The second half of the twinbill, The Matinee ’22 v. 093, addresses humanity’s frailty and resilience with the eight songs offering grand stories or moving personal accounts. Each track is different from the others, so there’s something for everyone on this list.
The Dawdler – “Josephine” (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England)
RIYL: Manchester Orchestra, Frightened Rabbit, Passenger
Back in 2020, John Edgar’s project The Dawdler stunned us with “Crocodile” and “Sign of Growth”, which were two reasons why he was one of our Favorite Hidden Gems of that year. The songs showcased the Newcastle-based artist’s ability to create immaculate soundscapes and write incredibly imaginative stories. Now as Edgar comes out of the pandemic slumber like the rest of us (although the pandemic is very much still here), he’s slowing releasing new material. His latest reveals another side to his artistry – a spellbinding sincerity.
“Josephine” is a Manchester Orchestra- / Frightened Rabbit-like lament. At first, the song feels like a windswept, orchestral-pop number, but listen carefully and one hears a quiet urgency and euphoria build. They are heard in the gradually escalating rumbles of the percussion, the finger-plucked guitar, and Edgar’s graceful vocal. His voice is full of memory and yearning, as he assumes the character of a sailor at sea. He and his mates have encountered a storm, and they and their ship named Josephine try to outlast it. We’ll allow Edgar to describe what happens because his lyrics are T.S. Eliot-like in their imagery.
“Cannon in the hull and we’re both going down
Balancing swells with whisky on whisky
How was I to know we would end up drowning at sea
Moving in time with Josephine
You settle down on the floor
Don’t feel a pulse any more
Moving in line
Moving in line
Moving in time with Josephine
We’ve got a long way to fall down”
“Josephine” is taken from Edgar’s new EP, Pursed Modern. It will be released on Akira Records in a few weeks time.
The Beths – “Expert in a Dying Field” (Auckland, New Zealand)
RIYL: Weakened Friends, Remember Sports, The Regrettes
In their eight years as a band, Elizabeth Stokes (guitar, vocals), Jonathan Pearce (guitar, vocals), Benjamin Sinclair (bass, vocals), and Tristan Deck (drums, vocals) – a.k.a. The Beths – have become known as one of the great guitar-pop bands on the planet. Their popularity has exploded over the past 4 years, which has allowed them to tour around the world at least four times (might be six actually). Music fans of all ages gravitate to their uplifting sound, the energy of their shows, and Stokes’ relatable yet insightful songwriting. On “Expert in a Dying Field”, however, the band slow down the tempo a bit and deliver a melodic rocker.
The song still possess all the key elements that make The Beths one of the most endearing bands of the 21st Century. Bubbling rhythms and crunchy guitars remain, giving the track a charming, spring-like quality. Stokes’ voice remains soothing while her band mates add cool harmonies, which accentuate the uncertainty that lingers in the mind of the protagonist. As if speaking from experience, Stokes describes the endless hours one has committed to her studies and obtained a degree, but in the end her knowledge and skills have become obsolete since the world has changed. So where does this leave her? What does she do now? The Auckland-based outfit terrifically capture the situation when they share:
“How does it feel
To be an expert in a dying field
How do you know
It’s over when you can’t let go
You can’t stop
Love is learned over time
‘Til you’re an expert in a dying field
Can we erase our history
Is it as easy as this
Maybe in other realities
The road never took this twist
And I can close the door on us
But the room still exists”
Fonteyn – “Girl on a Motorcycle” (Salt Lake City, USA)
RIYL: Helena Deland, Drugdealer, Melody’s Echo Chamber
Fonteyn only has a trio of tracks available on Spotify (or the streaming service of your choice). However, this does not paint the full picture of Suzanne May’s musical history. She originally performed musical theater in England, but found a freedom in creating her own art rather than reciting other people’s works. However, that influence was never fully shaken by May, and the music of Fonteyn has levels of cinematic and stage qualities that add a unique and immersive layer to her music.
On her latest single, “Girl on a Motorcycle”, Fonteyn channels multiple different influences into one incredible track. Inspired by the 1968 film of the same name, “Girl on a Motorcycle” invokes a lot of sounds associated with that era. Things start off playful with some bouncy keyboards and bass. Halfway through, some wonderfully ’60s horns play over the sound of a motorcycle engine and cars honking as lush harmonies and a chugging bass line keep things in order. The song’s production is perfect as well even though everything feels like it’s from a completely different time.
Sam Fender – “Alright” (North Shields, England)
RIYL: Declan McKenna, Sea Girls, Sam Cohen
Sam Fender is among a growing group of “two-star artists”, excelling on the screen and behind the microphone. What separates himself from many of his compatriots is that he largely does his own songwriting.
Although just 28 years old, Fender has a lifetime of stories to share. From his mother abandoning him at a young age to living with her again after his stepmother kicked him out of the house to watching friends succumb to addiction, Fender’s road to the top has been a trying one. Now that he’s nearing the pinnacle of his craft (he recently played a sold-out gig at the 40,000-capacity Finsbury Park in London), he has no plans to come back down. In addition, he won’t be changing his approach nor taking shortcuts, and why would he when fans can connect with songs like “Alright”.
Fender’s newest track epitomizes everything that has made the Londoner a must-see artist. “Alright” brims with intensity from the start with a terrific, taut guitar riff. The tune then settles down, at which point Fender’s expressive vocal arrives. He immediately sets the scene, explaining how just four years ago he:
“Spent my days moving to and fro
From the bed to the bathroom floor
Tear away at my rancid skin
This must be penance for my evasion
Of death’s returning claws”
He immediately follows that up when he shares he “should’ve died a thousand times / The sick kid paradigm / Death’s working overtime”. His words are honest, vulnerable, and poignant, and many people will be able to relate with the feeling of wanting life to end. But eventually, he examines what gives his life purpose, such as the bond he has with his brother. He, thus, tells himself everyday that life will be “alright”. It sure is for this rising, indie superstar.
