Cardinal Feather” is about taking charge of our lives and not allow others to change us even when we fall in love.
“I can’t help but live intensely with every single breath
I’m so in love with life, I love with all my might
And the beauty and light radiating
From underneath your brow
I looked into your eyes
And I saw you sprout from the ground
Arms outstretched to the heavens
You were there to feel the truth”
Modern Woman – “Ford” (London, England)
RIYL: Dry Cleaning, Sinead O’Brien, Handsome Furs
Last year, Modern Woman released their first EP, Dogs Fighting in My Dream. The record was a wild and memorable ride, and one that’s incredibly hard to categorize. Its four tracks was founded on post-punk, but it included intricate rhythms, strings, saxophone chaos, and a slow stunner. It offered a lot despite its sub 15-minute runtime.
Modern Woman’s latest single, “Ford“, fits so much of the style that made that first EP so engaging. A killer bass line kicks things off immediately. Singer and guitarist Sophie Harris’ delivery is a perfect complement to both the lyrics and the music underneath. The heavy sounds give way just long enough for Harris’ voice to show its haunting qualities. Some fantastic guitar licks and infectious percussion drive everything forward. The song carries a surreal vibe throughout, most notably at its ending, which sounds like a Ford commercial slowly going off the rails. Or in this case, it’s analogy for how the US is falling apart.
“We keep at home pure American blood
With three hundred mustang horses hidden under the hood
I take the keys I go and pickup my friends
They love a leather feeling?
And you have to treat her gently
You have to treat
Oh you’re messing up the outside
You have to treat her gently
You have to treat
Oh you’re messing up the outside”
Mewn – “There Is No Substitute” (Manchester, England)
RIYL: Sparklehorse, The Uglysuit, Phosphorescent, Spoon
Two months ago when we were introduced to Mewn, the collective of Daniel Bluer (guitar, vocals), Rachel Bell (guitar, backing vocals), Matthew Protz (keys), Daniel Cowman (drums), and Tom Allen (bass) blew our minds with the art-rock epic “Two Days”. It was a first impression that we won’t soon forget. The Manchester quintet have well-positioned themselves to become not just BBC Radio favorites in the very near future, but potentially achieving global stardom in the same vein as Wolf Alice and Foals. They just need to continue to create music that goes beyond the usual cookie cutters and, more importantly, astounds. Their second single of 2022 is exactly that – an astounding achievement.
Grab a drink and get comfortable because Mewn deliver another mind-blowing epic in “There Is No Substitute”. A solemn tone opens the track, as just a lingering guitar with the occasional electronic effect support Bluer. His words are introspective and retrospective, sharing how specific events and the people he’s met have shaped him. Gradually, the song expands, as drums and bass kick in. For the next six minutes, the band take us on a somber but delirious journey of self-discovery. A journey that seeks to find answers to our purpose as individuals, to each other, and as a collective.
“Maybe I take too much from the television screen
And it will never mean as much to you as it does to me
But I remember, it’s no substitute
And you remind me
That it all flows, flows through you
See it all fall this way
And all the reverences and all the gold
Were ladled out and sold while you were away”
Mewn’s second EP, Such As This, will be unveiled October 7th via Simonie Records.
Gordi – “Inhuman” (Sydney via Canowindra, Australia)
RIYL: Danz CM + Computer Magic + Volcano Choir
As fans of Gordi, we rejoiced when Sophie Payten made a jaw-dropping return with the intimate and endearing, “Way I Go”. Over the last two years, Payten has worked as a doctor, providing care for COVID patients among others. She’s someone who is able to connect with people and provide comfort whether it’s through her profession or her music. As a result, she put her musical career on hold, surfacing briefly to release a stunning cover of Dolly Parton’s “Grass is Blue”.
Those moments as a healthcare worker inspired Gordi’s latest single, “Inhuman”. It was written during the fires that consumed many homes in Australia in 2019. While it was written before the pandemic, it’s easy to hear that same level of disassociation that many healthcare workers have likely felt over the last two years. The lush synth keep things feeling warm, and that’s accentuated by Payten’s voice. It’s a style that defines the sound of Gordi, but on a single like this, it only adds to the feelings of helplessness as the world literally burns. While it’s easy to feel like that numbness and disassociation would be giving up, the recognition that these moments made her feel “Inhuman” are evidence that she still has plenty of humanity and empathy left within her.
“Watching in slow motion
A hundred worlds away
Disassociated so I’d make it through the day
Am I speaking underwater
Am I living underground
My head it stops trying
Can’t take anymore
Heed it like a warning
Check your sadness at the door
Shut my eyes
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