The single is out on Polydor Records.
Hooveriii – “Twisted and Vile” (Los Angeles, USA)
RIYL: Mudhoney, Temples, The Holydrug Couple
California isn’t all about surf-rock, rap, hip hop, dance music, and Laurel Canyon. It’s also home to some of the best psych-rock bands – and one rightfully could argue that artists and bands like Ty Segall, OSEES, and Allah-Lahs kept the genre relevant during the 2000s and 2010s. And psych-rock should continue to stay at the forefront of the West Coast scene for decades to come thanks to the emergence of groups like Hooveriii.
Comprised of Bert Hoover (vocals, guitar), Gabe Flores (lead guitar and vocals), Kaz Mirblouk (bass and synths), James Novick (synths), and Owen Barrett (drums), the LA-based quintet adopt a more ’70s approach, where the intent is not to blow listeners’ minds but rather to take them on an adventure. Sometimes it’s a trip to the edges of the cosmos, or, as heard on “Twisted and Vile”, a winding escapade along rugged coastlines.
A stuttering drum line drives the track, and it provides the foundation from which the sizzling lead guitar takes off. Together, it’s music perfect for a Sunday cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway. As the song progresses, it enters trippy jam-band territory, which means there’s a great guitar solo waiting near the end. Beyond the cool, hazy rock vibes lies a message about figuring out our place in this world. As Hoover reminds us, it’s important for us to enjoy life because it is a journey after all.
Pony Girl – “Enny One Will Love You” (Ottawa, Canada)
RIYL: James Supercave, Methyl Ethel, Grizzly Bear
While Canada’s capital city has many gifted artists and bands, Pony Girl could be the best of the bunch – yes, better than Alanis Morissette, Kathleen Edwards, Hollerado, and Paul Anka. We say this because Pascal Huot (vocal, guitar), Yolande Laroche (multi-instrumentalist), Julien Dussault (guitar), Greggory Clark (bass), and Jeff Kingsbury (drums) are creating music that spans genres and goes beyond the commercial. Like Deerhoof, James Supercave, and Grizzly Bear in the states, they are making intelligent and immersive art-rock. With this, settle in and breathe in “Enny One Will Love You”.
Like watching Newton’s Cradle in motion, the five-piece’s newest single is hypnotic. Doing the deeds of the metallic balls are the diligent bass and steely, delayed guitar (which is very Grizzly Bear-esque). Huot’s falsetto, meanwhile, also possesses a spellbinding quality with its controlled, distant delivery, which is augmented by Laroche’s dreamy voice in the background. The two share a message about cutting through the bullshit that too many people throw each day. They encourage us to stand up and not accept the lies, manipulation, and sensationalism.
“You were right to speak up
He was way out of line
(You better uh-huh)
One by one, it came as no surprise
Modern Diet – “Pretending” (Brooklyn, USA)
RIYL: Sam Evian, Andy Shauf, Caamp
During these hot and humid summer days, sometimes we need a tune that lets us idly pass the hours away. A little ditty that puts a smile on our faces, makes us imagine what else we could be doing, and hoping for the best-case scenario to eventuate. Providing the soundtrack for our pending stupor is Jake Cheriff’s project Modern Diet and their newest single, “Pretending”.
This twirling folk-pop number mixes the blissful vibes of Sam Evian, the vivid songwriting of Andy Shauf, and the lighthearted playfulness of Caamp. It’s nonchalant and diligent beginning eventually gives way to a flurry of grizzled guitars, but throughout it all feels like a daydream. We bask under Cheriff’s fluttering falsetto and, like him, pretend to be someone else, somewhere else, or in a different situation. More importantly, we hope that one person – real or imagined – comes walking up the hill to lie next to us, providing the perfect ending this day.
“Measured my future in make believe
Made of steam
Have you seen them turn into the wind
I said I’m just pretending
I think I found an ending after all
I hope you’re not pretending
You know I’m not pretending anymore”
Death Cab for Cutie – “Here to Forever” (Seattle, USA)
RIYL: Death Cab for Cutie
We end our doubleheader with a song from one of the great indie bands of the past three decades. Think about this for a second – Death Cab for Cutie have not deviated into commercial territory, yet they are widely popular and have signed with major labels during their 25-year history. Their experience demonstrates that a band can stay true to its indie roots and still have success. One of the characteristics that have made them long-time fan favorites is their ability to create uplifting music, not to mention Benjamin Gibbard’s trademark falsetto and relatable songwriting. They are all on display on “Here to Forever”.
The Seattle outfit meld a tonal, post-punk bass line and a splash of shoegaze to give their alt-pop a fuller sound. As such, a desperation lurks under the jangly lines and the toe-tapping tempo. The whole approach is like a breath of fresh air and, thus, feels liberating on the soul. Gibbard similarly seeks this in his words, as he addresses how fragile life is and how we must cherish it.
“Oh these days it’s so hard to relax
You gotta hold a gun to my back to make me smile
And the only way I seem to cope
Is by trying to hold on to hope
If just for a while
I wanna know the measure from here to forever
and I wanna feel the pressure of god or whatever, and
Now it seems more than ever there’s no hands on the levers
and I wanna feel the pressure of god or whatever”
Death Cab for Cutie are: Benjamin Gibbard, Nicholas Harmer, Jason McGerr, Dave Depper, and Zac Rae. Pre-saves and pre-orders for their new album, Asphalt Meadows, are available at these links and on Bandcamp. Atlantic Records will distribute it on September 16th. Cherish this band while they’re still making music.
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